THIS IS US

After the game last night, I tweeted out the following:

  • A crappy night, I do not agree with the PP decisions, but this needs to be said: the Oilers ARE improving in things that matter. Seriously.

I received a lot of tweets and comments and various other connections asking if I’d been drinking, smoking, had fallen and couldn’t get up, etc. So, I thought it might be an idea to explain my point of view. I want you to know it is neither unique or original, and will try to send you to the group of people who have convinced me of the progress.

First, let’s begin with what’s wrong. This Oilers team is a collection of exceptional talents on one end (Hall, Nuge, Yak, Eberle, Justin Schultz) connected to a group of useful NHL players (Perron, Petry, Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Ilya Bryzgalov, etc) and a group of players at the end (Smyth, Jones) or the beginning (Lander, Belov). They can look brilliant for 11 games (7-3-1 recently) and historically awful the next (FOUR different 5 game losing streaks this season). They have not been able to play a full 60 minutes this season—they are identical to the first team I followed closely as a kid (1970-1974 Toronto Maple Leafs) in this way. Howie Meeker told me it was the errors of youth, and I believed him. I think it’s the same this time—too much youth, too many errors, too little attention, too much wheeling—and that’s the battle being fought with this group by Dallas Eakins.

This season began with shoddy goaltending, not learning the swarm, an errant stick from a dickhead, injuries to Hall, etc, Nuge being out to start the season, and on it went. In addition, I think a lot of the problem comes from this team ‘checking out’ from their own game plan when it’s working (we saw that last night, I think) and not doing the difficult work of working smart without the puck.

It also involves a lack of talent on the blueline, and that’s going to have to be addressed sooner than later.

Let’s continue the process with what works, no use throwing the baby out with the bath water.

dellow capture1

No one is saying life is roses, no one is whistling a happy tune, but it’s important to properly assess the problem before addressing it. There is plenty that’s positive going on here, including an improved Corsi and Fenwick year over year. The problems are clear (not enough actual NHL players, weak up the middle) and need to be addressed now.

WHO TO KEEP?

We all have our lists of players to keep, and I’m not going to give you mine because if you read this blog it’s already known. I will say that they absolutely need to keep the heart of the cluster, and that ‘trade Gagner for’ trade thoughts aren’t going to inspire. They must keep the coach (no options there, he’s a good young coach and a lot of the problems come from him trying to straighten out bad habits from the past—that won’t change with a new coach) and they must:

  • find a veteran defenseman to build around
  • improve the center position
  • find a Pisani winger
  • upgrade much of the bottom 6F
  • reduce the number of inexperienced players

Godspeed, Craig MacTavish. They’re going to see you coming and you are going to overpay. So be it. I’d suggest we should look for names like Ehrhoff and Campbell, and would also suggest the team coming in Monday is a nice match.

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236 Responses to "THIS IS US"

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  1. Woodguy says:

    VOR:
    Woodguy,

    You know full well the one paper is all about team success over the next NHL season not over one game. It goes to the heart of Fenwick Close’s usefulness or rather the lack thereof.

    I still thought you were talking about the first link.

  2. Woodguy says:

    VOR:
    Woodguy,

    You know full well the one paper is all about team success over the next NHL season not over one game. It goes to the heart of Fenwick Close’s usefulness or rather the lack thereof.

    Why are you ignoring that its extremely useful early in the season to predict the rest of the season?

  3. VOR says:

    Woodguy,

    So you are in love with a stat that gets worse over time during the course of any one year and doesn’t work at all over multiple years. What, exactly, is its value?

  4. VOR says:

    By the way Woodguy, that one link you posted says that even adjusted Fenwick Close in the early going is working less than 50% of the time to predict the remainder of the season. Regular Fenwick Close, according to the link isn’t as predictive as picking the home to always win. Great stat, terribly useful. Just tell me in plain English, what exactly is the value of a stat that gets less predictive over the year, is never more predictive than picking the home team to win all games, and has even less predictive value next year?

  5. russ99 says:

    The problem I have with the supposed gains in Corsi and other fancy stats is that they are a mirage.

    We’re scoring less goals, and letting in more goals, but the numbers don’t look bad because of the way were doing it. We’re playing a safe possession game and failing badly at it and most of our shot-based stat push this season is due to taking tons of low-percentage shots. This isn’t successful hockey, no matter what the numbers say,

    You want to see improvement? Take the shackles off the offense. The seasons done, what are they trying to prove? We’re going to let in goals no matter what given the NHL bottom-five quality defensive corps, the cobbled together goaltending and the overall weakness of the bottom six.

    All that playing this way will prove in a lost season is what egomaniacs our coaching staff are. Playing losing hockey to (not) prove a point or to break the wills of our players to me is counter to what you should do in team sports.

  6. Woodguy says:

    VOR:
    “Nevertheless, there are inconsistencies in the association between possession and winning that bother me. Across the eight seasons of single-game data I compiled to create the Puck Prediction model, shot differential (which correlates strongly with Fenwick Close) was only predictive of 54.7% of game results. To put this in perspective, you’re more likely to pick the winner of a game correctly by simply choosing the home team than you are by choosing the team with the better shot differential entering the game. (A t-test comparing shot-differential predictions to random predictions is statistically significant, but the correct interpretation of this analysis is less “this relationship is really meaningful” than “a sample of 10,000+ games allows us to estimate a weak association with a high degree of precision”.) What’s more, until the launch of the excellent Extra Skater website this year, game-level Fenwick Close data haven’t been available, so the utility of advanced possession metrics for explaining game outcomes has been unknown. This is important insofar as the adoption of hockey “fancy stats” by teams may well require a demonstrable linkage between specific systems of play and the probability of winning. Which requires us to be able to point to factors within games that explain how teams win.”

    For regular folks the tag line is picking the home team is a better way to predict outcomes of hockey games than using possession metrics. That is from another of Woodguy’s links.

    Actually picking the home team is usually a good strategy.

    Why?

    Here’s the Fenclose Home and Away of all the teams this year, and the difference between the two:

    Chicago Blackhawks 58.20% 52.60% 5.60%
    Los Angeles Kings 57.50% 52.10% 5.40%
    San Jose Sharks 56.40% 53.30% 3.10%
    St. Louis Blues 55.60% 52.30% 3.30%
    Winnipeg Jets 53.90% 46.30% 7.60%
    Boston Bruins 53.60% 50.50% 3.10%
    Dallas Stars 53.30% 49.50% 3.80%
    Minnesota Wild 53.20% 48.60% 4.60%
    New Jersey Devils 53.10% 53.40% -0.30%
    New York Rangers 52.70% 49.40% 3.30%
    Pittsburgh Penguins 52.40% 53.30% -0.90%
    Florida Panthers 52.40% 50.10% 2.30%
    Vancouver Canucks 52.20% 51.20% 1.00%
    Ottawa Senators 51.40% 48.90% 2.50%
    Detroit Red Wings 51.30% 48.70% 2.60%
    Philadelphia Flyers 51.20% 47.20% 4.00%
    Edmonton Oilers 50.90% 43.00% 7.90%
    Tampa Bay Lightning 50.30% 52.10% -1.80%
    Colorado Avalanche 49.70% 45.70% 4.00%
    Anaheim Ducks 49.70% 51.70% -2.00%
    Phoenix Coyotes 49.50% 49.00% 0.50%
    Carolina Hurricanes 48.80% 49.00% -0.20%
    New York Islanders 48.60% 48.40% 0.20%
    Nashville Predators 48.60% 46.90% 1.70%
    Washington Capitals 48.50% 46.50% 2.00%
    Columbus Blue Jackets 48.20% 46.30% 1.90%
    Montréal Canadiens 47.40% 50.90% -3.50%
    Calgary Flames 46.80% 45.60% 1.20%
    Buffalo Sabres 44.90% 41.30% 3.60%
    Toronto Maple Leafs 44.20% 41.70% 2.50%

    What you may notice in that jumble is that only 4 teams have a better Fenwick on the road than at home.

    My guess is that being able to drive the line matches is probably the main reason for this, but there is probably other reasons.

    Even powerhouse teams like LAK and CHI have a 5% difference from home to road, which is huge. (although the big drop is likely due to how utterly dominate they are at home)

    Spreads like WIN and EDM are more interesting.

    My own personal betting machine consists of taking the home Fen + a multiple of the save % of the starting goalie and comparing it to the road Fen + a multiple of the save % of the starting goalie, then seeing if there is any value in the betting line.

    The bookies seem to under value home teams a bti if they have losing records.

    Bet the losers at home, its not a bad strategy.

  7. Woodguy says:

    VOR:
    Woodguy,

    So you are in love with a stat that gets worse over time during the course of any one year and doesn’t work at all over multiple years. What, exactly, is its value?

    I’m in love with a stat that has predictive value early.

    As the season progresses goal differential and corsi get better at predicting and you move over to those as the sample increases.

  8. spoiler says:

    Why are we focusing on season-over-season predictive value? I don’t think anyone would take the stance that stuff doesn’t happen between seasons.

    One of the values of fancy stats is to give you some idea of what has happened over a large enough sample size… who is starting in their own end and finishing in the other end? Who is facing the toughs? Where was the puck? Who is doing their job well?

    Predicting hockey is a lot like predictions in economics… it is impossible to hold enough variables constant to wipe out their effect on your model. That’s why praxeological economics make more sense. I’m not advocating the same approach in hockey, but I think we’re all pretty aware of the limited ability of these metrics to predict outcomes of complex systems. And that difficulty becomes much greater the farther away we are from the original measurements, like one season to the next.

  9. Woodguy says:

    VOR,

    Just tell me in plain English, what exactly is the value of a stat that gets less predictive over the year, is never more predictive than picking the home team to win all games, and has even less predictive value next year?

    Early in the season its the best predictor of that season’s success.

    Its the early road map.

    As I stated earlier, goal differential and corsi are better once you get to about 50 games or so in terms of predicting the rest of the season.

    It allows you to ask “How is team X doing” and have a reasonable answer in the smallish sample range of Nov/Dec

    I terms of the Oilers and some other teams I follow a bit, I’m not interested in “Who will win the next game”, I’m interested in “Are the arrows going up, down or sideways”

    Especially in terms of the Oilers.

    For better or worse (usually worse) I’m emotionally tied to the franchise I really want to see them get better.

    At this point of the season, the best tool is Fenwick.

  10. Woodguy says:

    spoiler:
    Why are we focusing on season-over-season predictive value? I don’t think anyone would take the stance that stuff doesn’t happen between seasons.

    One of the values of fancy stats is to give you some idea of what has happened over a large enough sample size… who is starting in their own end and finishing in the other end?Who is facing the toughs? Where was the puck?Who is doing their job well?

    Predicting hockey is a lot like predictions in economics… it is impossible to hold enough variables constant to wipe out their effect on your model. That’s why praxeological economics make more sense. I’m not advocating the same approach in hockey, but I think we’re all pretty aware of the limited ability of these metrics to predict outcomes of complex systems. And that difficulty becomes much greater the farther away we are from the original measurements, like one season to the next.

    Speaking of predicting economics, did you see that the US is looking at 4% growth next year…

    *ducks*

  11. VOR says:

    Woodguy,

    Actually the math says pick the ref. Home team edge is correlated with reffing. That may well effect Fenwick. You are miles from being able to claim Fenwick is causative in Home Team/Road Team differences. Again, in simple English what is the value of knowing how a team is going to do from game 20 to 60 unless you are betting in which case there are massively better strategies.

  12. spoiler says:

    Woodguy: Speaking of predicting economics, did you see that the US is looking at 4% growth next year…
    *ducks*

    Lol… Economists, at least the ones the media rolls out, are notorious for overly optimistic outcomes.

  13. VOR says:

    Woodguy,

    In plain English how does Fenwick close help you or Oilers management make the Oilers better? See you’ve reached the crux of my problem with most proponents of advanced stats.

    There are those, like myself, who love numbers. For us these advanced stats are wicked fun new toys. However, far too many Fancy Stats guys seem to think these numbers have significance for managing a hockey team. Not so far, probably not ever.

    I want you to tell me why Fenwick Close is different. How can it be used to make the Oilers better?

  14. spoiler says:

    Further to the above, 4% growth this long after a recession is miserable territory. Secondly, if the economy was so healthy, why would the Fed be monetizing $75 billion a month? Thirdly, does the economy do that well with a return to normal interest rates? And lastly, if things were so hunky-dory where is the velocity of money… ie where has the lending gone?

    Worst mortgage stats in a long time these past couple months, by the way, WG. Awful stats.

  15. spoiler says:

    VOR: In plain English how does Fenwick close help you or Oilers management make the Oilers better

    I would think management would want to know who the good players are and who the bad players are. Really helps decision-making.

  16. Woodguy says:

    VOR:
    Woodguy,

    In plain English how does Fenwick close help you or Oilers management make the Oilers better? See you’ve reached the crux of my problem with most proponents of advanced stats.

    There are those, like myself, who love numbers. For us these advanced stats are wicked fun new toys. However, far too many Fancy Stats guys seem to think these numbers have significance for managing a hockey team. Not so far, probably not ever.

    I want you to tell me why Fenwick Close is different. How can it be used to make the Oilers better?

    Because they are the best we have.

    What’s better at the 30 game point in a season at predicitng the rest of the season and how your team stacks up against others?

    Vor, in plain English. What is a better at predicting the rest of the season at the 20-45 game point?

  17. Woodguy says:

    spoiler:
    Further to the above, 4% growth this long after a recession is miserable territory. Secondly, if the economy was so healthy, why would the Fed be monetizing $75 billion a month?Thirdly, does the economy do that well with a return to normal interest rates?And lastly, if things were so hunky-dory where is the velocity of money… ie where has the lending gone?

    Worst mortgage stats in a long time these past couple months, by the way, WG. Awful stats.

    I was just baiting you (in good nature, honest) after the exchange we had earlier in the year where I said the US economy was on the upswing because hardwood lumber prices were going through the roof (still going up btw, but that’s now more due to lack of capacity and Chinese demand due to Russia closing off some exports in raw logs)

    I’m really not trying to open that can of worms again.

  18. Woodguy says:

    VOR:
    Woodguy,

    In plain English how does Fenwick close help you or Oilers management make the Oilers better? See you’ve reached the crux of my problem with most proponents of advanced stats.

    There are those, like myself, who love numbers. For us these advanced stats are wicked fun new toys. However, far too many Fancy Stats guys seem to think these numbers have significance for managing a hockey team. Not so far, probably not ever.

    I want you to tell me why Fenwick Close is different. How can it be used to make the Oilers better?

    It also shows us when incremental improvements (or regressing) is taking place.

    As discussed earlier, the final score of any game isn’t the best indicator of who was actually driving play.

    We know that long term driving the play will lead to wins, and I want to know which directing its pointing to.

  19. gcw_rocks says:

    Woodguy,

    They have Kadri in a year and Franson this summer. Both will be looking for big paydays.

  20. spoiler says:

    Woodguy: I was just baiting you (in good nature, honest)

    Oh, I know. Didn’t take it negatively at all.

  21. Woodguy says:

    VOR,

    Here’s another good link:

    http://www.habseyesontheprize.com/2013/4/4/4178716/why-possession-matters-a-visual-guide-to-fenwick

    Key statement:

    You can see the magic number of success is +.500. If you manage to crack this number you have a greater than 75% chance to qualify for the playoffs. If you break the +.550 mark you have a 25% probability of winning the Cup.

  22. Woodguy says:

    spoiler: Oh, I know. Didn’t take it negatively at all.

    *whew*

  23. gcw_rocks says:

    Ray Shero once said in an interview that the job of the GM when you have a young rebuilding team is to surround the young players with veterans who know what it takes to be professional hockey players/know how to win. One on Tambo’s failures which was sadly repeated by MacT was not doing just that. Sure he brought in Ference and Gordon, but that’s not “surrounding”. He should have stayed away from Joensuu, Acton, Hamilton, Grebeshkov, etc. and brought in more veterans. Not rocket science and yet still missed by this team. Too many players that don’t know what it takes to win. That’s on the GM.

  24. Woodguy says:

    gcw_rocks:
    Woodguy,

    They have Kadri in a year and Franson this summer. Both will be looking for big paydays.

    I think Nonis sells Franson before he gives a big payday.

    Kadri will get paid.

    Nonis made a huge mistake buying out Grabbo with the compliance buyout instead of Liles.

    Liles’ contract is un-tradeable, but Grabbo’s wasn’t.

    He probably doesn’t get a decent return for Grabbo at $5MM based on how they were using him, but he was movable imo.

    I bet they buy out Liles this summer. Regular buyout, they are out of compliance buyouts.

    I wonder if MacT could work that in their trade?

    EDM has a compliance buy out left and no one to use it on.

    Helping TOR out of tight spot is worth something.

  25. Woodguy says:

    gcw_rocks:
    Ray Shero once said in an interview that the job of the GM when you have a young rebuilding team is to surround the young players with veterans who know what it takes to be professional hockey players/know how to win.One on Tambo’s failures which was sadly repeated by MacT was not doing just that. Sure he brought in Ference and Gordon, but that’s not “surrounding”. He should have stayed away from Joensuu, Acton, Hamilton, Grebeshkov, etc. and brought in more veterans. Not rocket science and yet still missed by this team. Too many players that don’t know what it takes to win. That’s on the GM.

    Agreed.

    Gonchar was with PIT thought the worst of time from 05/06 until 09/10 the year after they won the Cup.

    He had the highest 5v5 TOI for any Dman on PIT in the playoffs the year they won the Cup.

    If this was EDM he would have been identified as part of the problem and shipped out for a pick and a prospect years earlier.

  26. Woodguy says:

    Camero n.,

    . My initial comment was merely that a trade of the Oilers 3rd for Backlund is not realistic (a position I stand by). I was not saying that Backlund wasn’t available (I suspect he is), or to disparage WG for making the comment.

    You said:

    Why not get Crosby out of Pitt for the Oilers 2nd?

    Which is a bit more than “merely stating” and is disparaging to me.

    I suspect you read “Backlund” as “Backstrom” and the hilarity ensued.

  27. Woodguy says:

    BTW with Harding on the IR, and Backstrom coming off the IR and posting .895 this year, MIN is probably a fade for a while until the odds catch up.

  28. Zelepukin says:

    I find it very hard to even bother looking at advanced stats anymore for the Oil. We’re losing because every goal has you saying, ‘well that was a stupid fucking play.’

  29. oilersfan says:

    Zajac for gagner? What do you think woodguy? Zajac’s bad contract may make him available

  30. Woodguy says:

    oilersfan:
    Zajac for gagner? What do you think woodguy? Zajac’sbad contract may make him available

    I don’t think Zajac’s contract is all bad in light of the where the cap is going.

    Love him as a player.

    Exactly what the Oilers need in a 2C imo.

    No way Lou trades him.

  31. RexLibris says:

    Woodguy: I think Nonis sells Franson before he gives a big payday.

    Kadri will get paid.

    Nonis made a huge mistake buying out Grabbo with the compliance buyoutinstead of Liles.

    Liles’ contract is un-tradeable, but Grabbo’s wasn’t.

    He probably doesn’t get a decent return for Grabbo at $5MM based on how they were using him, but he was movable imo.

    I bet they buy out Liles this summer. Regular buyout, they are out of compliance buyouts.

    I wonder if MacT could work that in their trade?

    EDM has a compliance buy out left and no one to use it on.

    Helping TOR out of tight spot is worth something.

    Not sure about the buyout bait for a trade.

    This has been discussed in a number of other forums and I have to think that most GMs have explored it as a trade incentive option. It strikes me as similar to the argument of “we’ve got cap space and can help team X out with that toxic contract, provided they wrap it in something nice and shiny like a 1st round pick or a good young prospect”.

    It happens every once in awhile, such as the Kotalik and a 2nd to Buffalo that was tagged on to the Regehr trade, or to a lesser extent Paajarvi and a 2nd for Perron because the Blues were near the cap.

    Seems like something else we’ve mythologized around here.

    Unicorns and three scoring lines, man, you just get a glimpse every so often to keep you believing.

  32. RexLibris says:

    Woodguy: I don’t think Zajac’s contract is all bad in light of the where the cap is going.

    Love him as a player.

    Exactly what the Oilers need in a 2C imo.

    No way Lou trades him.

    Agreed. Lamoriello is too smart for that. Zajac is an NHL center.

  33. jfry says:

    Fun thread today. Good to see some different opinions. Nice stuff everyone.

  34. hunter1909 says:

    Looks like Eakins is getting tuned out. The team never liked him, so now that he’s under the gun they’re enjoying the Schadenfreude.

    Eakins: Too bad you rode into Dodge like Wyatt Earp, laying down new strange laws to this team of children with extreme prejudice.

    hunter1909 brave prediction for 2014: Mark Messier has effectively signed on for this potential disaster, making him miracle man head coach by the last day in January.

  35. hunter1909 says:

    Alternatively MacT can trade Yakupov/Eberle away for role players.

    Everyone will want to be hearing from MacT, and this will flatter his dried up serotonin making mechanism which in turn will ultimately lead to a future of seeing Yaks blossom into the player he was projected to be. On another team.

    And Oilers will retain Eakins.

  36. wintoon says:

    The appearance of that Oiler jersey on the Rexall ice surface was, to my eye, a very dramatic statement. It remains to be seen what the collective reaction to this indignity is from Oilers management.

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