One of the ways we can look at defensemen year over year is scoring chances, with an asterisk surrounding time with Connor McDavid and another for small sample size 17-18. As an example, let’s run the top seven defenders from last season and SC numbers.
OILERS BLUE, SCORING CHANCES 16-17
This includes all partners and linemates and as you can see Matt Benning was damned good—or lucky—at this discipline a year ago. The next group of four are about equal, Kris Russell—the pure defensive defenseman—lagged behind. He may suffer from Mark Fayne disease (getting to the bench on time, as the puck enters the offensive zone) but I haven’t seen that happen as a consistent event. Last season, using the entire canvass, Benning flourished. Now, let’s filter Connor McDavid out of the equation, to see how much Benning lost.
OILERS BLUE, SC SANS 97, 16-17
In a weird twist, Benning’s SC percentage is slightly better, while the other defenders lost a couple of percentage points without McDavid on their line. It’s an interesting exercise. We also have to acknowledge things like qual comp, partner, et cetera. Still, Benning had a strong season using all kinds of metrics, this is another. Although we have very little information (three games), let’s run the 2017-18 numbers just for fun.
OILERS BLUE. SCORING CHANCES, 17-18
I was surprised by the rankings here (I’m using NST). The top pair is a no-brainer, they’ve been good for sure. The second pair, Russell and Benning, are well over 50 percent in scoring chances. Hadn’t expected it. Nurse & Gryba are the only sub 50 percent duo in the batch. That first game skewed things for sure, and this is a criminally small sample size. That said, I think you can look at these numbers and say Benning has been performing better than they eye suggests, along with playing in some bad luck. Before we move on, let’s look at the group without McDavid.
OILERS BLUE, SC SANS 97, 17-18
Again, not what I expected. A small sample size, and of course the eye test is important, but Matt Benning performs pretty well across all four tables. He was No. 7D yesterday in practice, is that wise? Perhaps we’ll run the high danger chances tomorrow and see what we can find.
OILERS IN OCTOBER’S FIRST THREE GAMES
- Oilers in October 2015: 0-3-0, goal differential -6
- Oilers in October 2016: 2-1-0, goal differential +1
- Oilers in October 2017: 1-2-0, goal differential -1
The Oilers are not far away from last year’s number and it’s so very early. No team is running away with the Pacific (well, Vegas) and there is still time. Todd McLellan was asked the other day about the team’s defensive quality and basically said they have enough, but the players need to play better. I think they’ll see what Auvitu can bring in the Ottawa game and do believe we might see a move.
- Patrick Maroon—Connor McDavid—Ryan Strome
- Milan Lucic—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Kailer Yamamoto
- Jussi Jokinen—Mark Letestu—Zack Kassian
- Iiro Pakarinen—Jujhar Khaira—Anton Slepyshev
- Chris Kelly
No Leon Draisaitl and no Drake Caggiula means very little in the way of clues for Saturday night. Strome isn’t dynamic so keeping him on 97’s line for Saturday night seems a distant bell. Yamamoto could be replaced by Caggiula at practice today. Slepyshev isn’t going to play on the 4line. As much as we’d like to draw information from yesterday’s lines, it does not inform the future.
- Oscar Klefbom—Adam Larsson
- Darnell Nurse—Kris Russell
- Yohann Auvitu—Eric Gryba
- Matt Benning
I don’t like this alignment at all, not one bit. I think Nurse—Russell will eventually come to pass (Benning will exceed Russell in the coach’s eyes) but sitting Matt Benning is not the answer. It’s like the Oilers have decided being without Andrej Sekera isn’t dangerous enough, let’s try to win without two of the six best defensemen on the roster. I don’t think this group of pairs will last long, may not see the light of day in an actual game. Benning may benefit from watching from above, however. This is the point in the article where I feel it is appropriate to mention Mark Fayne. And we move on.
I have something of a reputation (only because you jerks keep repeating it!) for suggesting three-for-one trades at every turn. Although that kind of deal may not come together, suspect Peter Chiarelli won’t leave the defense alone for long. If the team can’t get headed in a good direction with this lot, and Sekera doesn’t appear close to return, we may see an early season trade for a solution. Earliest Bruins trade under Chiarelli? October 20, 2009 for Daniel Paille.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
All the sports means a full boat of guests and barely time to ramble. Probably good for you! It all starts at 10 this morning, TSN1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey. The blue and the startboard side.
- Jeff Krushell, Krush Performance. Damn Yankees! Plus Nationals have a chance.
- Andy McNamara, TSN4Downs. Can the Eagles hit 5-1?
- Frank Seravalli, TSN. Jagr in Calgary, Vegas runs the table, goals goals goals.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. 90 minutes!