The Oilers have been relying heavily on the powerplay this season, and it could present some issues in the long run. This, however, shouldn’t be the Oilers’ problem. It’s the NHL’s
If there’s one thing about the Oilers you can feel confident in, it’s the powerplay. Special teams, in general, have been a strength of the Oilers in recent years as they consistently have a top PK unit and have had the league’s best powerplay for the past few seasons. They haven’t slowed down either, their powerplay is currently running at 39%, which leads the league by a wide margin. 32% of the Oilers’ goals (23/72) have come on the man advantage this year, which is much higher than any other team, meaning the Oilers rely far more on their powerplay than anyone else. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem, but in practice, this could end up biting the Oilers in the long run. Let me explain.
When you watch Connor McDavid, you’ll notice that he’s either getting held or hooked or slashed or interfered with on almost every play. This is obviously because that’s the only way most teams can counteract his speed and skill. So in theory this should create a situation in which McDavid is either able to create a scoring opportunity by getting by the defenders or by drawing a penalty. Either way, the outcome of a McDavid rush should result in either a goal-scoring opportunity, a drawn penalty, or in some cases, a genuinely good defensive play that shuts him down. This issue arises when McDavid isn’t being refed properly. On most of these plays where he’s being interfered with, he won’t draw a call because the refs are simply letting it happen. (This same general principle applies to Draisaitl as well, but with McDavid, it’s just more egregious).
Some people (namely John Tortorella) have said that McDavid actually needs to change the way he plays in order to succeed, particularly in the playoffs. Now I want you to think about that for a second. The best hockey player on the planet should change the way HE plays in order to succeed. Is McDavid the problem or is it the refs who aren’t making the calls? I feel like the answer is pretty obvious.
To go back to my original point, the Oilers are heavily reliant on the powerplay, and if they draw the amount of penalties that they should, this won’t be an issue. The problem is, the Oilers aren’t going to draw as many penalties as they should, especially in the playoffs, where the refs usually decide that interference doesn’t exist anymore. So the question remains: is the Oilers reliance on the powerplay a problem in and of itself? I would argue that it is, but it’s not a problem with the Oilers, it’s a problem with the league, and the way games are being officiated, and I think there’s a very simple solution.
Above is a video of NHL referee Wes McCauley explaining what interference is. It may look a lot like what happens to McDavid every single game. That’s because it is. The solution to the issue of the Oilers reliance in the powerplay is the ref calling the penalties that should be called. It’s as simple as that. There is a very clear definition of interference and if the refs adhere to that, the Oilers won’t have a problem. This honestly wouldn’t be a big change, the refs would just have to call the game the way it’s supposed to be called. If that doesn’t happen then yes, the Oilers reliance on the powerplay might be an problem, but it’s not the Oilers problem, it’s the NHL’s