GDB 81.0: ARE THE REFS AGAINST BOTTOM FEEDERS?

For the 3rd straight season the Oilers were out of the playoff race before March, realistically it was late January, and many have wondered if their "bottom feeder" status is why suddenly the refs aren’t giving them any calls. In their 17 games since March 1st,  the Oilers have faced 58 penalty kills but only 38 powerplays. In their first 63 games they had 221 PPs and 230 PKs.

In the last month they’ve had calls go against them, but why?

Many, including the Oilers organization, feel it’s because they aren’t a playoff team and the refs favour playoff bound teams. I’m not sure that is completely accurate considering the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are much worse than the Oilers, have nine more PP chances to PK since March 1st, and were +15 in games v. playoff teams.

GET READY FOR SOME NUMBERS

I broke down penalties for and against for the teams who were essentially out of the playoff hunt in March.

                 V. Playoff teams or teams in hunt          v. Non playoff teams        TOTAL

EDM.         9GP:   PP…15           -15                            8 GP: PP… 23                   17GP: PP… 38
                              PK…30                                                       PK… 28                              PK… 58

MINN.       11GP:  PP…29            -8                           6 GP: PP… 19                    17GP: PP… 48
                              PK…37                                                     PK… 20                               PK… 57

MONT.      10GP: PP…33              -8                           6 GP: PP… 22                   16GP: PP… 55
                              PK…41                                                       PK…20                              PK..  61

ANA.         12GP:  PP…35            -5                            4 GP: PP… 12                   16GP: PP… 47
                              PK…40                                                      PK… 8                                 PK… 48

COL.         9GP:   PP… 26            -4                            7 GP: PP… 11                   16GP: PP… 37                                                              
                             PK…30                                                       PK…17                                PK…47

CGY.        8GP:   PP…26              -4                             8 GP: PP… 28                   16GP: PP… 54
                            PK…30                                                         PK… 23                              PK… 53

CAR.        10GP: PP…34             -2                             7 GP: PP… 20                  17GP: PP… 54
                            PK…36                                                        PK… 23                              PK… 59

TOR.        12GP: PP…30             -1                             4 GP: PP… 12                  16GP: PP… 42
                             PK…31                                                       PK… 12                              PK… 43

T.B           10GP:  PP…32             -1                             7 GP: PP… 29                  17GP: PP… 61
                             PK…33                                                       PK… 20                              PK… 53

NYI.          14GP: PP…42             +5                           3 GP: PP… 10                   17GP: PP… 52
                            PK…37                                                       PK… 8                                 PK… 45

CBJ.         12GP: PP…55           +11                           5 GP: PP… 17                   17GP: PP… 72
                             PK…44                                                       PK… 19                              PK… 63

Columbus was an anomaly because they were +11 v. playoff teams, yet -2 v. non-playoff teams.
The Islanders were +5 v. playoff teams and +2 v. non-playoff teams.
Colorado was -4 v. playoff teams and -6 v. non-playoff teams.
Carolina was -2 v. playoff teams and -3 v. non-playoff teams.
Toronto was -1 v. playoff teams and even v. non-playoff teams.

Some teams showed a slight potential bias.

Calgary was -4 v. playoff teams and +5 v. non-playoff ones.
Anaheim was -5 v. playoff teams and +4 v. non-playoff ones.
Montreal was -8 v. playoff teams and +2 v. non-playoff ones.
Tampa Bay was -1 v. playoff teams but +9 v. non-playoff teams.

Only Edmonton, -15 v. playoff teams and -5 v. non-playoff teams and Minnesota, -8 v. playoff teams and -2 v. non-playoff ones were in the red v. both.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN

It is clear the Oilers have been on the wrong end of a lot of calls the past month, but based on the data it isn’t just because they are out of the playoffs. Other non-playoff teams didn’t receive the same treatment.

I took a quick look at the past two years for the Oilers to see if this is trend.

In 2010 the Oilers had 301 PPs (21st) and were shorthanded 305 times (13th fewest). From March 1st to the end of the season they played 21 games and had 77 PPs and 82 PKs. Not a big difference from their previous 61 games.

Last year the Oilers got 304 PP chances (7th most), and were on the PK 321 times (3rd most). From March 1st to the end of the year they had 73 PPs and 83 PKs. In their first 63 games they averaged 3.6 PP/game and 3.7 PK/game, and in the final 19 it jumped to 3.8PP/game and 4.3PK/game. A slight jump but nothing as obvious as this season.

I don’t buy that refs consciously try to give teams in the hunt the benefit of the doubt. On Tuesday night the Coyotes were in a battle for their playoff lives and they had only one PP, but faced seven PK chances against the 30th place Blue Jackets.

It is clear the Oilers haven’t had the calls go their way recently, especially on Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of proof suggesting refs clearly favour teams in the playoff hunt. Some think the Oilers age plays into it, especially their star players, so they don’t get calls. That might be true, but you’d have to look deeper than just PK v. PP to find out if older stars get more calls than younger players.

TONIGHTS’ TILT

Yesterday the Oilers cancelled their morning skate, so we can only guess at the lineup for tonight.

I asked Renney about Teemu Hartikainen yesterday and if he’s going to put him back with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins tonight. He said it might not be a bad idea, and I’m guessing we’ll see him back on the top line against the Ducks.

Jeff Petry skated yesterday and said he felt great. He was going to do a few more tests after practice and if he gets the green light he’ll play tonight. If they activate him, Bryan Rodney or Colten Teubert would need to be re-assigned back to OKC, cause they are were emergency recalls, but as of 11 a.m. there was no announcement from the Oilers. I think Petry will play so expect someone to get re-assigned this afternoon.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: This game won’t be as ugly as the weather outside and both teams will surprisingly show lots of emotion. We’ll see a few tilts, and seven goals in a 4-3 Oiler win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 4-6-1 in their final home game in the 2000s. Last year they lost 3-1to Minny in their 41st home game of the year as Hartikainen scored the only goal. He’ll continue his streak of ending the home campaign on a positive when he scores his career-high 3rd goal of the season.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers haven’t been happy with the officials lately, but tonight they will blow their stack when Eberle gets called for a questionable interference call in the 2nd period. Since November 17th he’s only had one penalty in 59 freaking games, and the interference call will only be his 2nd penalty in 38 home games – he missed three due to injury. Eberle will shake his head in disbelief, while Oilersnation creator, Wanye Gretz, will end up in the hospital with chest pains, when he’s overcome with grief wondering if that call will cost Eberle the Lady Byng trophy.