How much does the Oilers’ 3-6-1 start matter?

Jonathan Willis
October 23 2013 08:49AM

Has Edmonton dugs itself into a whole that will be extremely difficult to get out of? Is the team’s 3-6-1 start a hallmark of things to come?

The Last Five Years

The chart above shows every team over the last five 82-game NHL regular seasons to start with just three wins in their first 10 games played. I was surprised to find that six of the 11 teams ended up in the post-season; my assumption had been that the lousy start would have some slight predictive value but if it is there the predictive value is too slight to show up over an 11-team sample.

Put shortly, many a good team has started a year poorly. There is little to worry about inherently in a poor 10-game start.

The Caveat

The interesting item with that list is what happens when we add a category to show if the team in question had made the playoffs the year before. Of the six teams to make it into the post-season after a lousy start, five had been playoff teams the year prior and the lone exception (the 2009-10 Nashville Predators) had missed by only three points in 2008-09. Of the five teams to miss the playoffs after a lousy start, four had missed the year before and the exception (the 2009-10 Anaheim Ducks) had been an eighth seed in 2008-09.

That’s where the worry comes from. It isn’t that Edmonton has had a poor start, which shouldn’t matter much given the sample of games involved. It’s that Edmonton had a poor start and is coming off years of failure – there is ample evidence for anyone that believes this is what the Oilers really are.

Dallas Eakins had a line in training camp about rookie defencemen trying to break on to the team. After explaining that the depth chart had eight guys who were NHL defencemen, he said it was extremely hard to take a job away from players with that kind of background.

The same applies on a larger scale to teams: for any team that was on the outside looking in, it is extremely difficult to push somebody else out of a playoff position. Looking at the last two 82-game NHL seasons, three of the four teams to make the playoffs in 2010-11 made them again in 2011-12. Not that dramatic change is impossible (one of the new playoff teams was Ottawa, which went from minus-58 in 2010-11 to plus-9 in 2011-12); it’s just very difficult.

Did Craig MacTavish do enough in the summer to get the Oilers over the hump? If not, can he make a difference now? We’ll see; the early start isn’t reason enough to write Edmonton off but they’re trying to climb from a long way back.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Anonymous(the real deal)
October 23 2013, 06:21PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Not sure if everyone's aware, but Oiler insider Anonymous broke the news of a major trade that will be announced before 10 this morning. 3 way multi player move with close to 8 players changing teams.

This will certainly affect the course of the coming season. We best sit tight and wait another 20 games to see how the 3 new Oilers fit into this team.

You wouldn't be bullshipping us, would you Anonymous? We await this Gretzky'esque type announcement.

At 10 last night I announced all deals were off for the foreseeable future due to the Oilers outstanding play last night! End of story ! No trade winds today either! You are most welcome! bye bye.

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#52 Wax man Riley
October 23 2013, 06:23PM
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Anonymous(the real deal) wrote:

At 10 last night I announced all deals were off for the foreseeable future due to the Oilers outstanding play last night! End of story ! No trade winds today either! You are most welcome! bye bye.

Rumour has it Anaheim pulled out too!?

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#53 spliff
October 23 2013, 06:38PM
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The oilers had a long road trip, some key injuries and suspect goal tending to start the year.

They really should be 5 wins and 5 losses, but no point dwelling on that.

It could be worse, so right now I cautiously optimistic.

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#54 Wax Man Riley
October 23 2013, 08:47PM
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Wax man Riley wrote:

Rumour has it Anaheim pulled out too!?

Quit using my handle, poser.

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#55 Oilcruzer
October 24 2013, 05:41AM
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** wrote:

I think the one really strong trade Mac T made was David Perron for Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi has only played two games in St. Louis and the only stat he has is 1 shot. WE've seen what Perron brings. Ference was an upgrade as well because now Nick Schultz is playing on the third pairing where he should be. Call me crazy but I think Boyd Gordon so far has been far superior to Horcoff in all aspects.

The 4th line has been maligned by media but they have solid numbers for the role they play. They don't have as much in terms of offensive production because the Oilers have been chasing the game most of the time and Eakins has shortened the bench very often in those situations.

Eakins is a rookie too, but people forget. What I like is that this season the Oilers are much better 5x5 than they were with Krueger. Special teams are easier to fix IMO than regular play.

Rome wasn't built in a day. Mac Tavish has made some significant moves that have paid off so far. There is work to do, but he is on the job.

I think he will continue to make the necessary moves until the team is a winner.

Also the Horcoff trade.

GM isn't just trades. Signed RNH. Immediately signed 2 enforcers after assault on Gagner. Got rid of half of last years starting roster and coach. Tried for Schneider who has taken #1 for Marty. Tried to find way to land Monohan. Signed best option when couldn't. Didn't trade value for limited return.

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#56 JohnDoe
October 24 2013, 09:47PM
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I am sick and tired of watching this team play like a bunch of f*cking bums. Oh look another loss. 4-0 caps. Oilers are a f**king joke and I am sick of it.

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#57 Heisnberg
October 25 2013, 07:39AM
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Oilers are doomed for another high draft pick. Problem is the young guns. They are not the right mix too much same players. Time to blow it up

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#58 Wax "man?" Riley
October 25 2013, 08:32AM
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Heisnberg wrote:

Oilers are doomed for another high draft pick. Problem is the young guns. They are not the right mix too much same players. Time to blow it up

Yup.

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