Fantasy HockeyJosh Kay

Special Teams Saturday: Problems In Edmonton- Eakins to Blame?

The Edmonton Oilers have been an awful special teams group this season, starting first and foremost with their penalty-kill unit that sits at a league worst, 69.7%. On Monday, October 14th, the Oilers faced the Washington Capitals, a team with the best power-play unit in the entire NHL. The Oilers allowed three power-play goals on the night.

Edmonton fans, this article will break down the problems of your penalty-killing unit. For our front-office members, we have an extension write-up of the detail touched on in this article, by utilizing in-game snapshots, pictures and video only available for those with NHL GameCenter. And if you didn’t pay the $160 for GameCenter, it would at least behoove you to become a front-office member. It’s only $0.04 per day or $1.27 per month! Visit http://thefantasyfix.com/why-subscribe/.

The Oilers have been poor all season on the penalty-kill, and it’s no surprise once you begin to break things down. In 2012-2013 Edmonton registered the ninth best penalty-kill unit, with a 83.9% success rate. The four Oiler forwards that registered the most penalty-kill time last year were (in order of most time), Ryan Smyth, Lennart Petrell, Eric Belanger, and Shawn Horcoff. Of those four players, only Smyth is still on the team. Ironically, Smyth isn’t even on the unit this year as he’s just registered two minutes and 16 seconds of penalty-kill ice time. That number is good for 14th on the team, and ninth among forwards.

Leading the penalty-kill unit this year for Edmonton is off-season acquisition Boyd Gordon. Gordon is a penalty-kill specialist, having been on the number one penalty-kill unit every season of his career (if you start with his age 23 season, in 2006-2007, his first full season) while playing for the Washington Capitals and Phoenix Coyotes. At least coach Dallas Eakins can’t mess that up, but he does, however, have non-prospect (undrafted) Will Acton playing on the first penalty-kill unit with Gordon. Acton is playing his first season in the NHL at the age of 26, which tells you all you need to know about his pedigree. Additional information sure to infuriate Oilers fans, is the fact that Acton sees 14.8 shifts per game. That number is worst on the team out of the regular Oiler players if you don’t include fighters Dan Gadzic and Mike Brown, both of whom have no business being on this roster to begin with. It’s inexcusable and indefensible to be placing your faith in a guy who doesn’t play important minutes for your team, outside of the penalty-kill.

Rounding out the circus of defensive awfulness that is the Edmonton penalty-kill are: Ales Hemsky and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The not-so “defensively dynamic duo”, lead the Oilers in plus/minus futility at a combined minus-17, with Hemsky being a minus-8 and Nugent-Hopkins a minus-9. Both of these marks are the worst on the team – remember that being on the ice for an opposing power-play goal does not go against your plus/minus rating.

Edmonton fans that want to find a way to give Eakins a mulligan for this line creation kerfuffle should direct their attention toward General Manager Craig MacTavish who decided that Boyd Gordon’s services would make up for the fact that the Oilers decided, not to re-sign penalty-kill specialist Eric Belanger, and to trade captain, face-off specialist, and excellent penalty-killer Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas Stars for a bucket of balls and a comfy beanbag chair. The trade was essentially a salary dump move, which is fine, since Horcoff carried a $5.5 million cap-hit, but not replacing his penalty-kill prowess was a mistake.

Realistically though, the onus is not on the players in this situation because the players being put on the penalty-kill are being set up to fail. Hemsky is 30-years-old and has never been a penalty-kill regular at any point in his career. That fact is also supported by his career minus-39 as well as his 71 points in 74 games during the 2007-2008 season in which he still found a way to record a minus-9. Expect this unit to continue to struggle, which leaves Edmonton goaltenders completely un-ownable in 10-team standard fantasy leagues.

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