Thursday, February 25, 2016

Compete-level and Justin Schultz

 #Oilers #OilersNation

A buzzword coaches and managers use a lot is "compete-level".  What in the h-e-(double hockey stick) does it mean, really?

Image courtesy Edmonton Sun

If an athlete has a "high compete-level" it means he or she is not being lazy and is truly trying their best with increasing their effort in speed and perhaps is going above their normal average level.

As an athlete, you have to internally psyche yourself up and truly get focused at what you're about to do.  To maintain that raised energy vibration takes a lot of practice, actually.  Players use rituals, eat specific foods, wear certain clothes before the game, listen to music, warm-up with a soccer ball, stretch, jump up and down, use power hand gestures, among many other methods.

Ultimately though, it's mental.  It's having confidence.  It's having trust in your team mates that they too will raise their compete level so the "team chemistry"

To compete in hockey that means in getting to the opposing player as fast as you can, checking them, being relentless with your stick in trying to get the puck back.  Even if you don't get the puck back, at least you tried your best.  And in some cases, maybe you're just not big or smart enough to do so from your opponent at that time.  It may mean it works better on another opponent.  Even if no one expects you to win each "puck battle", but over a pile of them, you should be wining more battles than you lose, including unlucky bounces and deflections.

If you're not competing though or enough, it becomes easier for the other player to beat you, even if his skill level is lower than yours.

What does this have to do with the Oilers?  Well, everything.

Former Oilers that weren't really skilled but succeed because of their heart, effort and compete level include a lot of guys from the 2006 team like Jason Smith, Ryan Smyth, Shaun Horcoff, and Dwayne Roloson.  And back then, the game was full of grabbing and holding, so you had to take your compete-level to a whole new.. uh.. level.

Now it's guys like Hendricks, KassianPakarinen, and God love him, Brandon Davidson.

That said, there really is no statistic for "compete-level" and we simply have to use our eye and judgement.  You could perhaps base it on a usual effort scale (0=none, 1=very low, 2=low, 3=average/good, 4=very good, 5=excellent).  I wonder if the coaching staff rates this and reports to the coach or if the coach just takes mental notes.

I will say this.  Last game against the Senators showed that the line of Yakupov, Letestu, and Pakarinen had a high compete-level in the 2nd period.  Did they score?  No.  But they sure kept the Senators in their own end and prevented them from scoring, or trying to compete against the Oilers' defense.  What "lit the fire" for them?  Was it GM Chiarelli's direct press remarks earlier in the day?

Everyone is ragging on Justin Schultz because of his seemingly lack-lustre compete-level.  I wonder if it's more than that though.  There's no way a professional athlete of that potential calibre can sag his compete-level down so far that opponents just find holes and walk all around him.

Is it because he's playing on a defensive pair with Sekera that is facing top competition when he shouldn't be and that makes him lose confidence?  Maybe.  But, shouldn't he be facing competition like that at 25 and nearly 300 games under his belt by now?

Is it because he hasn't fully recovered from his injury?  Many players returning this year didn't seem to get back into the game to a compete-level they used to have.  Nuge, Eberle, Davidson, Pouliot, Yakupov, and others but at some point, usually five or so games in, you turn it around, recover, get your muscle memory back and lift your confidence.

What is clear is that Schultz is being shopped before the trade deadline.  Coach McLellan certainly strongly and smugly hinted as such in his answer to the press post-game.  "What do you think?"  He's on the first pair, he's the point man on the 1st powerplay unit, he can do it all!

But the problem is, he's neither.  

But what he really has become is barely a 3rd pairing puck-moving defensemen and maybe on a 2nd powerplay unit.

Maybe the Canadiens will take him with their former Oiler right-shot defensemen Jeff Petry out for the season with a hernia. And maybe that's why Schultz will fit right in with the way the Habs have been playing lately.

Because what Schultz certainly has not become is a player with a high compete-level.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pete speaks!

 #Oilers #OilersNation

Wasn't it nice today to hear Chiarelli say all the things we bloggers have been saying? He's disappointed. The team HAS been underperforming. Some may be better suited on a different team. He's not making excuses. He wants a better and bigger team. You can't get much at the trade deadline. Have to wait until post-season to make the big trade.

Well, duh.

Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli LARRY WONG / EDMONTON JOURNAL FILE

By that tone, Purcell and Schultz are gone Monday, and possibly Hendricks (sad face). Post-season it's Yakupov for sure now, hopefully Korpikoski, Letestu, Lander, and maybe Fayne.

But none of this is going to get you that D-man in return except in a package deal. This is where Pouliot, Nuge, and Eberle come in. They are NOT big. They have NOT really improved their style of play. Maybe they have peaked. If so, now is the time to trade them. Pete may trade a guy like Pouliot for prospects to cap dump if he believes he can sign a UFA defenseman.

Anyway, today's homestand against Ottawa features a downgraded team Lineup Value Metric from 87% to 81%. McDavid down to 4, Yak to 1, and Nurse to 1. Forwards are at 97%, defense at an abysmal 57%. Click this link for more detail.

Oilers killed Ottawa last time, and Karlsson hasn't been playing well, but maybe with some stability in newly added former Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, that may change.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Oilers powerplay

.#Oilers #OilersNation

On the Edmonton Journal's "Cult of Hockey" website, David Staples talks about how the season began with the powerplay having wingers on their normal shot side, but it being ineffective.  He explains that the Washington Capitals are effective because wingers are on their off-wing and so they have a better angle for quicker shots and passes.


Now that McDavid and Eberle are on their off-wing half-wall, the powerplay has been much better.



The Oilers need to get setup there first!  So before we talk about who should be on what PP unit, don't you think it's important we talk about zone entries?





I don't have any stats to show you.  Just that my frustration level in the Jets game was through the roof, so that's how I can tell.

Not only do the Oilers have a difficult time 5v5 getting the puck out of their zone, on 5v4, it's glaring how bad the defense is in even making that first pass.  You see often.  The d-man, often Justin Schultz, with his head up (a good thing), sees a winger heading up the boards, he passes it, and bam, that winger gets checked, there's a turnover, and the opposing team is headed the other way on a two-on-one or the Oil get hemmed in their own zone for half a minute.

Or Taylor Hall decides to just take the bull by the horns and heads up the ice where he runs into 3-4 opposing players at the blue line and bam, loses the puck, or tries to dump it in, but there aren't any Oilers heading there.

Now, assistant coach Jay Woodcroft has a perfectly designed PP zone-entry play that when the players execute it are actually able to quickly gain the zone.  This play is widely used in the league.

The way it works is the point-man passes to a winger to skate with the puck to the opposition blue line, turns around and passes to the point-man who is streaking up the ice.  If the winger is being checked, the point-man does it himself and once he hits the blue-line, passes it back to a winger who has looped back around to centre ice.

Something like that.  There might be another pass in there somewhere, but what it does is force the opposition to collapsing into their zone more without the momentum to check the streaking point-man or winger.

Then what often happens is that guy will pass to a winger at the blue line and the Oilers gain the zone.  This play takes less than 10 seconds.

For a while, the Oilers were doing this play and then for some reason, just stopped executing.

Now I know what it actually means when a players says, "Uh, obviously. Yeah, we just didn't execute."

Ok, so now the Oilers are setup and Eberle and McDavid are on their respective off-wing half-walls, and in this 1-3-1 setup, we have:


McDavid      Letestu          Eberle

Letestu has been ineffectual here, except maybe on the faceoff dot.  I think you need more of a grinder here who is better at faceoffs than McDavid, and can tussle it up in front, deflect the puck, and so Matt Hendricks is your guy.  Problem is, Oilers have been on the PK a lot and that means Hendricks gets lots of minutes--smart for an older guy?  Not sure.

So on the 1st PP unit, I'd go:


McDavid      Hendricks          Eberle

On the 2nd PP unit the Oilers have:


Korpikoski      Draisaitl          Purcell

I'm done with Schultz and think Davidson at least has a point shot.  If Klefbom comes back, he goes here.  And Korpikoski?  Sorry.  No.  Yakupov's shot is deadly and needs to be utilized.  Korp is also just as bad if not worse than Yakupov on playing any semblance of a two-way game.  It seems as though they're trying to "pump and dump" Korpikoski, who just doesn't belong on this team when guys like Jujhar Khaira and Anton Lander are better.

2nd PP unit I'd go:


Yakupov      Draisaitl          Purcell

Another option is getting Kassian involved to really muck it up in front.


Hall           Kassian          Purcell

There. Solved.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Oil is down, Leaves blow into town...

.#Oilers #OilersNation #Leafs

With a barrel of oil down and gas prices at their lowest levels since the Oilers last hoisted the Stanley Cup (adjusted for inflation), the sagging and soggy Phaneuf-less Maples Leaves with Todd McLellan's old bench boss Mike Babcock leading them to the Auston Matthews Sweepstakes, McDavid and Co. are sure to strike oil tonight.

Old teammates Mark Arcobello (#FreeArco) is the Leaves' 2nd line centre and Martin Marincin is on the 3rd pair.  Surely he's still better than Schultz, right?

With 3 losses in a row, two of them just awful performances the Oilers Lineup Value Metric (LVM) has dropped to 87% of an ideal lineup, particularly the paltry defense.

Another note of course is Anders Nilsson got sent down and Laurent Brossoit was called up.

Still, the root problem isn't goaltending. It's scouting and development. The decades-long stint of bad scouting, particularly of defensemen, has led the Oilers to where they have been since 2007.  Let's stop blaming goalies and really look at how the opponents get to shoot from where they do.  Let's stop blaming forwards and look at how difficult it is for defensemen to carry or pass the puck up the ice.

Of the six defensemen playing, there are about two and a half NHLers in there (Sekera, Davidson, and a bit of Gryba).  Let's admit that if the Oilers had scouted decent defensemen in the past, that Darnell Nurse wouldn't be playing in the NHL until next year.  But no.  He's here because they didn't and now Nurse's game is suffering because of bad scouting and development.  And when inexperienced defense suffers, so too does the goalie, and so too do the forwards and the team as a whole.

I think Chiarelli should only scout and draft defensemen.  He isn't gonna find any UFAs.

4 x ( Hall(4)    + Draisaitl(4) + Purcell(3)   ) = 44 - 48 = -4
3 x ( Pouliot(3) + McDavid(5)   + Eberle(3)    ) = 33 - 27 = +6
2 x ( Yakupov(2) + Letestu(1)   + Pakarinen(2) ) = 10 - 12 = -2
1 x ( Korpik.(1) + Hendricks(2) + Kassian(2)   ) =  5 -  3 = +2
                                           TOTAL   92 - 90 = +2

4 x ( Sekera(3)  + Fayne(2) )  = 20 - 32 =  -12
3 x ( Davidson(3)+ Gryba(2) )  = 15 - 18 =   -3
2 x ( Nurse(1)   + Schultz(1)) =  4 -  8 =   -4
                          TOTAL  39 - 58 =  -19

5 x Talbot(4) = 20 - 25 = -5

Current: 92 + 39 + 20 = 151
  Ideal: 90 + 58 + 25 = 173

151/173 =  87%

Friday, February 5, 2016

Oilers sparked by McDavid's flash

Looking at how the team is playing now with McDavid sparking the team, the Oilers Lineup Value Metric against the Habs will be at 100%.

1st line: same
2nd line: McDavid and Eberle each gain a value point. McDavid stands above all others.
3rd line: Yak is down, Letestu is up.
4th line: Korp is down, Pak is up.

1st pair: Sekera and Fayne are each up.
2nd pair: Davidson up.  Gryba up.  What a great return by Davidson.  That's Davidson. Not McDavidson.
3rd pair: same, although Nurse's fight was a  b e a u t y!

Talbot:  Up. Outstanding.

4 x ( Hall(4)    + Draisaitl(4) + Purcell(3) ) = 44 - 48 = -4
3 x ( Pouliot(3) + McDavid(5)   + Eberle(4)  ) = 36 - 27 = +9
2 x ( Yakupov(2) + Letestu(2)   + Kassian(2) ) = 12 - 12 = +0
1 x ( Korpik.(1) + Hendricks(2) + Pakarinen(2))=  5 -  3 = +2
                                           TOTAL 97 - 90 = +7

4 x ( Sekera(3)  + Fayne(3) )  = 24 - 32 =  -6
3 x ( Davidson(3)+ Gryba(3) )  = 18 - 18 =  +0
2 x ( Nurse(2)   + Schultz(2)) =  8 -  8 =  +0
                          TOTAL  52 - 58 =  -6

5 x Talbot(5) = 25 - 25 = 0

Current: 97 + 52 + 25 = 174
  Ideal: 90 + 58 + 25 = 173

174/173 =  100%

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Blue Jackets vs. Oilers - Team Lineup Value Metric (LVM) at 86%

#McDavid #Oilers #OilersNation

Back from the story-ridden John Scott All Star weekend, Pacific Division teammate Taylor Hall netted two goals and an assist.  Hall has been slumping on his two-way play lately, so let's hope he bounces back.  Wait, we know he will.

With that, Connor McDavid finally returns to the lineup after a long clavicle recovery and as I predicted, he will centre Benoit Pouliot on his left and for the first time, Jordan Eberle on his right. We expect big things, right?  With McDavid back, I'm bumping up Yakupov to a 3 rating because we know he can play on the 2nd line with McDavid. I'm giving Korpikoski some leeway here as he is supposed to be a 3rd line winger although his defensive two-way game aren't great.

With Justin Schultz being ill (again?), it's likely that waiver wire pick-up Adam Clendening slots in with a 1 rating.  To me, Sekera still isn't a true #1 pairing guy, Fayne is an ideal 3rd pair shut-down although he's improving to be an ideal 2nd pair, but pretty much the rest of the defense, are 3rd pair guys.  When Klefbom and Davidson return, I'll rate them both a 3.  Nurse has got to step it up or if Reinhart plays better, don't be surprised to see Nurse sent down to Bakersfield.

I'm now also adding in goalies which get a multiple of 5.  Talbot has been playing much better than average lately. An average goalie (in that .900-.910 range) would be a 3 and Talbot has been keeping the Oilers in the game, so I'm going to rate him a 4 for now.  Nilsson would be a 2 as his numbers are below average, but he's no Scrivens.

So here are today's LVM (my new Lineup Value Metric).

4 x ( Hall(4)    + Draisaitl(4) + Purcell(3) ) = 44 - 48 = -4
3 x ( Pouliot(3) + McDavid(4)   + Eberle(3)  ) = 30 - 27 = +3
2 x ( Yakupov(3) + Letestu(1)   + Kassian(2) ) = 12 - 12 = +0
1 x ( Korpik.(2) + Hendricks(2) + Pakarinen(1))=  5 -  3 = +2
                                           TOTAL 91 - 90 = +1

4 x ( Sekera(3)  + Fayne(2) ) = 20 - 32 =  -8
3 x ( Reinhart(2)+ Gryba(2) ) = 12 - 18 =  -6
2 x ( Nurse(2)   + Clend.(1)) =  6 -  8 =  -2
                          TOTAL 38 - 58 = -20

5 x Talbot(+4) = 20 - 25 = -5

Current: 91 + 38 + 20 = 149
  Ideal: 90 + 58 + 25 = 173

149/173 =  86%

Seems about right, doesn't it?