The post NHL Executive Claims Oilers Have an Exploitable Playoff Weakness appeared first on NHL Trade Talk.

According to an anonymous NHL executive who was quoted in a recent article for The Athletic, the Edmonton Oilers are among the favorites to be Stanley Cup contenders this season. Unfortunately, this same executive suggests the Oilers have a weakness their opponents can exploit. The quote goes on to suggest their team used that weakness to handle the Oilers and if other teams figure it out, it’s a great way to stifle Edmonton’s offensive possession time.

Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Oilers” class=”wp-image-67514″/>Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Oilers

In the article, the quote reads:

The easiest way to shut down the Oilers is preventing McDavid from picking up steam in the neutral zone. The way you prevent McDavid from picking up steam is to mess with the way they do their breakouts and (defensive zone) exits. That starts with their retrievals. Ekholm, good f—ing player, but he can’t make plays on his backhand and Bouchard won’t retrieve the puck (in the corners).

Essentially, he’s suggesting dumping the puck into the defensive zone on Ekholm’s backhand or dumping it in directly on Bouchard because the latter won’t go into the trouble areas to make a play. From there, aggressively pursue those two so they can’t get the puck to McDavid.

Do the Numbers Suggest This Strategy Works?

While it’s not known which team this was and when they played the Oilers, a few analytics supporters took a look at the claim to see if the stats support it. @NHL_Sid responded to questions about Ekholm’s backhand retrievals and Bouchard’s hesitancy to go into the tough areas. He wrote:

I haven’t specifically tracked plays off the backhand, but just from my observations while tracking, I haven’t really noticed an issue with Ekholm in that regard. The only notable weakness in Ekholm’s game I could point out is occasional failed pinches.

@BlueBullet1981 posted a screenshot of some stats collected on puck retrievals, showing that Bouchard and Ekholm don’t appear to be the problem. In fact, not a single Oiler defenseman is below a 50% success rate. Furthermore, when it comes to controlled exits, Bouchard is the most successful blueliner on the team, well above the next closest defenseman at a rate of 16.3 per 60.

NHL execs continue to live up to my expectations of their competence.

— Blue Bullet Brad (@BlueBullet1981) April 19, 2024

The one player who does appear to struggle a bit with retrievals and zone exits is Cody Ceci. Interestingly, the executive didn’t mention Ceci at all.

So, was the NHL executive wrong? Or, did the Oilers he’s targeting with his comments just get better at an area that was problematic at the start of the season?

Next: Trade Acquisitions That Could Shape 2023-24 NHL Playoff Success

The post NHL Executive Claims Oilers Have an Exploitable Playoff Weakness appeared first on NHL Trade Talk.

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