Given the current predicament of the team, I thought it might be interesting to project their numbers as of today against their record from last season. This is an inherently imperfect project; after all, it’s usually winning or losing streaks that motivate me to run comparisons like this, but it’s still an interesting exercise.
08-09 Record: 38 – 35 – 9
- Even Strength Goals: 156 for / 155 against: +1
- Power Play Goals: 60 for / 8 against: +52
- Short Handed Goals: 3 for / 75 against: -72
- Totals (incl. EN and PS goals): 228 for / 244 against: -16
- Shots: 2304 for / 2665 against: -361
- Even Strength SH%: 9.2
- Even Strength SV%: 0.921
- Hits: 1393
- Faceoff Percentage: 47.9%
09-10 Projection: 36 – 41 – 5
- Even Strength Goals: 169 for / 169 against: Even
- Power Play Goals: 56 for / 10 against: +46
- Short Handed Goals: 0 for / 67 against: -67
- Totals (incl. EN and PS goals): 231 for / 251 against: -20
- Shots: 2066 for / 2804 against: -738
- Even Strength SH%: 10.9
- Even Strength SV%: 0.922
- Hits: 1481
- Faceoff Percentage: 47.2%
I don’t mean that title, since I don’t actually think the coaching is the problem. I’m just poking a little fun at the anti-MacTavish campaign last year, because while the coach made mistakes (handy list here, courtesy of yours truly) he was never the fool that so many denizens of the Nation took him for. The fact – and fact it is – is that the rosters assembled by Kevin Lowe and now Steve Tambellini since the 2006 Cup Run have never aspired to be better than mediocre. Regardless of the coach – enter Pat Quinn, who has missed the playoffs only twice in 17 seasons – the most important part of the equation is the players on the ice, and the Oilers’ front office has not done a good job in that department.
Looking at the projections up there, we see that Quinn’s team has scored more goals at even-strength, but unfortunately that’s off-set by allowing even more goals than last season’s squad. The story is worse than that though; the improvements in even-strength goals for are entirely attributable to the increase in shooting percentage, from 9.2 to 10.9%. If Quinn’s Oilers were firing at 9.2% (among the better conversion rates in the league last year) they’d be projected to score 143 goals – a 13 goal drop from MacTavish’s group. The fact that the team has allowed goals at a higher rate despite a nearly identical save percentage just shows that the defense has, if anything, become more porous, although some of that may be attributable to both a new system and extended slumps from players like Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov, as well as to the absence of Sheldon Souray.
Special teams, an area of concern last season and one of the chief complaints of the FMNF crowd, are running in place, with modest improvements on the PK being offset by modest declines on the power play. Again, there’s hope here: Sheldon Souray is bound to help, but coming off post-concussion syndrome he can’t be expected to do everything himself, and the lack of a big shot from the point hasn’t been the critical issue, since Lubomir Visnovsky also provides that.
That projection up there is downright gloomy; the results are poor despite increased luck in the percentages department (luck that is unlikely to continue over the whole season) but I don’t think the situation is hopeless yet. With the team ravaged by flu and with key veterans missing extended periods of time, on would expect an improvement when these players return to the lineup. So there should be improvements, but some are going to be necessary just to run in place.
No, if I had to guess, my guess would sound almost identical to my off-season predictions: this is a team with a similar roster, and it should post similar results. With some luck, they could make the playoffs; the absence of luck will mean another year outside of the picture.