Pucks in Depth: Edmonton Oilers’ Strong Start Smoke And Mirrors … J.T. Miller Trade Paying Early Dividends
Edmonton’s strong start smoke and mirrors

Every season there are a couple of teams projected to be at or near the basement of the NHL that find a way to earn a playoff spot.

The Edmonton Oilers’ 8-3-1 start, which has them just two points back of 1st in the NHL, has many believing they will be one of this year’s surprise teams. I’m not one of them.

Despite what their record suggests, they are not playing great hockey. They’re not even playing *good* hockey right now. At least not relative to what we generally see from a playoff-caliber team.

The Oilers are consistently getting out-shot, out-chanced and, surprisingly (given their record), out-scored at 5v5. Adjusting for score effects and venue, the Oilers are controlling 47.78% of the attempts (25th) and 48.03% of the expected goals (23rd), and 45.77% of the goals (23rd). Anaheim, Chicago, and Ottawa are a few of the closest comparables in those categories. Not ideal.

At the root of Edmonton’s 5v5 struggles, once again, is a lack of depth. Contrary to the early season narratives, the team’s role players aren’t playing well. The Oilers continue to be absolutely steamrolled when Connor McDavid is not on the ice. 

McDavid Effect

As you can see, the Oilers record more scoring chances and goals than their opponents with McDavid on the ice. That’s good! Unfortunately, their differentials without No. 97 undo a lot of what he accomplishes. All of it, actually.

Considering most of every game is spent at 5v5, and McDavid is sitting on the bench for well over half of it, that doesn’t bode well for their chances of continued success. Simply put, the team must be much better without McDavid.

And, given the personnel, there’s not much reason to believe they can be.

J.T. Miller trade paying dividends

The Vancouver Canucks opened up a ton of eyes when they acquired J.T. Miller from Tampa Bay this past summer. Not necessarily because they traded for J.T. Miller, but because of *what* they traded for J.T. Miller.

Many thought parting with 1st + 3rd round picks was an overpayment, especially given the state of the team.

It’s early, of course, but Miller looks well worth the cost thus far. He’s provided a much-needed spark to the offense, already contributing 11 points in 10 games.

His on-ice numbers are fantastic as well. He leads all Canucks – by far – with a 64.52 Corsi For% and 64.35 Expected Goals For%, and is tied for 1st with a 71.43 Goals For%. He’s enjoyed great success playing on both Elias Pettersson‘s line and Bo Horvat‘s line – and as the driver, no less.

With Miller, the Canucks control 18.26% more of the shot attempts and 21.03% more of the expected goals than they do without him on the ice. Both totals lead the league – not the Canucks, the entire NHL – among players who have logged more than 100 minutes at 5v5.

Perhaps more than anyone, Miller is most responsible for the Canucks’ encouraging 6-3-1 start.

Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com

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