Has Woodcroft found chemistry in Oilers lines this week? A deep dive

Oct 14, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) during the second period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) during the second period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Edmonton Oilers Evander Kane
Oct 6, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane (91) looks to make a pass in front of Seattle Kraken forward Eeli Tolvannen (20) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

Kane’s struggles continue

Now, when we talk about positional timing, i.e. arriving at the right scoring area at the right time to connect with the playdriver, I think often of Kane. Here are his production numbers and stats for recent seasons:

Kane had a career playoff performance in 2021-22, posting numbers that far exceed the rest of his trends, with a high PDO compared to his career average as well. His shooting percentage was double what he’d seen in previous playoff performances.

This could have been a product of high-quality feeds from the Oilers’ stars, but regardless it is unlikely we should hold Kane to that standard and expect success. Rather, look at his exceedingly low PDO so far this season and expect a bit of a return to his normal regular season form.

It’s unlikely Kane would so abruptly fall off the aging curve, but we’ve seen this recently with power forwards like Milan Lucic and Wayne Simmonds. Only time will tell.

Woodcroft also did well to keep the struggling Kane away from Nugent-Hopkins’ line in Nashville, and try to put him in a position to succeed with McDrai. He made a very smart choice to also give Kane a shot on the PK. History suggests this was a wise use of a skilled player for whom there is no room on the NHL’s best PP. Kane has a history of applying his hockey IQ to prevent chances on the PK:

The best options for the PK might be those skilled players who don’t make the cut on PP1, and can therefore take on the extra PK TOI, rather than the role-players one might expect to be counted on for the PK. Kane started off strong on the PK in Nashville by my eye, and was tasked with two defensive zone starts, but faded with time and posted -11 CF% Rel, -20 FF% Rel, and -0.47 xGF% Rel.

This is largely because Nugent-Hopkins-Mattias Janmark and Nurse-Ceci managed to get out of their zone and post a shot on net. The Oilers’ PK has led to many goals against so far this season, even though Woodcroft sent down the offensively-inclined Raphael Lavoie and Lane Pederson in favour of players with steady defensive and penalty-killing reputations.

Nonetheless, there was smart deployment of Kane at all strengths by Woodcroft, and the PK unit combinations were smart and varied, too. Kane did manage to make a chip ahead to McDavid, who earlier in this article I noted created something out of nothing (perhaps less than nothing, as he was impeded on the play).