The Analytics of Missing McDavid

Connor McDavid has only played 13 games for the Oilers, but he has already made a large impact. He is the team’s 2nd leading scorer and 19th in the league (as of Nov. 3, 2015) with 12 points (5 G, 7 A), plays 2nd line center, the 2nd unit power-play, and even given some responsibility in taking on short-handed minutes.  No surprise, then, that having his clavicle broken after losing his balance (thanks to Flyers’ defenseman, Manning) and falling into the boards, undergoing surgery, and months of expected recovery has hit the team hard. The kid was impressing the hell out of everyone. I’m sure the disappointment in losing him is being felt throughout the locker room. Perhaps I’m rubbing salt into the team’s wounds, but I would like to go deeper into the analytics of missing McDavid.

First, I present a table of McDavid’s contributions at even-strength (5v5), specifically, his individual production rate (points/60 min), Scoring Chances, and High-Danger Scoring Chances (i.e., scoring chances from the slot). His implied contributions are noted in his relative shot metrics, specifically, on-ice relative to off-ice (e.g., SAT% Rel) & relative-to-team average (e.g., SC% RelTM). To be clear, relative shot metrics show changes in the team’s shot metrics when the player is on the ice. Although relative metrics are group measures, we assume it measures a player’s individual contribution to the group measure.McDavid_Metrics_to_Nov_3_2015

McDavid leads the team in production at 2.7 points per hour, which also ranks 29th compared to league forwards. He is only 2nd to Hall in relative Shot Attempt differential (SAT%). Without him on the ice, the Oilers average SAT% is 46.8%. With him on the ice, the Oilers lead the possession game with a SAT% of 51.6%. Separating offense from defense, the team is generating more offense with McDavid on the ice, but he seems to have more of an impact on shot attempt suppression. In particular, compared to the team average, with McDavid on the ice the team generates 2.6 more shot attempts and suppresses 3.6 more shot attempts per hour. The team’s Scoring Chance  and High-Danger Scoring Chance differentials are also improved with McDavid.

However, his low individual Scoring Chance rate (5.4 per hour) does suggest that he is not shooting enough. If we look at regular shot rate–4.6 per hour–it is an abysmal 309th among forwards. Hall, who is among the top 30, has more than double that at 10.4 shots per hour. McDavid’s 5v5 scoring rate of 21.4% is unsustainable, so if he’s going to get 30+ goals, he’s going to have up his shot frequency.

WOWY (With-or-Without-You) tables from David Johsnon’s provide useful information on how certain combinations of players perform when playing together.  Below we see how McDavid appears to effect Pouliot’s and Yakupov’s shot attempt metrics.



All 3 benefit in playing with each other. Their combined SAT% (52%) is greater than any of their own shot attempt differentials when playing apart from each other. Yakupov, in particular, improves by almost 6.7 percentage points (45.3% to 52%).

I was interested to see whether his improvement was more on the offensive side or defensive side. The green squares on the right highlight which improved most for each player. For McDavid, the Oilers have more offense–4.1 more shot attempts generated–when he plays with Pouliot and Yakupov then when he does not. But the most dramatic improvement is in Pouliot’s and Yakupov’s defensive metrics. When Pouliot is playing with McDavid (and Yakupov), the Oilers allow 11 fewer shot attempts per hour than when Pouliot is playing separately. Similarly, when Yakupov is on the ice with McDavid (and Pouliot), the Oilers are allowing 14 fewer shot attempts per hour. We all expected more offense with McDavid on the ice, but did we expect better defense? I know I didn’t.

McDavid’s impact on the team has not only been in individual production, in which he leads the team in even-strength scoring rate. Looking at shot metrics, he helps tilt the ice toward the offensive zone, but not only that, he appears to make an impact on defense, especially on his line-mates Yakupov and Pouliot. Losing McDavid does leave a big hole on the team, which will be most strongly felt by his line-mates.

Eberle returning to the line up will help immensely. Based on Ryan Stimson’s Passing Project data from last season, Eberle was Edmonton’s most effective passer, even better than Hall. As good as Eberle is, though, he is not a center. I’ll be interested to see how the team adjusts without McDavid. What we do know is that they won’t be the same.

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below. What do you think will happen to the Oilers without McDavid?

Data courtesy of war-on-ice and puckalytics.

Walter Foddis Written by:
  • Water Fire

    Hey Walter – nice work. A question regarding iSC/60 @ 10.4 and iHSC/60 @ 17.4. Wouldn’t iHSC be contained in iSC, and therefore a lower number?

  • Walter Foddis

    Thank you! Yes, you’re correct. My spreadsheet formulas were a bit wonky, so I fixed them. iHSC/60 was way too big. That’s what happens when you’re tired and keep pushing when you really should finish your project the next day. Fortunately, it doesn’t change my observation that McDavid needs to shoot more!