Should You Be Concerned About the Oilers Power Play in 2016?

This week James Wisniewski signed a PTO agreement with the Tampa Bay Lightning and thus ended all chances the Edmonton Oilers had of making the playoffs in 2016/17. Or at least that was the sentiment I felt on Twitter and other online sources.

The Oilers failed to acquire that right-handed defenceman who could QB the power play when they dealt Hall for Adam Larsson. A deal that was compounded when PK Subban and Shea Weber were dealt for each other minutes later.

Chiarelli seemed to have missed the boat on Tyson Barrie as well as the Avs were demanding Nugent-Hopkins in return for the recently signed RFA.

power play oilers

IS THE OILERS POWER PLAY REALLY THAT BAD?

Last season it wasn’t. The Oilers finished the year 18th out of 30 teams with an 18.1% success rate with the man advantage. That was without Connor McDavid, Oscar Klefbom, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Jordan Eberle for major portions of the year.

It was also sans a power play specialist of the right-handed variety. Schultz, Clendenning, Gryba, and Fayne all had a go at least once in 2015 to no avail. Of course, those aren’t really the droids you want on the PP.

But do the Oilers really need a right-handed power play specialist? I mean how much of the Oilers’ success is going to hinge upon acquiring a no.4-6 dman who has above average skills offensively from the point. I’m going to say not a whole lot.

“It’s their biggest problem on the power play. They don’t shoot it enough and when they do, they don’t have a howitzer from the point. But they too often don’t have sniper fire from the flanks either…” (National Post)

How many times did you throw a beer, a slipper, or a cat at the TV because the Oilers would just dick around on the PP looking for that perfect shot instead of just putting the bloody thing on the net and going for the dirty goals? We’re down to two cats by the way…

McDavid

DANGEROUS PRIMARY SHOT CONTRIBUTIONS

There’s a recently published post over at NHLNumbers.com that Walter Foddis pointed me in the direction of. It has to do with which types of passing sequences are more likely to lead to goals than others. More specifically in this case, shots that follow passes from behind the net and shots that follow low to high passes.

Now given that those two specific types of passes are found quite frequently on the power play. The findings are quite interesting.

article_b46dbb33-0ef6-40a7-978f-53451a157516

The Royal Road is right down main street aka the slot.

“For each team, players widely considered to be the best offensive player on the team frequently lead the team in DPSC, which is a good sign that DPSC is a reasonable measure of offensive play.”

Oilers DPSC a1/60
Oilers DPSC a1/60
Oilers DPSC shots/60
Oilers DPSC shots/60
Oilers DPSC/60
Oilers DPSC/60
  • Connor McDavid ends up being 6th in the NHL in DPSC A1/60 (primary assists leading to dangerous primary shot contributions) AND DPSC/60.
  • Nail Yakupov fairs pretty well under this new study as a shooter eh? He ranked 15th in DPSC shots/60. Maybe they should keep this kid around and just set up him with a centre and do the whole “Hull and Oates” routine…
  • The Sedins were the ones to catch in the three categories and that’s no surprise to us Pacific Division fans… The Sedin Cycle am I right? Facking unstoppable in its heyday.

CONNOR MCDAVID

“The PP was 21% with Connor McDavid in the lineup and 14% without him last season. I’ll argue the PP success will be connected to #97. – Jason Gregor (ON)

Hard to argue with that stat line. I do agree with him though. That first power play unit will be stacked because we know that’s how T-Mac likes to roll, and we are hearing that Todd McLellan will be attempting to put up to three right-handers on it. So that means Jordan Eberle for sure and most likely on the left half-wall. I’d venture to say that Jesse Puljujarvi and possibly Adam Larsson would make appearances as well because I’m not sure if Mark Letestu or Zack Kassian would help the main power play unit more than a left-handed shooter.

My Guess as to who might be on the first unit to start the year IF McLellan does get his wish:

Lucic-McDavid-Eberle-Puljujarvi-Larsson

ADAM LARSSON

Sunil Agnihotri has this article up right now about Adam Larsson’s impact versus different levels of competition. Now, Larsson has no real history in the NHL of putting up offense and Agnihotri’s article supports that but his stats outside the NHL tell us a different story. Leading me to believe there’s still some hope in that regard because:

  • The Oilers ARE NOT the New Jersey Devils or their #9th overall PP (Good Luck Taylor).
  • The Oilers DO in fact have some of the best young forwards in the league, add to that Jesse Puljujarvi and generational power forward Milan Lucic.

A highly skilled two-way defenseman. Larsson has a big frame, skates very well and has impressive hockey sense. Furthermore, he passes the puck very well and has an edge to his game, although his physical game could use some fine tuning. He likes to initiate contact. Some slight consistency issues. Overall a very strong player with few weaknesses. Does a good job on the power play and is equally valuable in shorthanded situations. – See more at: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=10713#sthash.Ubii76VG.dpuf

KLEFBOM, SEKERA, OR DAVIDSON

We could very well see Brandon Davidson and/or Andrej Sekera manning the point on the PP in 2016 because I have a little hunch that Todd McLellan might use Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson (OK-AL) as an outright shutdown pairing. I mean that is if the Larsson or Klefbom experiments on the PP don’t work.

The Shinpad Assassin (Sekera) was #10 in the entire NHL for Corsi For per 60 Relative to Teammates on the PP last season for dmen who played at least 100 minutes on the man advantage. #9 was Kevin Shattenkirk, whose Blues had the #6 PP in the league last year, and #11 was John Carlson, whose Capitals had the 5th best PP. So he may not be the ideal candidate for first unit power play but he’s a very acceptable option.

FIVE FORWARD DEATH PUNCH

My lazy memory tells me that the Oilers under Craig MacTavish would use a 5-man power play from time to time or maybe it was Todd Nelson’s OKC Barons. I can’t recall as a few too many Taiwanese Beers has wiped my memory pretty much clean but do the Oilers have the depth to attempt this tactic in 2016? Maybe it was both MacTavish and Nelson…

Draisaitl-McDavid-Eberle-Yakupov-Puljujarvi

The Oil would have their size (Draisaitl), their playmakers (McDavid/Eberle), and their triggermen (Yak/Pulju). What’s not to love?

WHAT ACTUALLY NEEDS TO HAPPEN

The Oilers could have Erik Karlsson, Paul Coffey, or Bobby Orr manning the point on their PP but if they don’t put the rest of the players on the ice in optimal positions to get a shot off, then it’s all for nothing.

That means in a 1-3-1 formation (the set-up I think they’ll go with),

  • Right-handed shooters like Jordan Eberle (and his shiny new one-timer) and Jesse Puljujarvi’s cannon need to be put on the left wall.
  • Lefties like McDavid and Yakupov should set up on the right wall.
  • Lucic, Pouliot, or Maroon should set up shop in the goalies grill.
  • Nuge or Draisaitl would obviously be the high men in the slots.
  • Then of course Larsson, Klefbom, Sekera, or Davidson would be dancing along the blue.

Thus giving us this:

Jordan Oesterle is a name not often mentioned but he was one of the better puck moving defenders for the Oilers last year. He’s smart, fast, and can rush the puck very well. One of the few prospect signings Craig MacTavish got right.

Tell me what you think the Oilers should do with their power play in the comments below. Should they sign James Wisniewski or Nikita.. Er, I mean Dennis Wideman? Play five forwards? Or just carry on with what they have?

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I'm the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I've been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I'll never leave my Oilers, no matter what! They're with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • superdutyfan

    I was hoping the Oilers would have signed James Wisniewski but not at a huge over pay. I just don’t want another Ryan Whitney. But after reading THN about Wisniewski they insinuated he may sign at the league minimum which makes me wonder why he would not have signed for the Oilers in July !! Tampa may go far in the playoffs but the cup will be in the west next year won’t be with the Oilers but it will be in the west. So the Oilers could be a cup contender just as easily as Tampa is.
    Wasn’t it reported on here that Wisniewski said to have demanded 4 mill for 4 yrs ?

    • Beer League Hero

      Yeah, I think this is the quote here right?

      “Thanks to the buyout of the final year of his contract, Wisniewski is set to earn $1 million in salary in each of the next two seasons and he had already earned $30 million of his six-year, $33-million deal before being bought out by Carolina. In that sense, league minimum could be a real option for Wisniewski.”

      It’s a real option in that the writer is doing the “math” with Kucherov and Nesterov still being unsigned and TB only has $6.6M in cap room, so they wouldn’t be able to afford a $4M cap hit and Tampa is already a cup contender. What I said in my post is what I was told. The writer is just throwing darts BUT two things come to mind here:

      – Nobody has signed Wisniewski yet, TB offered him a PTO. That’s the best he’s getting right now because there’s uncertainty over his knee and probably because he’s asking way too much.
      – If he shows well in Tampa, the Oilers could very well circle back if they feel like he’s the missing piece and IF he is willing to take the league minumum (which I don’t think he is), then perfect for Edmonton, no?

      • superdutyfan

        Agreed that if he takes the league minimum he would be a fit everywhere but I doubt he will. IMO at his age he will want more.On general fanager the Oilers have 8 mill cap space which i assume does not take into account rookie bonuses But i would be fine with a 2 yr deal 3 mill per yr. The money is just money but the problem with contracts is always the term and if he turns into a Whitney having him on a roster longer than 2 yrs would be a problem.

        • Beer League Hero

          Yup. I’m with ya there. To me he sounds a lot like the next coming of Christian Ehrhoff. A guy that mysteriously gets bought out and has trouble catching on with another team.

  • DD

    Unless someone significant shakes loose in a salary dump, I’d run with this lineup and see who steps up their game.

    Signing Gryba as insurance to injury wouldn’t hurt either. When he’s playing with a puck mover he can be effective. Kind of like a meaner, cheaper Fayne whose ceiling is the third pairing (versus second pairing for Fayner).

    Sekera, Davidson, Oesterle can all play well with the puck. They’re good depth options for the power play if we are to write Klefbom onto the top PP unit in ink. And you just know TMac will want to see what Larsson can do in a more offensively open team system, once the young Swede gets comfortable.