While the addition of some quality young players to the team has made Oilers games more watchable than last year, I’ve been curious to see how the team has a whole has improved from last season’s debacle. After all, the point of a rebuild is to slowly improve, and ideally we’d see this team making gradual steps forward.
One quarter through the season, how does this group compare with the 2009-10 Oilers?
The following chart shows some of the key places we might look for team-wide improvement:
To recap what that chart says: compared to the 2009-10 Oilers, this year’s team a) scores marginally less, b) gets scored on more frequently, c) gets fewer shots, d) sees more shots against, e) has a worse power play and f) has a worse penalty kill.
I sincerely hope that’s the most damning thing I ever say about this team, because despite my modest expectations I was disheartened when I looked up the actual data.
The special teams shift has been this club’s biggest problem. Not only are both special teams units significantly worse this season than they were last year, but the Oilers spend less time on the power play (down to 3.86 power-plays per game from 3.98 last season) and more time killing penalties (from 3.72 kills per game up to 3.95) than they did one year ago. After allowing 67 goals while short-handed, they’re currently on pace to allow 105, and after scoring 52 power play goals a year ago they’re on pace to tally just 43. That shift has hidden marginal improvements at even-strength, where the Oilers are on pace to be minus-50 after putting in a minus-52 performance one season ago.
It’s still early, and so there is still an opportunity for this team to turn things around. But to date the influx of talent and change in coaching staff hasn’t had the desired result, because if the Oilers keep up this pace it will turn out that last season wasn’t rock bottom after all.