How much can Adam Oates help Alex Ovechkin’s scoring?

November 13, 2012


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS | At yesterday’s Hall of Fame induction, uber-star Brett Hull said he believes that when former teammate Adam Oates finally gets the chance to coach the Washington Capitals, fans will see a revitalized Alex Ovechkin. But can Oates’s system and coaching style get Ovechkin back to the scoring levels fans witnessed just a few short years ago?

Let’s assume Oates’s experience working with superstar players can get the club close to the high-octane offense that Washington had in 2009-10, when it dominated the league with 318 goals scored. That would put Ovechkin and his linemates on the ice for approximately 31 shots per 60 minutes during even-strength, which would be a significant bump up from last season (26.2). If you think that is too low, consider Ovi has been on the ice for no more than 32.7 even-strength shots per 60 since the 2007-08 season.

Ovechkin and his linemates have converted 9 percent of those shots the last two years (league average is close to 8 percent), so let’s say a new system under Oates also improves that to 10 percent, the same as it was when Ovechkin scored 65 and 56 in 2007-08 and 2008-09, respectively. That means Ovi would be on the ice for 3.1 even-strength goals per 60 minutes, of which he has historically scored 41 percent himself, equaling personal production of 1.3 even-strength goals-for per 60. Ovechkin has steadily seen 16 minutes per game during even-strength in each of the last five years, so 1.3 even-strength goals per 60 over 16 minutes per game puts him at 28 goals scored at even-strength over an 82-game season.

Opportunities with the power play will heavily influence where Ovechkin ultimately ends up on the leader board, but man-advantage situations have become scarcer each year since the lockout. In 2005-06, teams saw an average of 5.8 power-play opportunities per game. Last season it was barely above three. Unless rule changes are made to stop the slide of power play time per team, Ovechkin will likely see even less time with the man advantage than last year (3:38 per game).

Assuming Ovechkin will be on the ice for 50 power-play shots per 60 minutes — an increase from last year (47.4) — but converting those shots at a rate of 13 percent instead of the 11 percent average from the past two years, we can pencil in another 11 goals for Ovechkin that will come during the man advantage.

That puts Ovechkin’s 2012-13 projection, assuming an 82-game season, at 39 goals. Not quite “like a kid in a candy store” as Brett Hull would suggest.  Disagree? Let us know why in the comments.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced statistics for all sports and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Katie Carrera | November 13, 2012