Tuesday, August 04, 2009


This was the first thing I thought of, when I started wondering about synergy.
At first I thought, can I really make a post with this picture? Jem and the Holograms is more than a little embarrassing for anyone, let alone a middle-aged guy talking about hockey. Then I read the latest at BDHS and I said, "Fuck yeah, I can do what I want."

Anyway, this is just a quick note on Penner, who happens to be a hot topic these days.

Here's an overview of the key stats at 5v5 for Penner and the first line in 2008/2009. (XX represents any Oiler forward except Penner, Hemsky or Horcoff.)

So is that synergy on the first line? I have always found that synergy is always an elusive thing to identify in reality, but Penner looks pretty good here. There are clearly some mitigating factors here though. First, the comparisons are definitely skewed by the fact that Horcoff and Hemsky have a consistently negative start position. Despite that, they always move the puck forwards no matter who the LWer happens to be, according to the ZoneShift measure. Meanwhile, Penner with other linemates obviously had a more favourable start position. He was helping the territorial game though and that cannot be overlooked. There is one other thing though - the goal data is a little skewed by the following:

OK, now. 107.6% is a little bit much.

I kind of believe in the EV shooting percentage, for the simple fact that when Penner is out there I'm guessing they get more opportunities in close. I haven't looked lately, but I believe Penner led the team in average shooting distance in 07/08 according to behindthenet.ca. The .955 EV save percentage is a different story. It's probably not sustainable and I can't think of a good reason why it might be.

Things are a little different in 2007/2008:

The first line is pretty good by goal differential and Corsi, but they had a positive shift starting position to help that and actually moved backwards when Penner was the LWer. Hemsky and Horcoff didn't play much without Penner that year due to injuries, but as usual they had to start the shifts going uphill and moved the puck forward by ZoneShift. In this season, Penner is just pretty bad by the underlying measures with other linemates. Corsi, GD, faceoffs - everything is negative.

The percentages for 07/08 at 5v5:

Now there's another reason to believe in the 12% EV shooting first line - nearly 75 games of this kind of efficiency with both seasons included. We see a more human EV SV% now though and the PDO number for this season is probably closer to true ability. Penner and his other linemates probably had some bad luck by this measure in 2007-2008, but the underlying numbers were indeed bad, so he wasn't earning his dough at EV that year.

So I guess my conclusion is that Penner is a pretty good option for that line. There seems to be some synergy with those three players, probably because they are indeed the best LW, C and RW on the club. At the same time, don't believe the hype. These numbers aren't killer and all the 08/09 goal data gets skewed by the percentages. If you bring in the 07/08 numbers, I think you get a more realistic picture of Penner's value - he's the best option available, but that has more than a little to do with the Oilers' elevator shaft on LW.

It turns out you can't let Smyth and Torres walk in just a couple of years in exchange for a bunch of junk and hope to maintain a competitive left wing depth chart.


Blogger Scott Reynolds said...

Good stuff RQ. To my knowledge, you're the first to bring in the %s when 27-10-83 are together and apart and the %s are somewhat telling to say the least. I agree with your conclusion that Penner is the best option they have for 1LW and that such a designation isn't too much for the man to brag about. The improvement from one year to the next is both good to see and a little bit terrifying. If last year ends up being the man's high water mark this team is in (an even bigger) world of hurt this year.

8/05/2009 12:38 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Good stuff RQ.

Word is out (again) that Penner is working hard on his fitness (double cheeseburgers rather than triples?) so we will see if that and the 'magic' of a new coach turns him around.

I'm betting on him roaring out of the gate and losing interest around the fifth game or so.

The collapse of the depth at LW is an awful disgrace. Glencross was a pretty reasonable option, even in a limited role, for half a season as well.

8/06/2009 12:14 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Yeah, good point about Glencross. I tend to think of that one as being hindsight though. I think they had to set their price and when Glencross went over it they let him walk. Given the luck he had with the Oilers I find it hard to criticize too much. He's also walked into a sweet deal in Cgy - the puck is always going the right way and he's down the depth chart.

Torres and Smyth? Well we knew those were dumb moves as soon as they happened.

8/06/2009 12:29 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Agreed on that. I remember when the rumours were floating about what Glencross was asking for and thinking that they could not pay him that much (1.8 or so iirc).

When he signed with the Flames for what he did it became a little harder to swallow but then again it was a question of whether or not it was a wise bet or not. I could respect the arguments that Glencross might not cover the contract. He'd had, what, two months of success? About the same as Nilsson.

The problem with the Oilers these past few years is that they are falling down all over the place. The small stuff and the big stuff. Makes it awfully hard to think that anything that they do is not sheer incompetence.

8/06/2009 1:41 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

07/08 was a bit of a strange year. That stretch after the famous PIT game ... Pisani back and played mostly with a couple of kids, Thoresen recalled and played with Stoll/Torres, brutal minutes, and 27-10-83 with soft ice time. For the first time in ages for Horcoff. Plus his chances were crossing the goal line. A contract season was a bad time for that to happen, but what can you do, he's still one of the few Oilers who should outperform their contract this year.

Reasoner was on kid patrol for quite a while too, but fell back to the ugly minutes line when Torres hurt himself.

And after Horcoff went down Penner and Hemsky took on more responsibility. It helped that the new 4th line was more than holding their own territorially, granted with favourable icetime, and burying chances at a Mario-ish rate as well. (Glencross was a corsi machine here, in CBJ, and now in CGY ... at some point we'll all have to concede that he's just a good NHL player).

And all the while Oilers management continues to bet on the recent short term results that were driven by percentages. Bless 'em.

8/07/2009 2:23 pm  

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