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, 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 Hair bag
October 23 2013, 02:01PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Hey, I think most of the fan base are good with waiting a while longer. As long as they compete every night. They have to stop playing like they did the first period in Montreal last night. Bring it every game , every period , every shift. This fan base will forgive youthful errors but not lack of intensity and try.The time to start building a winning attitude and habits is now.

Agree, I was swearing at the tv when Eberle, Nuge were trying to make fancy passes out of the d-zone and getting picked off. Not long after Jones made his stupid cross ice pass and it ended up in our net. But these are mental mistakes - they need to have better game awareness about what plays can be attempted at what times in the game - sometimes you just need to relieve pressure and get it out or dump it in and go get it again. Unfortunately the boys try to make skill plays all the time and that just doesn't work, sometimes you just have to outwork you opponent rather than outskill them.

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#52 **
October 23 2013, 04:21PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

That's me, hardcore Oilers propagandist.

VIVE LE TAMBELLINI!

pow, right in the kisser!

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#53 **
October 23 2013, 04:33PM
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Well the Oilers matched their worst start since their cup run in 2006, when they had the exact same numbers 3-6-1. That year they had 34 players and 4 goalies dress up at some point.

They traded in march for Roloson, they started the season with a legit top Dman in Pronger, and their offense was led by the three amigos. This year they seem to have more depth in the top 9, but their defense is not as good and the goaltending is still debatable.

The next 10 games they went 7-3-0. Let's see how they do.

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#54 **
October 23 2013, 04:42PM
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Zarny wrote:

"Did Craig MacTavish do enough in the summer to get the Oilers over the hump?"

I assume that question is rhetorical?

The Oilers finished 12th last year a full 10 pts behind 8th.

Off-season moves were marginal at best and did nothing to address the Oilers biggest needs.

Anyone expecting the Oilers to be much better than last year is really putting a lot of stock in Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov and Schultz being a lot better.

And that is naive to say the least. They should improve but the Oilers aren't going to have four Sidney Crosby's and an Erik Karlsson skating around out there.

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.

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#55 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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#56 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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#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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