The Rear-view Mirror

Back on December 5, the Oilers were turning some heads thanks to a nine game run in which they recorded six victories and 13 points. That run had given them a little bit of traction in the standings; they had climbed out of sole possession of 15th (tying Calgary) and sat just five points out of the playoffs.

More than 50% of Oilers Nation voted that the Oilers would go 0.500 or better over their next 20 games. Halfway through that stretch, how have they been?

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The Oilers have won just two of their last 10, going 2-5-3 over that stretch. Even if they managed to duplicate the 6-2-1 streak that generated all that optimism, they would miss the 0.500 mark for those 20 games. But why have they fallen off to this degree?

Back on December 5, I did a statistical analysis of the Oilers’ strong run, and found that they had been the beneficiaries of both strong shooting and save percentages, but that they were getting outshot by almost the exact same amount they were earlier in the year. What’s happened since then?

Oct. 7 – Nov. 17 17 4 10 3 23.53% 2.47 4.06
Nov. 18 – Dec. 5 9 6 2 1 66.67% 3.11 2.33
Dec. 6 – Dec. 31 10 2 5 3 20.00% 2.30 2.80

Despite the brutal winning percentage over the last 10 games, the Oilers actually look significantly better by goal differential than they did over the season’s opening stretch. Their goals-per-game have dropped from 2.47 down to 2.30, but goals against have improved dramatically, going from 4.06 to 2.80. Let’s see if the shot data reflects that improvement:

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Oct. 7 – Nov. 17 25.47 35.00 9.7 88.4
Nov. 18 – Dec. 5 25.56 33.89 12.17 93.11
Dec. 6 – Dec. 31 27.40 31.90 8.39 91.22

Despite the Oilers’ poor record, the shot data is most encouraging. The Oilers have improved in both shots for and shots against, and are now significantly better in both areas than they were at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, they’re still getting outshot by an average of 4.5 shots per game. Last season, only two teams (30th-ranked Edmonton and 28th-ranked Florida) were outshot by more than that over the course of a full year.

Despite those improvements in shots for and against, the Oilers record is poor because the unsustainable jumps in shooting and save percentage they experienced during their nine game run have gone away. Their shooting percentage over the last 10 games has been a hair under league average, while their save percentage has been slightly above it – all in all, a rather even trade-off.

On December 5th, I wrote that I wasn’t convinced the Oilers had turned a corner, and that I wouldn’t bet on this being a 0.500 team any time soon. I’m still convinced of both points, although thankfully there is no doubt that this team is on an upward trajectory.

  • Old Dutch Snack Attack

    The little winning streak was nice, and hopefully a sign of what’s to come next year but seriously these guys never had a chance to make the playoffs this year.

    • Jodes

      Obviously the Oilers didn’t get the message about ELPH tonight.

      Brutal all around.

      Just wait folks, things are going to get uglier here in Oilers country in the next few weeks.

      The next debate we’ll be having before the end of this month.. Who’s Tambellini going to trade at the deadline, Penner or Hemsky?

  • An esteemed ON writer deemed me to be negative and sans coitus for saying,

    “Oilers go 7-10-3 at best over the next 20.”

    Some people prefer tempered enthusiasm & analysis vs blind faith when setting goals.

    Shouldn’t the same be expected from MSM?

  • ItsTheBGB

    Oilers Suck !!! Simple as that !!! They don’t have enough skill and ability on the blueline. That’s their achilles heel !! Doesn’t matter what the forwards can…or cannot do !!! If you cannot score then you lose if you cannot defend !! That’s the ongoing problem here. Unfortunately management won’t do anything about that…for now….!! Until then get used to losing, …losing…and more losing !!! There’s a definition to losing when it is rebuilding time. But this team takes it to another level with all their other deficiencies !!!

  • forestscooter

    Pathetic! On the way for another loss to Calgary. The score appears respectable, but outshot and out-chanced again. Good enough to be close but not good enough to win. Last season’s record vs Calgary was 0-6. Where is the club now vs Calgary, 1-4?

    What was Renney’s talk about placing hockey players in a position to play to the bet of their abilities and win? Between Tambellini and Renney, it is more like placing the players in a position to lose, lose, lose. Has to be pretty demotivating for the players and fans. If this is all about rebuilding, then the Oilers’ management is using the New York Islanders’ model of rebuilding, a total failure.

    And the club is back to injuries, an reoccurring problem over the years. Horcoff, Witney and now Eberle out, three of the better players out.

  • forestscooter

    Great article, really puts the season and the progress of it in perspective.

    Any thoughts on these injuries? Is it really the ‘hockey gods’ ? Or can this ‘system’ of chasing the puck all over the ice randomly with 110% effort be a factor ?

  • Every team fights through injuries. A fun exercise is to pick any team at random and look at their injury troubles; the Oilers aren’t really *that* exceptional in this regard. Especially given that they keep acquiring guys with spotty injury histories.

  • DoubleJ

    The last 10 games they have lost most by just one goal. They’re playing good, but they are playing with out their best vetern players.

    Only losing by one goal in most of these last ten games is pretty good considering they are using only one nhl center and two and a half nhl d-man.

    Tambi is making it quite obvious that he wants this team to fall into a lottery draft position.

    This team needs nhl players, there have been lots of players going through waivers that would help this team.

    Didn’t Reinprecht get put on waivers? Would he not be a good fit here? He wins faceoffs, he would be a better fit in between Penner and Hemsky.

    What do I know lets play seven or eight rookies.

  • Last year was exceptional for injuries. The number of man games they lost was pretty steep. This year has been a little closer to the norm. Yeah we’ve lost some key guys for stretches but compared to last year it isn’t that bad (or good depending on how you want the lottery to pan out.)