a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

11/29/15 Odds & Ends: Predictions, Trade Talk, Goaltending

Fun fact: the Edmonton Oilers are tied in the standings with the Calgary Flames. Except the Oilers have a minus-12 goal differential, compared to Calgary's minus-31 (which is the worst in the league).

Am I bitter about Calgary making the playoffs last year? You bet I'm not. They missed out on a chance at McDavid, which the Oilers promptly exploited. However, I won't say that I'm not enjoying Calgary coming back down to earth. Which bring us to the first point of the day: things even-out over the long haul.

Last year, Calgary's Corsi-For % was 44.5. See it? Way down near the bottom of the chart there? Their even strength possession numbers were actually below Edmonton's, but of course Calgary made the playoffs, Bob Hartley was coach of the year, and the Flames were a team bound to take a step forward this season.

Yeah. And monkeys might fly out of my butt.

There are still many people who don't believe in these fancystats, but more and more we're seeing their predictive power in action. Patrick Roy won the Jack Adams Award in 2014, and apparently he really deserved it, except that Colorado was just a flawed but lucky team. Their Corsi-For was at 47% that year, yet they managed 52 wins. Since then their possession numbers have continued to be at or near the bottom of the league, and as of this writing they have just 48 wins in their last 105 games.

Corsi-For % is not a be-all-end-all, as the Oilers proved last year. To watch the Oilers and Flames of last season and compare their underlying numbers is to truly understand the limitations of the metric. Nobody would ever have argued that the Oilers were more competitive than the Flames last season, and yet those pesky numbers persist.

This year, perhaps, the worm has turned.The Oilers have often looked more competitive, engaged, and they've even been accused of having structure. The goal differential is improved, and their possession numbers are in the middle of the pack. For those reasons, I'm comfortable predicting that the Oilers will play .500 hockey from here onward. That means that they'll finish with a record of something like 33-39-10.

Games Decided By Goaltending

It's pretty clear that the Oilers have had the crappy end of the stick as far as luck goes this season. But how bad has it been?

Anders Nilsson has been above NHL average save percentage seven times, with four of his five wins in those outings. Cam Talbot has been above average just four times, none of which have come after October 21st. The starting goalies have been above average less than half the time, and sub-.900 in eleven starts combined.

Including the win against Pittsburgh, Oilers goalies have combined for a save percentage of just 0.896, while their opponents have combined for a save percentage of 0.912. There have also been games that could have been decided by one shot (Hall vs Chicago, McDavid vs LA, Talbot allowing the winner against Calgary).

So far, Nilsson is the surprise number one. Let's hope he pulls a Miikka Kiprusoff and comes out of nowhere to be one of the league's elites.

This line of observation is also part of my earlier prediction. Goaltening is hard to forecast, but given the track record of a guy like Talbot, it wouldn't be surprising to see him play just okay for the rest of the year, which would be an improvement. With the underlying shot metrics, average should be enough for this team to improve.

Trade Me, Please

I'm sure Peter Chiarelli is secretly willing to move heaven and earth to get a player like Travis Hamonic. However, the same was probably true (at the time) about Cam Talbot, and Chiarelli ended up giving a lot less than many predicted.

I believe that the Travis Hamonic trade is going to surprise a lot of people in how little the Islanders get back. It's often said that when you're trading the best player in a deal, you lose the deal. That cannot be helped here. No team with a player comparable to Hamonic (Klefbom, Nurse et al) is going to give up such a player to get Hamonic. That won't be necessary, and Snow's rivals know it.

On the Oilers' side of things, Mark Fayne seems like a good start to me. He's young enough (28), has two years left on a similar cap hit to Hamonic, and he's a right-shooting defenseman. Madness, you may say, but hear me out. Fayne (or someone like him) is the kind of player that's going to go back to the Islanders for Hamonic. There are a limited number of Western teams that the Islanders can deal with. Beyond that, it's hard to imagine a team trading a Hamonic-type for Hamonic, unless it's Tyler Myers, which means that the package will be a lesser defenseman plus other assets.

Of course the Islanders are going to come out and say that they won't give Hamonic away. That doesn't mean they're going to get what they really want.

The Islanders also have to think about replacing Kyle Okposo, who is a UFA this year. Okposo's salary is $4.5 million, which means there are some options available to any team looking to poach Hamonic from the Islanders. Edmonton may be uniquely positioned to give up a combination of assets for a player who could round out the defense in a big way.

Go Esks Go

That is all. *plops down on the couch with snacks and beer*

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