by PuckStopsHere on 08/20/14 at 07:29 PM ET
The Edmonton Oilers were not a good team in 2013/14. They had more excess defensive zone starts than any other team in the NHL. As a result it is expected that many of their top players would not have good puck possession numbers. When I ranked the worst 20 players by Corsi rating adjusted for team and zone starts, Edmonton did quite poorly. Justin Schultz and Andrew Ference, their top defence pairing finished in 7th and 8th worst place respectively. Their top forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall were 9th and 10th worst respectively. Edmonton had themselves in a situation where you cannot win. If your opponents possess the puck when your best players are on the ice, you will not win.
The circumstances surrounding the defencemen puck possession and the forwards puck possession are different. The defencemen (Schultz and Ference) were among the poorest players in the league in terms of raw Corsi (Schultz finished 8th and Ference 9th). Adjustments did little to change their rankings. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins are more offensive players and the Oilers made an effort to give them give them offensive zone starts in order to try to boost their offensive chances. Edmonton, being the weak offensive team that they are, failed to get them into the league leaders. The problem was that despite their offensive zone starts, these Oiler forwards often spent their time chasing the puck into the defensive zone. In part this is because they played for a weak team and though there is an attempt to adjust for it, it cannot be done perfectly. In part this is because their puck possession is not so strong. Once they lost control of the puck, their defence was weak and they were rarely able to recover it.
Edmonton is dependent upon young forwards who have questionable defensive ability. This leads to puck possession problems. Despite that Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have offensive ability. In the right situation they can succeed. Perhaps with different coaching or with different linemates or with more maturity things could be better, but they struggled last year. If your best players struggle then your team will struggle. This is a problem the Edmonton Oilers must overcome to succeed in the NHL. They haven't been able to do that thus far into the time of their current young core. I think there is too much talent available to struggle forever, but this Oiler team isn't a future Stanley Cup winner as many suggested when they first drafted their young core. This is a team that if given the chance may develop into a playoff team that never has a big Stanley Cup run. Likely, however, we will never be able to test that prediction because the Oilers will make significant changes before that happens.
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