(For those unfamiliar with the metric a player is awarded a chance any time someone on the ice has a chance to score. He is awarded with a “chance for” if someone on his team has a chance and awarded with a “chance against” if someone on the opposing team has a chance to score. The results are broken down into three game states, EV (even strength), PP (Power Play) and SH (Short-Handed). The players are organized according to their jersey numbers.)
Games Thirty-One Through Forty-One, December 19 to January 11
Missing Games 33 at Vancouver and 40 vs San Jose
Nilsson manages to get benched for game 32 near the beginning of this segment, which is somewhat surprising given the terrible set of games he had without punishment from 11-20. In fact, it seemed as though he had turned it around from 21-30, posting mostly positive numbers and missing a couple of games due to injury. This leads me to believe that some of the decisions with regard to benching have more to do with issues of personality or attitude than they do actual long-term results. The other option is that MacT is making decisions based on singular events that stand out to him. Regardless, he seems to have responded well upon returning, posting a positive differential until he gets reinjured in game 41.
Hemsky was also injured during this time period and the effects of his injury can be seen in the differential posted by his linemates, Horcoff and Penner. At EV, Horcoff went 30/35 and Penner went 24/28 in their six games without Hemsky during this time. In fairness to them, the sample is quite small, and the three games prior (with Hemsky) they had been struggling already. The offensive slack was picked up by the Cole/Gagner tandem who posted fantastic numbers this segment. I believe Cole's +26 represents the biggest positive differential for an Oiler in any segment this year. The two of them were simply dominant, and if that can continue when Hemsky is back full-time, this team will be very difficult to handle at EV.
The flip side to that is the horror show that is Ethan Moreau. It seems that no matter who he's paired with, the results simply stay brutal. He was paired with Cogliano during this time period and Cogs promptly posted his worst results of the season by quite a margin at -11. The pair were able to create a fair number of chances but were completely unable to limit chances against. Moreau was very smart in signing his long-term deal and very lucky to be captain, because on merit, the man should probably be in the press-box.
The call-ups mostly struggled this segment. Both Brule and Reddox posted brutal numbers, although Reddox spent some time filling in for Hemsky against the toughs. Note: he's not ready. He managed to play to even in the NHL in a lesser role so I could see him staying with the big team if he's able to add some offence against weak opposition, something he had been able to do against the toughs in the AHL.
The PK improved greatly in this segment, thanks mostly to increased roles for Cole and Grebeshkov, as well as improved play from some of the stalwarts on that unit, especially Horcoff. This is really the first segment in which the PK was able to generate significant chances in the right direction, suggesting that the flow of play was more favourable for them at this time. Judging from the PP+ totals posted by the D as compared with the previous segments, the Oilers, surprisingly, were able to create a lot of chances on the PP without Hemsky in the lineup.