Edmonton Oilers

Looking at expected goals to dissect the Edmonton Oilers’ offence

The Edmonton Oilers are now halfway through their season and suffice to say things haven’t gone exactly to plan. Just months removed from a Western Conference Final appearance, the Oilers are playing musical chairs with the wild card playoff spots and it hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence for those watching the team.

With the roster not being too different compared to last year, we can take a look at the team’s offence—specifically goals scored above expected to see how the team has gotten their scoring.

Oilers goals scored above expected

Using data from NaturalStatTrick.com, we’ll look at individual performances over this season’s first half. To keep things simple, we’ll look at all situations, with a minimum time on ice of 300 total minutes. While player usage/deployment would have changed a bit over the two seasons, looking at goals scored above expected should still be representative of which players are thriving or struggling right now. Also, this is looking at the first 42 games of the season, so their most recent game against the Anaheim Ducks is excluded.

The tables are sorted in descending order of Goals Above Expected (GAx), which shows how many more or fewer goals a player has scored compared to their individual expected goals based on shot quality. Typically, players with higher GAx are known to be strong finishers who can score even from lower percentage plays, whereas players with lower GAx are more or less unlucky with their play and are below-average with finishing.

These GAx values can ebb and flow over the course of a season as well, so players aren’t expected—pun intended—to always be net positive or negative, as luck can change at any point. Without further ado let’s see how Edmonton has fared.

Oilers forwards

Connor McDavid3420.0413.96
Leon Draisaitl2216.15.90
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins1914.274.73
Ryan McLeod43.510.49
Derek Ryan55.3-0.30
Mattias Janmark33.78-0.78
Kailer Yamamoto44.97-0.97
Dylan Holloway23.98-1.98
Warren Foegele46.76-2.76
Jesse Puljujarvi36.68-3.68
Zach Hyman2026.58-6.58

Connor McDavid leads the team with an astounding 13.96 GAx. On all of his shot attempts this season, he has only been expected to score 20 goals, yet he’s notched 14 additional goals above expectations. The captain is seeing an otherworldly performance right now with his point scoring pace, and a big part of that is thanks to his goal scoring too.

The next best Oiler has less than half of McDavid’s GAx, and it’s Leon Draisaitl with 5.90. A GAx of 5.90 is pretty impressive in its own right, but it’s dwarfed by the captain’s. Interestingly, Draisaitl’s 22 goals has him on his lowest goal scoring pace since 2017–18.

Right below Draisaitl is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is the third and final Oiler to be outscoring expectations by a significant margin. Together, the top trio would have 24.59 GAx between them. That’s some pretty superb finishing that is definitely a big reason why the Oilers are in the playoff race at all. The goals scored by these three have come frequently and have come in timely manners as the team fights for playoff positioning.

All the way at the bottom of the GAx table is another 20-goals scorer, and it’s Zach Hyman. The shot-taking machine could have been entering the midpoint with far more goals that what he has right now, but he’s been unlucky with a GAx of -6.58. The fact that he’s a 20-goal scorer at all with such a negative GAx can be viewed as pretty impressive too. While he’s contributing on offence, the question to ask is how much better of a season could Hyman be having if his luck wasn’t as poor?

Oilers defencemen

Darnell Nurse65.060.94
Tyson Barrie54.360.64
Brett Kulak21.80.20
Evan Bouchard33.66-0.66
Cody Ceci12.6-1.60

Among regular defencemen, there’s not much to write home about as between the group they’re essentially scoring as much as expected. The total GAx for this group is -0.48—not even a full goal difference between what’s expected and what they’re actually scoring.

Setting goals for the second half

For the Oilers, they’re being carried by a select few, while other regular players have been underwhelming. Seven regular forwards have five goals or fewer, and the defence corps has hardly scored at all. On aggregate, the group is currently ranked fifth league-wide for total goals for.

There’s a huge disparity between the major contributors and the depth scoring as the drop off between the four scoring forwards and everyone else is pretty massive. This should be a cause for concern as this type of team composition doesn’t bode too well for playoffs, nor does it bode well for the path to get to the playoffs.

We’ll see if the Oilers turn things around for the second half, but either way there should be alarms going off that this team needs work and it needs it fast.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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