I can hear the whining all the way out here on Vancouver Island.
There is a constant refrain from Oiler fans that the officials are letting the Oilers opponents get away with murder and that the Oilers should have more powerplay opportunities than they get.
That all culminated in last night’s assault by Darnell Nurse on Roman Polak which, viewed objectively, should not have involved a penalty to Polak when Matt Hendricks lost his balance and crashed into the boards. That was followed, of course, by Nurse seeking retribution for which, by the rule book he should have received 2 minutes for instigating, 5 minutes for fighting, a game misconduct for instigating in the last 5 minutes and an automatic one game suspension.
That things did not play out that way hasn’t dented the blood lust by most Oiler fans who now are seeing this as a watershed moment after which the Oilers will no longer be pushed around and will hard to play against.
Of course that is nonsense and I would imagine San Jose will set the Oilers straight in the next meeting later this month.
But let’s examine the notion that the Oilers would be a more successful team if the on ice officials just called the penalties that they should against their opponents.
While I agree that NHL officiating can be very inconsistent and sometimes spiteful (see Stephane Auger’s vendetta against Alex Burrows), after watching almost every minute of Oiler games this year, I don’t see any more inconsistency than you can see nightly in other games.
While I think it’s true that veteran teams get a little “benefit of the doubt” non calls from the refs, I’m not sure that the volume or result of calling Oiler games strictly by the book would make much difference in any event.
As luck would have it, Sporting Charts tracks penalties throughout the league and provides us with some context.
As you can see, the Oilers DO rank near the bottom of the number of power plays/game but with 196 PP opportunities, they are only 18 behind the median of 214 received by the Dallas Stars.
Let’s assume for a moment that the Oilers got a league average of power play opportunities and then let’s take a look at what that would actually mean.
The Oilers power play percentage is currently 16.8%, so, if they got an additional 18 calls, they would have scored exactly 3 additional goals this season.
No telling where or when those goals would have been scored, whether in a tight game or a blowout but I can’t see those 3 goals resulting in any more than 1 additional win.
And that folks would mean absolutely nothing in the big picture.
If Oiler fans want their power play to make a difference then they should focus their attention on how bad Todd McLellan’s powerplay is and stop whining about officiating.