Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Data Dump At The Quarter Pole: Part 2: The Power Play

Ok, naturally I didn't manage to get this out before the Oilers started their first game of the new quarter, but here's a bunch of data on the Oilers' PP in the first 20 games.

First of all, let's just take a quick look at the 2005/2006 regular season to get an idea of where the Oilers are coming from. Last year the Oilers team icetime breakdown was 14.7% PP TOI, 14.7% SH TOI, and 70.0% ES TOI with the remainder being empty net time. (This is courtesy of The PP unit had 86 powerplay goals last year which breaks down as 71 5V4 goals, 9 5V3 goals and 6 4V3 goals. The Oilers' PP was ranked at 14th in the league operating at an 18.1% clip. (In actuality they were 17th at 17.7% if you filter out the empty netters.) In my opinion, PP efficiency is better expressed in terms of power play goals for per hour (PPGF/hr) or power play goal differential per hour (PPGD). Last year's team was ranked 14th in the league by PPGF/hr with 7.0 PPGF/hr and 7th in the league by PPGD/hr with 6.6 PPGD/hr. The Oilers didn't give up many shorthanded goals against, so I guess MacTavish's risk-averse PP strategies could be considered a success and that's reflected in how much they climbed in terms of league ranking going from PPGF to PPGD.

So how were the individual players last year?

The first thing to point out is the Oilers' PP icetime distribution. MacTavish finally started using a modern NHL PP player personnel strategy and he rode his top players pretty heavily. Basically we see a six man rotation here and you can think of Spacek as Bergeron's replacement in that rotation once he was acquired. Essentially it was five man unit (Hemsky, Pronger, Stoll, Smyth and MAB/Spacek) and Horcoff. Everybody else just filled in.

Pronger was a horse on the PP without question. The sheer magnitude of the minutes that he played on the PP makes it extremely hard to decouple his contribution from those of the other players. However, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth appear to have been virtually as important as Pronger to the Oilers' 2005-2006 PP unit. Hemsky finished with the same number of PP points as Pronger but led the team with an excellent 6.2 PPP/hr scoring rate. He was also second on the team in PPGF/hr to Ryan Smyth. It's interesting that Smyth's PPP/hr rate isn't that great, but his PPGF/hr number is so stellar. I think it speaks to the importance of the role he plays on that unit - he's one of the chief board battlers regaining and retaining puck possession and he's also the screen in front of the net. It makes sense to me that his contributions go beyond the normal counting numbers.

Now how about this year?

Well the icetime distribution is almost identical to a year ago. Right now the Oilers are at 14.8% PP TOI, 13.4% SH TOI, 71.1% ES TOI with the remainder being empty net time. This is good news I guess - the Oilers have spent 17 extra minutes on the PP compared to their opponents. They've done a few things right at ES there with respect to drawing more penalties or taking fewer. The team PPGF/hr rate is 6.0 PPGF/hr after 20 games. At first glance this appears to be considerably worse than last year, but in actuality the team is really only 2 goals off their pace from last year. Two lousy goals away from getting pretty solid results on the PP. Unfortunately, the PPGD is just 5.3 PPGD/hr, which is pretty terrible, but again suffers from sample size issues due to the two SH goals they've given up. Right now, two goals either way means an awful lot when you've only spent 179 minutes on the PP.

The players.

Personally I'm not that happy with that icetime breakdown. There's an obvious top five unit of Hemsky, Sykora, Smyth, Stoll, and Lupul but now Horcoff is joined by MAB's pretty atrocious PP history plus significant minutes for Tjarnqvist. On top of that, Hemsky's clearly the wheelman on the PP and he's on pace for just 380 PP minutes - even less than last year. Surely we're not saving this guy for the PK or ES, so why not send him over the boards more with the man advantage? Sykora is filling in for Pronger quite nicely thank you very much. He's tied for 2nd on the team with 5.1 PPP/hr and leads the Oilers with 8.3 PPGF/hr

Lupul is a bit of a concern thus far. My hope is that he'll be better utilized as Hemsky and the Oilers start to use the down low plays a little bit more. Heck maybe we'll get Hemsky down in the left corner a few times with Lupul curling out for the shot as they work a mini cycle a la Hemsky/Samsonov circa May 2006. All in all, the PP at this point has certainly been worse than last year. The best players are playing slightly less and they're not getting the same results. Of course the sample size is still small and they've already shown recent signs of putting things together.

Personally I think Hemsky's the most important player on the PP but he's a double edged sword because the Oilers lean on him so much. I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect him to control the play once they've taken the zone, but they cannot afford to expect him to take the zone by skating it in all the time. Lately, I've seen them move away from that - they're dumping the puck in and letting Smyth, Horcoff, Pisani or Stoll get the puck and then get set up. Taking the zone has to be the most important part of the whole thing and the Oilers need to mix it up with effective dump-ins in order to give Hemsky the chance to skate it in once in awhile to take the zone without giving up possession via the dump-in.

After that I've liked the puck movement on the PP for the most part. I think dawgbone over at HF nailed it regarding Hemsky once they're set-up - he needs to move his feet a little more and use more of the sideboards to change the angles. Sometimes, he stays in a 6-8ft spot on the left half-boards and doesn't seem to give himself more options.


Blogger Lowetide said...

Not to be an ass about it, but does anyone else feel a little nervous that they've signed the support group and Smyth + Sykora are haning out there?

I know they can only talk to Sykora in the summertime but Smyth is getting more expensive with every goal he scores. What's Tanguay's number?

To borrow a phrase from Scotty Bowman, Lowe is signing all the 6's and 7's while allowing the J's and K's to reach UFA.

11/23/2006 7:18 am  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Well, definitely Smyth worries me. He just looks better by the day, whether you're grinding through the numbers or watching the game.

Sykora has been excellent as well of course, but I always expected him to be a one year rental.

They do have Horcoff and Hemsky locked up, but after that the flexibility isn't really there. How is Lowe going to get some of that? Torres, Stoll, or Lupul I guess. It would be nice to see Pouliot and Schremp torch the AHL this year. That would go a long way.

11/23/2006 12:25 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

The PP''s just depressing at this point. It's not bad enough that they insist on wasting PP time on Bergeron but now they have to partner him with 29 as well. MacT's always wary of the first shift after an Oil PP expires so the awnser and MO should be clear:

Go with 71-16-94-15-83 on the PP and then come back with 19-10-34 for the first shift after it expires.

I know the PP isn't overly terrible but it reminds me of that girl with the hot body who wears granny glasses. She would be so much hotter if she went and got contacts.

When it comes to the PP the Oilers are doing less with more.

When it comes to who's gonna be moved to make room for 94 to earn his paper than finanically the first two candidates would be 15-16 and as for who the Oil would like to move I'd say it's 14 or 16. Of course there are all kinds of factors like say who could fetch more. I used to think it would be a bit much to deal off 16 but we're 21 games into the reg season and he has four goals and just two of them have come at ES. I know he started out playing tough min but he's been playing soft min now for at least the last eight games and he still isn't getting it done. He kills penalties and wins draws and it's important to have depth down the middle but if we dealt off Stoll for say Seabrook..then in '08:

94-10-34 playing tough min
18-19-28 playing second toughest min
15-MAP-83 getting the cherry min and that leaves Winchester-Torres-Jacques-Mihknov for 4th line wing duty and one of Schremp-Brodziak to centre them.

11/23/2006 4:17 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

I think Sykora was always a one year guy as well.

Smyth, well, its worrisome in that he does so much well that few of his teammates can at this point. So he really is a guy they can't afford to lose - he would be hard to replace.

Someone floated 4yrs/20M and I think it will be 5/5.25 (Tanguay) - I figured he'd want five but four might do it.

I hope they sign him obviously.

I think Stoll is a guy they could get value for - anyone notice how he put up half of his points the week they played Phoenix twice and the Capitals (also the Ducks) - I'm leery of his ability to produce against better teams to be honest.

11/23/2006 6:43 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Surprising how high PIT finished, I remember seeing that had a poor PP% early and never realized that they had bounced back so much. Lots of PPGA as well, they always hjave those. Even when they had no talent they seemed to be able to score PP goals and give up shorties, both in large numbers.

If Mario ever contracts himself out as a powerplay advisor the Oilers should hire him.

11/23/2006 9:21 pm  
Blogger Dennis-IOF said...

To me 71 is a guy that comes here to score 30 goals while kids like Hemsky-Lupul-Stoll-Torres improve and it gives them another year of snooze alarm before we look to them for increased offense.

You can see what's expected of whom by who has the contracts. 10 makes his by sawing off agianst the other team's top line and killing penalties and doing the work on the PK. Same thing for Pisani. 83's expected to be the offensive catalyst...feasting on the cherry min and driving the PP results On the backend 24's there for the long haul and him plus 2-5 and another guy who gets paid will be the cornerstone and the 5-6 guys will be no names.

Back to the front:) and I think 16 was going to be looked to as the #2 centre offensively but every games that goes by without him exploiting the soft min is another game that has the Oilers leaning towards dealing him.

The more I think about the Oilers in '08 and how they'll afford 94 the more I see 94-10-34 and 18-19-28 playing the tough min with 15-36-83 getting the soft min with JFJ-Winny as the 4th line wingers. Right now I'd have Petersen as their pivot but if Lowe hangs into RS maybe he gets that gig and the Oilers bring him along gently. As much as I prefer MAP over RS...the fact remains that the latter has 4-15-16 and is +3 and has done nothing early on to tarnish his rep as a true prospect.

Note: This leaves both 14-16 out of the equation and takes away 45 goals out of the lineup so that's 75 when you delete 71's 30 or so and I know that's a lot to replace. So 14 probably sticks around and the Oilers makd a decision on either JFJ or Winny.

11/24/2006 5:22 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

I think they move Stoll for another kid D and then see how things go next season. If Raffi pulls his head out of his ass then they keep him around but if Dubnyk slides or it looks like Smid/Greene/new guy might not be able to cut it then Torres gets moved as well. Or Lupul.

11/24/2006 6:44 pm  

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