The name of the game in 2010-11 was forward movement. The Edmonton Oilers hit rock-bottom in 2009-10, which resulted in the dismissal of their second coach in two years, a slate full of buyouts and restricted free agents who were not offered contracts, and an infusion of youth.
Did we see improvement at the team level?
This Year Vs. Last Year In Handy Chart Form
|Category||2009-10: Quinn’s Heartless Journeymen||2010-11: Exciting Last Place Hockey!|
|Wins||27 (30th)||25 (30th)|
|Points||62 (30th)||62 (30th)|
|Goals/Game||2.51 (27th)||2.33 (28th)|
|Goals Against/Game||3.39 (30th)||3.17 (28th)|
|Goal Differential/Game||-0.88 (30th)||-0.84 (30th)|
|5v5 GF:GA||0.75 (30th)||0.74 (29th)|
|Powerplay||17.3% (18th)||14.5% (27th)|
|Penalty Kill||78.0% (26th)||77.0% (29th)|
|Shots/Game||28.3 (28th)||26.7 (29th)|
|Shots Against/Game||33.1 (28th)||31.7 (21st)|
|Faceoffs||46.4% (30th)||44.2% (30th)|
- On the team level, shots against per game dropped by 1.4, rising from putrid to merely quite bad.
- Goals against per game improved from dead last in the NHL all the way up to putrid.
- There were no significant improvements at the team level from last year’s league-worst squad.
- Wins, total points, goals for, five on five goal ratio, penalty killing, shots for per game, and face-offs all either stayed in place or managed to underperform last year’s abysmal showing.
- The power play, the sole item that showed some semblance of rising to the level of middling on the 2009-10 squad, fell off a cliff despite the infusion of young scoring talent.
At a team level, there is simply no way to sugar coat things: Pat Quinn’s 2009-10 Edmonton Oilers, which featured a fair helping of the grotesque, including a lengthy cameo for Jean-Francois Jacques on the top line, Jeff Deslauriers as a starting goaltender, the talents of Patrick O’Sullivan, Robert Nilsson and Ethan Moreau in key roles, and no Ales Hemsky for three-quarters of the season, managed to tread water with the 2010-11 Oilers. To be sure, the 2010-11 Oilers dealt with injury woes and an incompetent starting goaltender, but with the addition of players like Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi, the coaching change, and the dismissal of so many players regarded as part of the problem by many fans, some progress was expected.
There is, of course, good news at the individual level. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle were everything they could be expected to be. Devan Dubnyk had a fine season. Ryan Whitney looked excellent. Other rookies showed flashes.
Additionally, it is worth remembering that progress from young players tends not to be linear – it comes in fits and starts, interrupted by stagnation or even brief declines. Just because the team failed to improve its play doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t closer to competing than it was a year ago.
However, I don’t think that means Tambellini & Co. should be totally let off the hook. Management has been preaching a “culture change” as priority number one (readers will recall that Pat Quinn’s willingness to “challenge” people was cited time and again as the rationale for his hiring by the general manager), and one year later I think it’s probably fair to say that the fundamental issue has a lot less to do with character than it does a simple lack of competent players in key positions on the roster.
The 2010-11 season should do something else: speed up the clock that Steve Tambellini’s on. It’s one thing to talk about rebuilding the ‘right way’ and not slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound, but it’s another thing entirely to stagnate. I’ve been in favour of firing Tambellini for a long time (the Khabibulin signing was utterly indefensible from the moment he announced it, because of the underlying flaws in strategy, process and evaluation that it revealed), but patience has been the order of the day for the people whose opinions really matter. Even so, I very much doubt that patience is limitless, and if 2011-12 looks like 2009-10 and 2010-11, I’d be very surprised not to see a change at the top.
Still, there’s every reason to believe that things will improve next year. After all, with a
2009-10 2010-11 season this bad, there’s nowhere to go but up, right?