NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Edmonton Oilers.
[OILERS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Drawing penalties
Everybody knows about center Connor McDavid's scoring contributions, but he also is the best player in the NHL at drawing penalties and maintaining his own discipline.
McDavid drew 51 penalties last season and took 13, a League-leading difference of plus-38, according to my book, "Hockey Abstract 2017." Forward Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames was plus-34, the only other player better than plus-22.
A player's penalty differential can be placed into context by adjusting it based on the rates at which forwards and defensemen draw and take penalties, and in different manpower situations. A typical forward assigned the same ice time as McDavid at 5-on-5, 5-on-4 and 4-on-5 would have drawn 18.0 penalties and taken 16.1, for a penalty differential of plus-1.9. McDavid drew 41 penalties and took nine in those three situations, for a penalty differential of plus-32, or 30.1 higher than expected, which also led the NHL.
What is that worth in terms of goals? If McDavid is worth 30.1 extra power-play opportunities per season, and the Oilers were to score on 19.1 percent of their power plays (the League average), then he would be worth an extra 5.75 goals per season. That equates to about two extra points in the standings.
Video: 31 in 31: Edmonton Oilers 2017-18 season preview
2. Blocking shots
Defenseman Kris Russell signed a four-year contract with an average annual value of $4 million with the Oilers on June 23. This further emphasizes the value of shot-blocking in the eyes of NHL front offices, and Russell may be the League's best.
He led the NHL with 706 blocked shots during the past three seasons. But as with any statistic, it's important to take opportunity into account before you start comparing players. Normally that is done by dividing a statistic by games played or by ice time. In the case of blocked shots, it should be done by dividing the total by the number of unblocked shot attempts.
From this perspective, Russell has blocked a League-leading 15.9 percent of all unblocked shot attempts when he's on the ice at 5-on-5, according to "Hockey Abstract 2017."
3. Bargain of the summer
The best free agent bargains this offseason were forwards between the ages of 30 and 35, and the Oilers may have found the greatest value of them all. Jussi Jokinen, 34, signed a one-year contract reportedly valued at $1.1 million, on July 7. He made $4 million with the Florida Panthers last season.
According to the underlying numbers, Jokinen can provide solid secondary scoring and help drive possession. He also can contribute in other areas, including faceoffs and shootouts.
During the past three seasons, Jokinen has averaged 1.77 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, according to XtraHockey Stats. The Panthers had 52.21 percent of the shot attempts when he has been on the ice, and 49.04 percent when he wasn't, for a relative SAT of plus-3.3 percent. He has won 53.4 percent of his NHL faceoffs and has scored on 39.1 percent of his shootout attempts (36 of 92).
Any one of those contributions would be enough to justify his contract with the Oilers. It becomes a tremendous bargain when they are added together.