Oilers Power Play By The Numbers

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 3:24 am by Matt Henderson

Just the facts

The Oilers are a team much improved by number in their 5v5 play. They are still the Oilers though and that means mind boggling blunder after mind boggling blunder, but they are getting better at keeping shots and shot attempts even at least. But what about that Power Play? It is ranked near the bottom of the league despite being loaded with about 17 1st Overall picks and more than enough fire power to take down an Elephant. OilersNation does not approve hunting Elephants. We only hunt the Most Dangerous Game.


The Oilers at the time of writing this piece are ranked 26th in the NHL for Power Play efficiency. They are running at an unsightly 12.5% so far this year. That’s not bad. That’s a level below bad somewhere between “Ryan Whitney turning left” and “Gigli starring Ben Affleck”. For a quick lesson on how to lose lots of close games you should skim over the section in your Exciting Last Placed Hockey manual on not scoring on almost 88% of your Power Plays.

But we live in a Golden Age of information which can tell us a lot more about the PP than its basic efficiency. It’s still early enough in the season that all of these numbers can take drastic swings one way or the other, mind you. One hot week on the PP and the Oil can climb quite a bit. Perhaps that’s exactly why it’s important to look at more than just the efficiency. 

In any case, I will be presenting this year’s numbers along side the final numbers under Eakins’ 1st season and the lockout shortened year under Ralph Krueger. I want to do so mainly because with the same core group this team has gone from 3rd in the West down to 3rd last in the entire NHL. It’s been an interesting, if not terrifying, journey. The Efficiency number includes all Power Play states but I am isolating the rest of the numbers to 5v4 only. 










20.1% (8th)

73.9 (29th)

55.0 (30th)

41.5 (30th)

83.5 (25th)

16.86 (2nd)

113.9 (4th)


17.0% (21st)

85.6 (24th)

63.3 (26th)

46.6 (25th)

82.1 (27th)

12.28 (16th)

97.2 (27th)


12.5% (26th)

93.6 (15th)

69.5 (17th)

46.2 (24th)

85.6 (9th)

8.41 (26th)

80.6 (30th)


I think those numbers present a lot to think about. First and foremost, the Krueger Power Play was driven by a wonderful Shooting Percentage. The problem with that is nobody outside of witches like Steven Stamkos and Craig Simpson in his prime have been able to crack the Shooting Percentage Code (a story by Dan Brown that will sweep the Hockey Nation). We can see that the man advantage obviously leads to better scoring chances and therefore higher shooting percentages but maintaining regularly high percentages is hard even for veteran teams with a track record of success on the PP.

For example, the San Jose Sharks with Joe Thornton and all the skilled shooters they have run a good Power Play and have for several years. They are still relatively inconsistent when it comes to shooting percentage. Starting with this year and moving backwards they have had 14.06%, 9.69%, 11.02%, and 11.61%. The real stability they have shown has been in producing unblocked shot attempts, not the rate at which they score on shots.

That metric, FF/60, is the one in which the Oilers have made the most progress over time. No, it hasn’t turned into remarkably better shot rates and that’s a topic I would love to pick Ramsay or Eakins’ brain about but the fact is that Edmonton is getting looks at a rate that was unprecedented in the Krueger era. Now maybe those shot attempts are coming from the perimeter too often or maybe they’re being shot wide too often, but either way it seems the Oil are spending more time trying to create than they were previously.

PDO for the Power Play is a bit of a contentious issue for some because the game is not even and a few shorthanded goals against can really submarine the number, but it really shouldn’t be different in theory than other game states aside from the fact we expect the number to regress to a higher position than 100. For the past 5 years the median in the NHL during 5v4 play falls pretty close to 103 give or take the odd fluctuation. Edmonton’s number this season is so bad that the next closest in the NHL is 94.4. That’s a little more than 14% higher. In fact only 1 team in the Advanced Stat era has finished with less than 90% 5v4 PDO and that was Nashville in the Lockout shortened year.

Edmonton’s current 80.6 PDO on the 5v4 is bad on a historic level. 

When I see all of that I think that there’s a very good chance that this team will get a lot better at some point during the year, if they keep playing this way. Either a few shots that were missing the net early in the season will find their target or some seeing eye pucks just manage to find their way in, but this is a Power Play that should start getting better results over time.



No, I’m not saying the Oilers shouldn’t be tweaking things and that the PP is fine the way it is. Obviously there are things that good teams do to be successful on the man-advantage. I still think this team is woeful at winning puck battles and using the numbers to their advantage. There’s no reason why the puck should go into the corner and an Oiler is alone there to fight off two defenders. 

I also don’t like how static some of the players can be, maybe as a result of getting into their position in the 1-3-1 prematurely. While we’re at it I think too many shots are coming from the forwards while Justin Schultz is just passing the puck and not being a shooting threat. Those are just a few of my complaints. 

Still, though, the underlying numbers are showing a team that is getting better. Not everybody buys that because there really isn’t an excuse on a team that boasts RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, and the great Justin Schultz to be at the bottom of the NHL in PP efficiency. Their sh% is low but their other metrics are climbing. It should turn around, provided someone lifts this curse.

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