Edmonton Oilers – Vital Signs


Since you’re reading a blog called “Nerd Alert”, you should expect many nerdy things.  Remember this?

star trek vital signs monitor charliex021

We are currently embroiled in a very Oiler-y conundrum: what’s up with Our Oilers?  Is this three-game winning streak the start of something great? Dare we think … the p-word?!?

For good or for bad, this is where I always dig into the fancystats. They’re going to give us both a more reliable as well as a more objective indication of the future than will the warm glow of a winning streak.

An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure

Rather than hit you with a boring table of numbers, I will hit you with a boring table of numbers (all data downloaded December 8th from war-on-ice.com) vaguely masquerading as a Star Trek vital signs monitor (meet you on the other side):

Hello again!  What can we conclude from this picture?

Process information at half-speed

Rather than go through each line separately, I’ll explain why I picked these particular indicators as ‘vital signs’:

1 – CF% (5v5 Corsi For %) is the single best predictor of future success we have (it’s not great, but it’s as good as we’ve got).  I break the components of this down into rates to look at the offense and defense separately.

2 – I roll in the war-on-ice High Danger Chances to get a sense of whether the shot attempts levels that Corsi is giving us are translating into dangerous chances (whether for = good, or against = bad).

3 – I look at shot rates on the special teams. I don’t use Corsi in this case, because I’m not interested in possession so much – the team on the powerplay should have possession as a given! Rather, I look at how many unblocked shots the team gets on net (or gives up). This is the sustainable skill behind powerplays.

4 – Just for fun, throw in the shooting and save percentages. These don’t tend to stick or predict very well, but usually if they are unusually high or low, you can expect them to move back towards the middle as the season progresses.

I’ll also add that my expectation at the start of this season was to see the Oilers as a lower-mid-pack team (call it 18th or so).  I’ve shown the three tiers in the image.  The acknowledged weak spot really was the defense, so what I expected to see out of a view like this is that the offense and powerplay would be above average, and the defensive measures below average.

That’s not quite what we’re seeing, but considering the circumstances, not that far off either.

Unstable condition, a symptom of life

So what can we conclude?

1 – That the Oilers are doing this well in possession with a league leading level of key players out of the lineup is VERY encouraging.

2 – The conversion of possession to dangerous chances is both lacking in the offense, and soft on the defense.  These areas need to be shored up, a message that TMc has been harping on of late.

3 – The powerplay has been a disappointment.  TMc’s powerplays have always been elite.  24th in shots for?  Not good enough.  It’ll get better when three top offensive players come back, but there’s enough talent and coaching excellence on this team to expect at least an average power play.   PK … um, well, we know the defense is a weak spot.

4 – The sh% and sv% indicate that this team hasn’t been riding luck overall, which is good.  If anything, Nilsson’s play of late shows a reversion back to the middle, and that’s also very encouraging.


My read on this?

  • Still don’t think this is a playoff bound team.
  • But!  Bruised and battered, we’re playing meaningful games in December. And when Yak, Poo, Connor come back – the Oil will be an exciting team up front.
  • Without a trade, the Oil will be an exciting team on defense too, but not in quite so good a way.
  • I expect there are still lots of meaningful games ahead of us.

So ignoring all the noise surrounding the recent streak … I’m good.

You good?


A brief comment about the featured image, of Neil Peart of the holy trinity of rock, aka Rush. Peart appears to have, in a typically low-key way, recently announced his retirement from drumming.  The title of this post of course is straight outta Grace Under Pressure.  

A sad day for this hardcore Rush fan (in case you haven’t noticed, the avatar for this blog is the Rush Starman in front of the Oilers logo.  In many of my blog posts, like this one, I will throw in one or more Rush lyric easter eggs).

But hey – why not go out on top, widely respected as the best in the world at what you do, a massive library of music that will live forever, millions of devoted fans, a generation of inspired musicians, and with health and sanity and gigantic intellect still intact.  We should all be so lucky.  Safe travels, Bubba, and thanks for everything.

For those who aren’t Rush fans but who want to hear what all the fuss was about, take a listen to this lovely song from Vertical Horizon.  What do you get when you combine the raw power of an Abrams tank with the athletic precision and finesse of a ballet dancer?  Neil’s drumming on this track, that’s what.

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