The Oilers made their final cuts yesterday and along with no brainers like sending Juhjar Khaira down, the club has decided to rate Oscar Klefbom ahead of Martin Marincin. It’s not just that they rate Klefbom ahead of the tall Slovak, it’s that they decided to send him down to the American Hockey League. This move, as described by the prolific Jonathan Willis, is indefensible.
It’s a roster move that robs the Oilers of their best remaining left handed defenseman (LHD from here out).
When the team announced the moves most of the MSM voices seemed to be most concerned about Will Acton, the 13th forward, making the club than they were worried about the fact that the team just buried a player who will actually play minutes for the team. The questions revolved around Steve Pinizzotto or Tyler Pitlick. The focus afterwards was more about toughness and exposing Pitlick to the waiver wire. Despite the fact that I agree with most of them that Pitlick and Pinizzotto outplayed the associate coach’s son and that exposing a player you took 31st Overall to waivers after he beat out a guy you picked up for free and could be replaced instantly is asinine, they missed the story.
Somehow, the only man asking tough questions yesterday was the Oilers’ own Color Man Bob Stauffer. Before we take a look at his question and the answer he got, we should again point out that the guys paid to cover this team and ask piercing questions missed the fact that the Oilers sent down their best LHD and focused instead on which gritty AHLer was going to occupy the 13F spot.
Here’s what Stauffer asked of Eakins:
Advanced Stats Metrics you guys were a real poor puck possession team last year, Martin Marincin was your best Corsi D-man last year. He was the most settled with the games he played, the best numbers by far by a regular defenseman. How much did you, when you know you're making a decision on a guy like Martin Marincin, when you know he's got a better track record today than Klefbom, how much does that get factored in as opposed to training camp that the guy's had?
It’s a damned fine question. A fair question to ask in this situation and one that might make Eakins a little uncomfortable.
He felt the team needed more Battle and Heaviness out of that spot and he went on to say that Marincin came out of the gate really slowly and 2 or 3 players outplayed him. (He also went on a bit of an aside about Corsi in which he gave David Staples all the ammo he needs in the war against Corsi.
) We’ll sort that part out in a bit.
Assuming Marincin was the final cut then Eakins is actually saying here that he was outplayed by both Nurse and Klefbom in Training Camp. Yes, Brad Hunt is ALSO technically still up with the NHL club but he’s in a press box role and older so IF we could agree (we don’t) that Marincin was outplayed then it definitely stands to reason that he would benefit more from playing time than Hunt who should be about as close to a finished product as we can expect.
Darnell Nurse is 19 and not eligible to play in the AHL. If Nikita Nikitin had not twisted his ankle I think there’s a better than 90% chance that he would have been sent down to the OHL on Sunday but the opportunity presented itself to give him NHL games and the Oilers jumped on it. They get 9 games to play him before that ELC starts counting down and a year is burned on his contract. Given his age and experience it doesn’t make any sense to keep him with the club unless he finishes that 9 game stint as the best blueliner on the squad. The only thing is that with Marincin down there’s a chance he’ll look like the best LHD option available.
With Nikita Nikitin out of the lineup and Marincin sent down the Oilers are committed to playing Nurse, Klefbom and Ference as their 3 LHD. Put in another way, that’s a 3rd pairing guy in his mid 30’s and a combined 17 games of NHL experience ahead of him. If we compound that with the fact that the Oilers 2+3 Centers have a total of 42 NHL games of experience, we get an extremely undeveloped group of players logging significant minutes for the NHL club.
Going back to Stauffer’s question, Martin Marincin was the best possession Defender the Oilers had last year. When we observe his game most people notice his extremely active stick and the ability he has to defend zone entries with it. It’s a skill he is particularly good at and one that sometimes goes unnoticed because it doesn’t result in thunderous hits. It’s a shame though.
Now Marincin finished last year with a 47.7 CF%, which was tops for all the regular defenders by a significant margin. Eakins’ attempt to throw the dogs off the trail was done by bringing up the argument that Corsi is not an individual’s number but a number earned by a group of players. This is both right and wrong.
You see Corsi is an “On-Ice” stat so while there are groups of people contributing to the events on the ice, an individual player’s Corsi is simply reflective of what actually happened while he was playing. Marincin’s individual number simply means that while he was on the ice the Oilers were controlling the offensive attempts 47.7% of the time. That’s not a great number, but that’s why we need more context.
Corsi or Corsi% is just one piece of the puzzle and we need more context. To try and pars out individual performance we need to compare players to how they played with and without others. We need to know who they played against. And, we need to know how they were deployed. We can fill in the context of a game with that information, with what we saw with our own eyes, with all kinds of info just to get a better idea of how these players performed. We simply need more information.
In the case of Marincin, all of the information we have points to him being the best possession Defender on the team last year. His WOWY’s show a player whose partner was consistently worse without him than with him. He also played the tough minutes and took heavy defensive zone starts. He was a workhorse. So even if you try to lose the noise of the fact that others were on the ice as he earned his Corsi number then you get a picture of the guy pushing the river in the right direction.
But that was last year. What about this year?
The assertion here is that Marincin was outplayed by Oscar Klefbom. Now last year I continually said Klefbom looked out of his depth but things change. Players get “Ah Ha” moments and young defenders get better. Except I don’t think Klefbom outplayed Marincin.
I did not think Marincin had a “strong” camp by any means, but I didn’t think he was bad. That said, I really don’t think Klefbom had a particularly strong camp either, and definitely not one that saw him overtake Marincin.
What I decided to do was get as much info as I could. Perhaps Eakins was right and the Slovak was poor early while Klef shined. I hadn’t seen it but that’s why fancy stats exist. They do so because smart people believed the game was too fast for even the discerning eye to catch everything. So I went to Hockeystats.ca
and looked at the Corsi data for each game to get an idea of what each player was providing. Now they have info for almost every preseason game except the one in Saskatoon because there were no official scorers there.
The information we get doing that starts to highlight the fact that the Oilers made a bad call sending Marty down.
P1 Klefbom +7 (Oilers +3)
P2 Marincin -11 (Oilers -5)
P3 Klefbom -9 (Oilers -9)
P3 Marincin +8 (Oilers -9)
P4 NO INFO
P5 Neither Played
P6 Klefbom -4 (Oilers +16)
P6 Marincin +15 (Oilers +16)
P7 Marincin +5 (Oilers +6)
P8 Klefbom 0 (Oilers 0)
P8 Marincin +4 (Oilers 0)
Klefbom -6 (Oilers +10)
Marincin +21 (Oilers +8)
What we can clearly see here is that outside of the 1st game where the Oilers stacked their home team and the Flames stacked their Home team Marincin completely dominated Klefbom. I mean annihilated him. If we go so far as to take the 1st game for both of them away then the separation between the players is even greater.
Klefbom is a -6 in games where the Oilers were a +10 and Marincin is a +21 in games where the Oilers were a +8. We’re talking about a big swing here. And if we go back into last year’s date then the facts present themselves pretty clearly.
The Oilers sent the wrong man down.
But, hey hold on here. Corsi isn’t the be all and end all of statistics. There are more things going on here.
It’s true. There are.
Marincin played mostly with Keith Aulie and on his off-side while Klefbom skated with far superior players. Despite the millstone around his neck Martin Marincin managed to completely outplay Klefbom by fancy stats AND more traditional ones too.
You see, after Justin Schultz, Marincin had the next highest points by a defender in the Oilers’ preseason. He had 2 assists which tied him with Brad Hunt for that 2nd spot on the scoring list. Oscar Klefbom? 0 points.
But it’s not just about points. Sometimes you are pushing the attack but the bounces just don’t go your way. Klefbom played 4 games and we shouldn’t be too worried if a Defenseman goes 4 games without a point if they’re contributing to the attack and it just isn’t going their way.
No, it’s not the points that concern me, it’s the fact that in 4 games played Klefbom managed just 5 shots on goal.
Marincin? Martin Marincin generated 17 shots in 6 games as per the Oilers themselves
. It’s actually the highest number of shots by any player in the Oilers organization during preseason. Not just by a defenseman either. The highest number of shots, period.
The Oilers sent down a better defender and a better attacker to the AHL in favour of Oscar Klefbom who in no way outplayed him. It’s a move that makes the team objectively worse in a needless way. The MSM lost the plot focusing on team toughness and the 13th forward when the Oilers decided to ice a weaker team than they needed to by opting for Klefbom over Marincin.
How does a decision like that get made? Oscar Klefbom has Draft Pedigree, skates like the wind, and has the body of a Greek god. Our eyes deceive us. Even NHL Coaches.