"I have posted before that whenever a coach or media type says that Local Team X needs "more big _____", that can easily be shortened (and made more accurate!) by deleting the word 'big'. Today's lesson in hockey/sports lingo is that more consistent = better. If the coach says the powerplay needs to be more consistent, then what he means to say (even if it's subconsciously) is that the powerplay needs to be better. If your team needs a more consistent goalie, what they actually need is a better goalie. And if the Flames can only win their 1st round series if they play very consistently, what that actually means is that the can only win if they play very well.And if I play a round of golf with Tiger Woods, I might tie him on the first hole, but when he beats me by 12 or 15 on the round, it won't be because I lacked consistency."
I think that there is a ton of truth to that. Most times when people are clamouring for more consistency from their team they actually just want the players to be better. Nonetheless, I thought that it would be interesting to look at consistency for the Edmonton Oilers through the lens of scoring chances, as counted by Dennis here. Are some players really more consistent than others? If so, in what ways is this the case?
I struggled a little bit in deciding how to present this data, so I'm actually going to present it in two different ways (all at EV). In the first chart we'll see the player followed by the number of games the player was +3 or better in scoring chances, followed by the number of games the player was between +2 and -2, followed by the number of games the player was -3 or worse: decidedly good games, medium games, and decidedly bad games.
(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 players are all organized according to their jersey numbers.)
Games One to Sixty-Eight, October 12 to March 14
Missing Games 22 at St. Louis, 33 at Vancouver and 40 vs San Jose
I would be prepared to label anyone with more good and bad games than they have medium games, with neither the good nor bad being dominant, "inconsistent." The guys in this category are Gagner, Hemsky, Gilbert, Souray and Horcoff, also known as, most of our best players. I find this fascinating to say the least. Nilsson, Cogliano, Pouliot, Penner and Stortini look to be the most consistently average players. The young guys, the guys that tend to be stereotyped most often as being "inconsistent." The only guy on the team kicking ass and taking names with some consistency is Visnovsky though he does have a few bad games sprinkled in too. It's kind of frightening that he might end the year leading the team in "good games."
The next chart will hopefully provide a little bit more information and it's something that I think people will find interesting anyway. This is simply the player followed by the games which he has outchanced the opposition, followed by ties, followed by games in which he's been outchanced:
Looking at the data this way gives a bit of a different impression but gives some clearance for a guy like Nilsson over a guy like Stortini who may not get totally destroyed but is on the wrong side of the ledger on most nights. Looking at the data this way also makes Gagner, Penner, Visnovsky and Grebeshkov look the most consistenty good, though even then only Penner has more mildly poor games than he does awful ones. Pisani, Strudwick, Moreau, Staios and Smid aren't inconsistent, they just aren't very good.
I think the bottom line is still with Matt's assessment, namely, our top players just aren't good enough. Still, it's interesting that they play more than half of their games dominating or being dominated in roughly equal measures. At the other end, the many of the younger players generally have a narrower range of performance, generally staying within +/-2. It seems to me that consistency really is an issue for some players more than it is for others.