Progress?

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)

The Good

  • 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.

The Bad

  • There were no significant improvements at the team level from last year’s league-worst squad.

The Ugly

  • 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?

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    The FIST time I read those stats, I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I re-read them. Did we really suck that bad?

    Then you come out with a “Fire Tambo” blast, and dump all over Has-been-boozin.

    Preachin to the choir JW, Preachin to the choir

  • Maggie the Monkey

    Is that an image of Sisyphus? If so, it seems somewhat contradictory to one of the points of the article: Sisyphus was forced to carry that stone up a hill for eternity as punishment for trying to be more clever than the gods. This is not an accusation that has been made of the Oilers’ management in the past 5 years very often, and certainly not here by J.W.

  • paul wodehouse

    @andrewW

    nice point…i think the art accompanying this well crafted (as always) piece is truly symbolizing the plight of the fan here in Etown…this crew from our GM on down has been preaching and assuring that this rebuild is being handled the only way it should be handled, slow&steady…BUT if Oiler fans everywhere are willing to accept their “Punishment” then it will be this way for as long as the KatzGroup allows it…i am confident that this bunch…Quinn, Smith, Buchberger & the training staff at least will not survive the firings that should be coming…Renney and Kruger can run the bench…the rest are pretenders and old enough to be put down…Kevin Lowe will survive and In Stu We Trust should be installed as our next General Manager….really… fans everywhere…WTF is going on here…why am i convinced that we will place 30th AGAIN this year if things don’t change?

    our GM does in fact = Sisyphus & his punishment that he passes along to us…

  • Rob...

    Sugar Coating it: Add number of 1 goal losses for a slight bit of sunshine and sugar coating. I’m holding on to the thought that moderate improvement resulting in an extra goal every second game could lead to a fairly sizable jump in the standings (3-6 spots in the west).

    • paul wodehouse

      it’d be nice…
      but does that happen if RNH stays in RedDeer?

      i think not…it could happen if the team’s not shredded with injuries…and Rob you’re gonna get crapped on by the few who want muchmuch more than ‘moderate improvement’…beware of the sh!tstorm brewing with that thought!

      i want to see ten more wins this season…i want the total points to be at least in the mid eighties…is that over or under ‘moderate improvement’ or anywhere near 3-6 spots?

  • paul wodehouse

    2008-09 first year evaluating the team under a coach that lost the room.
    2009-10 an injury riddled season under PQ and TR but some fine work around draft day and i believe this was the year ST said ‘were not 3 players away were 20 players away’ (paraphrasing)
    2010-11 Another injury riddled season and yes NK, and KF and CF were bad signings but these are offset by the RJ waiver pick up, the POS move, Staios trade and good value in the DP trade.

    How much responsibility does coach verbal take for this teams performance the last two seasons?

    Why start the season playing fire wagon hockey only to quickly pull the reigns in? When there’s nothing to lose in year one of a rebuild wouldn’t it make more sense to let the kids offense develop and flourish before focusing on defense? Wasn’t that part of the plan with the NK signing? Wasn’t he on Oilchange speaking highly about a possible return of Laraque? What flaws in strategy process and evaluation does that reveal?

    Both Quinn and Renney were patronage hires and Quinns already gone. Coach verbal will be next.

  • paul wodehouse

    @Dave”…How much responsibility does coach verbal take for this teams performance the last two seasons?…”

    I’m sure he takes no responsibility for the first season, as he’d defer to his co-coach counterpart who shall remain nameless… (PatQuinn) …

    Coach verbal is an apt description of Renney but he’s the one who said he’d be surprised if this squad “DIDN’T make the playoffs” at one point…it was also a radio verbal Jason Gregor who at one point in the season prior to all the injuries pronounced ELPH officially dead…

    we all can be wrong about so much can’t we? js

    • Maggie the Monkey

      Saying he’d be surprised if the team didn’t make the playoffs just reiterates how disingenuous coach verbal is. I’ve always felt he is just rambling, saying what he thinks should be said to play the role in front of a mic.

      • paul wodehouse

        …Renney got good at media speak in NYC … he’s a talker & scribes love him for sure but y’know what? it’s not so much bullsh!t baffles brains with him …he’s a smart man and i’m thinking i’d much rather have a Renney for a rebuild than a Bucky or Quinn…Kruger’s also not tough to take from what I’ve heard him say in interviews …seasoned veteran coaches that can deal with “kids” like i think Renney can are hard to come by in the dog-eat-dog NHL…

        speaking of vet coaches … MacT better have a fair share of veterans in Minny if he goes there…he chews “kids” up…he never figured that out…as to why he couldn’t see a way into a ‘kids’ head without destroying him…maybe the MBA will give him new found insights …or not

  • Jonathan Willis….the Greatest Arm Chair GM that ever was’nt. You never fail to bore me with craptastic stat packages.

    I’m in favour of Jonathan Willis being fired. Seriously. Please….?

    Khabby was a mistake for sure… But this team having as tough a season as they did…was unavoidable (Injuries/kids learning the pro game). If they suck this bad 2 summers from now…then you look at changes.

    This thing is a proccess and it’s gonna take time.

    Please Oilers Nation…. consider letting this JW character walk. Always a boring read, that just comes off as whining.

    Wanye at times can annoy me, but at least he’s interesting… JW is just like the nerd in class who thinks he’s smarter than everyone, but realizes his social skills suck so he comes off as “JUST ANOTHER BITTER CRITIC”

    Seriously Bland….and seriousley lame work JW. I know what the saying is…”Love Me or Hate Me….just dont Ignore Me” I am done reading this clowns material, and will no longer comment on any of his garbage articles, in hopes of him just eventually…not being on this website.

    • WHy bother to comment if you don’t like it. Lots of us do.

      THE CARDINAL RULE IS IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT DON’T READ IT

      Why is this so hard for people to get? JW isn’t going anywhere and probably doesn’t care if random commenters don’t like him

      • VMR

        how can you know one way or the other if you don’t read it? And what about dialogue and conversation ? Dis-ing for the sake of it is, lets say undignified, but criticism is the stuff journalism thrives on.

    • Little Buttcheeks

      why? i too do not regularly agree with willis but at least a) be specific about the article and b) use facts instead of trash talk as a means to debate…

      and seriously, you like Tambos body of work? maybe, you should abstain from commenting…

      FSTNF

    • Peterborough

      Maybe a bit much but I echo these thoughts. Other than the goalie situation which has actually been good for the franchise long term. Too long has this team skated by with great goal tending masking our teams problems. At least now we have drafted the kind of tallent it takes to win. The Penner trade was the bigest win, for me: a 1rst a 2nd next year and a stud prospect = winning for a guy who walks in a year and has the kind of infectious laziness that can ruin the best of kids.

  • paul wodehouse

    I disagree with your assesment that Tambo needs to speed this process up. I see us as a competitive team this year with a few changes in the off season in the coming weeks. Strudwick, Fraser,Vandermeer, and a few othe UFA’s and RFA’s will be gone by the time camp opens. The top 9 looks solid. The fourth line could be interesting depending on training camp. I am not in any hurry to force feed kids into the NHL. Neither do I have any interest in seeing Tamobo pay for anymore overaged over priced free agents. The Arena debate has ended. It will be built sooner than later. The fans in this city do not want to see another 30th place finish. But neith er do we want to see 5 years of 16th place finishes because we didn’t show enough patience. I’ll take the cash Monty, I don’t want to gamble getting the donkey behind door number 1.In this case I’ll take the proven path over the unknown one. Draft and develop.

    • Just ask Atlanta, NYI and Columbus how that worked out.

      Draft and develop is fine but not with Tambo calling the shots.

      Of course he is terrible with FA signings as well so I’d say we are just pooched all the way around.

  • Whitney played well for the games he was healthy. That was always the worry about him. His proponents will trot out his PPG and the stats while he played. His detractors will point out that if you only play part of a season the PPG doesn’t mean that much.

  • @ Purves76:

    Good luck with that.

    Also, a quick word to the wise: if you’re going to be a writing critic, it is a) perhaps a mistake to whine about critics and b) possibly a good idea to ensure appropriate use of capitalization, apostrophes and correct spelling.

    I don’t want you to feel I’m being harsh with my advice, but I’d like your message to stand or fall on its own merits and when you write it in that way it just feels sloppy.

      • Crash

        I actually don’t mind him either…it looks to me like there is a plan to bring this team not just back to battling for the 8th and final playoff spot but for actually being a higher end team….bringing a group along together from their youth on into vet status….people don’t get it and don’t have the patience for it, even though many of them said they did. The quick fixes have proven to be unattainable in this market. So build it from the ground up, focus on development and hope it grows….once it does, then they will come…the UFA’s I mean.

        I also somewhat agree with Purves76…it seems to me that 80% plus of JW’s articles are a carefully selected reason for taking shots at ST. It’s like he has been done wrong personally by Tambellini at some point.

        I too tire of these and when I sense it’s just another one of the “ENDLESS” smear campaign articles I don’t finish reading it. I mean enough already, I think we get it. He doesn’t like Tambellini.

  • Spydyr

    @Purves76

    Was watching TV and did not like the show. Instead of just switching the channel I’m going to whine about it on here. If you don’t like it, don’t read it……..now move along nothing to see here.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    An improvement to the middle of the pack in terms of special teams would turn the tide in a lot of our 1 goal losses. This should be a priority in the off-season. I agree that the wunder-kids need some vets to help out in key areas. At least one top 9 center who is good on the draws and can kill penalties would be nice. At least one top-four jack-of-all-trades kind of dman would be nice too. It`s just a matter of finding a way to get these kinds of players to Edmonton.

  • paul wodehouse

    JW, so what you’re saying is…….we are bad. Really, really bad. Got it. In regards to Tambo being fired, unfortunately it isn’t going to happen this season or next season. K-Lowe thinks it is going to be another 4 years for the rebuild so he will probably give Tambo another 2 years and if we are still this bad then he will make a switch (we don’t want to get better too quickly, right?)

    It seems like they are going to pick RNH and keep him in Junior so there is no help coming this year. I guess we’ll see what he does with Hemsky, he will probably trade him for a late 1st round pick next year because that’s all Tambo cares about is getting 1st round picks.

    Be prepared for another bottom 5 finish next year everyone.

  • paul wodehouse

    “I am done reading this

    in hopes of him just eventually…not being on this website

    will no longer comment on any of this

    and seriousley lame work”

    …all your words Purves76…consider that it’s a good thing no one expects much more from you…

    …Only you will suck this bad 2 summers from now …

    Goodbye

  • paul wodehouse

    “…and especially KLowe were in full denial. Culpable, all of us.Instead, KLowe tried to patch up holes in the rickety boat, and this is why we’re a solid 2-3 years behind the “re-build” schedule…”

    …nice piece JohnChambers of Coppernblue… an omission on your part i think…Kevin was grimly acting at the behest of the Investors Group back then yes? Katz was working on his second billion & didn’t “get” the team from the NHL til this time 3 years ago ‘o8…The collective butt of The Group was mightily puckered…they didn’t want to blow their team up to start a rebuild they wanted OUT!
    … i’m guessing now but iMo? Kevin was more than likely told to “patch up holes” until the KatzGroup could come in to save the franchise…not sure if it was that simply masterminded John but the time line is adding up to saying why the rebuild is 2-3 years behind…i’ve stopped guessing now and imo the dithering of that group in the end and how long it took “all of them” to leave cleanly with as much money as they could get factors in as horribly wasted time…i’d like it to translate better than it is here …imagine if the Oilers had been secured by Katz post Pronger exit? we’d be winning Stanley Cups by now!

    ~You’re trying to make this all Daryl Katz fault aren’t you John ?~

    • John Chambers

      Ha. I’m not sure there’s as much conspiracy behind it, but I enjoyed your waxing philosophical.

      I think it’s as simple as this: after the ’06 run they thought they were close. They didn’t realize that a hot goalie in Roloson was better than a lousy one in Legace, that players like Peca, Spacek and Samsonov stepped up to vault us past the Sharks, and that we were just flat out a better team than the Ducks. The year after the lockout was plain wacky league-wide.

      When you get right down to it you need a clearly defined Vision of your team, a Strategy to pursue building and retaining key personnel, and on-ice Execution. Lowe and team had a faulty Vision, a Strategy that failed, and subsequently poor Execution. Tambellini, at least over the past year and a half, has proven to have a Vision and has begun, and I only mean begun, to impart that Strategy. How they Execute remains to be seen.

  • paul wodehouse

    The only one problem with your analyses, JW, is that last years numbers were achieved with a heavily veteran crew (remember Pisani, Moreau?), whereas this years similar numbers were achieved with raw rookies throughout.
    I would say thats a big improvement going forward, as rookies get better, and veterans decline.

  • John Chambers

    Wow, just one season into the full rebuild and the fans are getting restless.

    It takes time to build a winner folks, and as I posted a couple of days ago in a response to JW’s thread on the blueline (which I agree with him is the weakest link on the team now), the key right now is for Tambi to be patient for another year and not make the same mistake Lowe did after the Gags/Cogs/Nils rookie season when he went for broke and lost big time.

    The Oilers will improve this year provided Hall, Hemsky, Horcoff, and Whitney can stay healthier for longer than they were last season. Will it be a huge jump? No, but the key right now is for the organization to keep the 2009 and 2010 “depth” picks in OKC where they can develop while giving MPS, Hall, Eberle, Omark, Petry, Peckham and Doobie another year of growth in the Show.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but as I said in that thread the type of vets that they want are the same that every team is looking for – can contribute, good in the dressing room, fill a need, and know how to win. The reality for the Oilers is that they will not be able to compete with teams that offer a better chance for the “vet” to win (or at least taste playoff hockey) unless they overpay in terms of dollars and length of contract. How many of us would like to see another Khabi contract or two? Or, even worse, they could chase a Hossa-like contract that screws the cap up when the youngsters are due for renewal.

    Right now the best thing Tambi can do is be patient, stockpile young talent = assets, and develop them for another year or two. In two years we will know if the team is ready to go deep in the playoffs and as long as there is enough talent in the system Tambi/new GM can use the assets to land the stud d-man or rent-a-scorer that the team is lacking. This is how a rebuild should be done. All you need to do is look at the Islanders or Panthers to see what happens when a team dumps young talent on a regular basis (remember the Mad Mike years?) instead of waiting to develop it.

    • John Chambers

      Bravo! Someone understands a rebuild.

      I like ST vision as well. We can only hope the execution is as good as the plan. Patience and time will tell.

      So many want to take the good strides made and flip them into the hands of another GM. That will drag the rebuild out another 3 year. Not very smart IMO.

  • Seriously....Gord?

    I also don’t mind tambi…I’ve accepted that we need to suck to get better. I also believe last year they really wanted to do poorly, but not 30th. After whits went down, and others fell off the roster due to injury, the writing was on the wall. Go for 1st again. I want to see progress going forward.

    BTW I count the Ganger draft as the first of the rebuild. Simply because that’s when we started to suck.

  • VMR

    I havent liked a lot of what Tambellini has done or failed to do actually but it does sound like they’re trying to go about this the right way. They’ve been trying to acquire good top end young players through the draft (and extra picks via trade). They’ve tried to pick up some depth pieces via free agency or trade or waivers (Foster, Fraser, Jones). They’ve built a decent farm system where we can develop players.

    Strategically they seem to be on the right page now, no longer chasing the big names and hoping that one good piece will turn us around. I’m not sure Tambellini can do what it takes to get us there though. Many little things need to happen yet and a few big ones, the little ones he has a hand on. Relying on those to make a big difference could take a long time.

    If there’s no improvement next season I think Renney is done, coaches tend to go before a GM does, if the results still arent there Tambellini is done. Lowe, the guy who really got us into this trouble, is safe until the new arena is almost ready. I think he’s sold Katz on being a brand new competitive team for the opening of the new rink, if it doesnt look like that’s going to happen he’s going to need some answers.