ARE THE OILERS IMPROVING?

The Oilers goal this season was to play meaningful games in April. Mission accomplished as the Oilers are in the hunt, albeit a long shot now, to make the playoffs.

But is being in the playoff mix after 36 games misleading, when we discuss the improvement of the Oilers? Let’s take a deeper look.

Many, me included, feel that the Oilers have improved this season and that they are closer to being a playoff team than in previous years. However, when I looked at some stats, they suggested that I, along with many fans and possibly some within the Oilers organization, might be wrong.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I took a step back, tried to block out the stellar play of Taylor Hall, and started crunching some numbers. I didn’t look at fancy stats, just the old fashioned wins, losses, shots and goals. I believe some of the advanced stats have merit, while others don’t appeal to me, but the one stat that I never doubt; Wins.

We can all use corsi, fenwick, PDO, +/-, zone starts, quality of competition and other stats to back up our argument, but once you peel that away, all that matters in the NHL is whether you win or lose.

Players and coaches and organizations who win are always held in higher regard. It turns out that Oilers haven’t won more games this year than they did last year. Sure they have four more points, due to OT/SO losses, but are they actually a better team this year than they were last year?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Let’s look at some numbers and discuss if this team is actually improving.

2013 AFTER 39 games…

The Oilers are 16-16-7 (39pts)… with 99 GF (60 ES and 32 PP) and 105 GA (72 ES and 23 PPG).

Here is their record during the first 39 games in the previous two seasons…

  • 2011…13-19-7 (33 pts)…with 99 GF (77 ES and 20 PP) and 126 GA (87 ES and 36 PP).
  • 2012…16-20-3 (35 pts… with 106 GF (69 ES and 33 PP) and 108 GA (80 ES and 25 PP).

The Oilers won the exact same amount of games as last year. They picked up four more points by going to OT/S0. An improvement, but marginal. Their GA is down slightly this year, but so are their goals for. Their ES scoring has taken a big dip.

When I brought this up on air earlier today, people said it would be more accurate to look at games near the end of the season, since some players played in the AHL and overseas.

So here are the numbers from the final 39 games. (I know not an exact comparison, since 9 games left, but still near the end of season.)

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
  • 2011…11-23-5 (29 pts)… With 82 GF (55 ES and 24 PP) and 118 GA (81 ES and 34 PP)
  • 2012…16-17-6 (38 pts)… With 96 GF (74 ES and 18 PP) and 109 GA (84 ES and 22 PP)

The Oilers took big steps from 2011 to 2012, but they haven’t shown the same improvement this year. In the first 39 and final 39 games of 2011/2012, the Oilers won 16 games; the exact same amount as they have this year.

In the most important category, wins, the Oilers haven’t improved.

Here is where it gets cloudy. Many feel the Oilers are better now than they were last year.

They will argue Hall has emerged as a superstar and Devan Dubnyk has become a solid #1 goalie. He isn’t top-ten, but compare his numbers to the rest of the starters in the NHL and he’ll be in the top half.

Others will claim Justin Schultz has shown potential, Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi have taken big steps and Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins along with Hall are one of the best lines in hockey.

All valid arguments, but even after all that, the Oilers haven’t won more games. So what is the problem?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Let’s look at some other trends:

Take a look at the Oilers special teams the past three seasons…

  • First 39 games of 2010/2011: PP…14.6% and PK 75%.
  • Final 39 games of 2010/2011:PP… 15.8% and PK 79.2%
  • First 39 games of 2011/2012: PP…21.0% and PK 84.2%.
  • Final 39 games of 2011/2012: PP…19.7% and PK 82.2%.
  • 2013… PP is 22.7% and the PK is 84.0%.

Both special teams took a big jump last year, and they’ve maintained them this season. The addition of J.Schultz and Nail Yakupov has improved the PP slightly, which is good considering their PP was top-five last year.

Their PK is virtually the same, which is fine considering they are top-ten on PK. It will be more challenging to maintain their dominant special teams play than improve on them moving forward.

SHOTS FOR AND AGAINST A BIG PROBLEM

The one area that the Oilers haven’t improved in is their shots for/against ratio. In fact, they’ve gotten worse this year. It is hard to win consistently when you are getting outshot and outchanced.

Here are the numbers…

  • First 39 games of 2010/2011: SF…1000 and SA…1349… -349
  • Final 39 games of 2010/2011: SF…1068 and SA…1160… -92
  • First 39 games of 2011/2012: SF…1026 and SA…1201. -175
  • Final 39 games of 2011/2012: SF…1046 and SA… 1193… -147
  • 2013…SF..1055 and SA…1281. -226

The Oilers were horrific at the start of 2010, and they made a massive improvement in the second half. The disturbing trend for the Oilers is that last season they improved during the season, but this year they are even than they were at the start of last season.

The scary part is that the Hall/Eberle/RNH line has been outshooting the opposition most nights, so that means the other lines are getting crushed. You can believe the Oilers’ core will be better in the future because of the kids, but how long will it take for all of them to be consistent in the same season? Is it even fair to put that much pressure on all the young players?

OPTICS WILL ARGUE THESE NUMBERS

When I brought up this topic on air today, many disagreed with me suggesting that of course the Oilers have improved, because their young player are better, and they will continue to improve moving forward.

There is no debate that Hall and Gagner have had great seasons, but Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins’ numbers are down so they essentially balance each other out. Paajarvi has played better in many people’s eyes, but he only has 11 points in 34 games. He has improved on his numbers from last year, but he is producing fewer points than he did as a rookie.

Yakupov has played well for a rookie, and he has essentially replaced Ryan Smyth’s offence from last year. I’m not debating that they won’t improve, but will the organization surround them with enough quality players to help them win? The youth is maturing, but the results aren’t improving.

That has to change.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

For many a four-point improvement is good enough. The Oilers wanted to be playing meaningful games in April, and they are, so that is good enough. I watch the games and some games I feel they are improving, and others I see the exact same issues that I’ve seen for years.

Not strong enough. Not big enough. Not consistent enough. And it isn’t fair to blame the kids, because they are just learning how to compete in the NHL. It is up to management to make some moves that actually help this team, not players who end up in the pressbox or minors.

Maybe the better question should be: is the organization ready to improve this team in ways other than waiting for all the kids to develop? I think it is risky business to assume all the kids will develop into proven, consistent NHLers. I suspect they will, but will they all do it next season? I don’t think so.

Despite all the great individual plays we’ve seen from the Oilers this season, the results aren’t there. If Edmonton was outshooting and outchancing their opponents on a nightly basis, and not winning, that would be a different story, but the clubs hasn’t found a way to avoid being outshot by an average of 5 shots per game.

The only playoff teams that are winning despite being outshot are Toronto (-4.5) and Washington (-3.9). Anaheim is -0.3, but essentially they are even. The Oilers need to shoot more, but they also need to cut down on the shots against. Another year of experience will help the young players, but that won’t be enough for this team to improve next season.

If the Oilers don’t make some roster moves that impact their top-nine forwards and top-four defence, I don’t see how they can improve enough to become a playoff team in 2013-14. It is great that they are in the mix, but the last three games showed they have a long way before becoming a contender in the Western conference. The three biggest games of the year and the Oilers got outscored 10-2 and got outshot 105-75. That is a big gap.

The Oilers’ brass can’t ask, or expect,  much more from their young kids next season. It will be up to Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe to make some astute moves in free agency or via trade to ensure they surround their young players with some key contributors. Thus far, the attempts to add those types of players have failed, and because of that the Oilers haven’t improved.

The kids are better, the future looks brighter, but the harsh reality is that the Oilers have yet to see any marked improvement on the ice or in the standings. The young players have gained experience, but I believe the kids are pulling their weight, now it is up to management to pull theirs, and make this team competitive next season. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR


    • Time for fans to stop blaming Lowe and blame the real culprit and That’s Tambellini. I don’t think Lowe has much say any more.

      Getting players to Edmonton is easier said than done. Edmonton has a difficult time luring UFAs. Most UFAs that have NTC or NMC have Edmonton on the list of teams they don’t want to be traded to. That’s a fact whether you like it or not. Oilers tried to get Heatley but he blocked the trade after Ottawa leaked the players names.

      • You realize that was almost 4 years ago?? The Oilers were in a completely different state back then. It’s not as bad as it used to be.

        As far as Lowe.. really it’s a group thing up there.. Lowe, Tambellini and others all have a say in who gets signed, not just Tambi. No free passes should be given to any of those guys.

        The time to act was a while ago, like someone else said, however. But Katz is like on the same page as management, so I don’t see them going anywhere.

      • Starving Student

        Edmonton’s main problem with luring players is that the team loses. It’s like clockwork. Players don’t want to go to LOSING teams. Start winning and players will come. Just because Heatley didn’t want to come one year doesn’t mean most players don’t. Whitney had a NTC and waived to come to a team in LAST! From a team in contention! Gaborik waive to leave New York for Columbus. COLUMBUS! Jagr and Hossa were both relatively close to coming to town before they signed with their respective teams a few years back too.

      • Oilfred

        You have to be joking. Just look at the Oilers record in the twelve years since Lowe became GM. Look at the chronology of horrible decisions. There is no defending him.

        By the way, who do you think hired Tambellini? Who does Tambellini report to?

        Kevin Lowe makes a seven figure salary and is the chief of hockey operations, and you think he shouldn’t be held responsible for the teams performance?

        This team has gone through four head coaches in the last five years. Tambellini even scapegoated the training and equipment staff for Christ’s sake.

        In the period between the last two work stoppages the Edmonton Oilers have been THE WORST TEAM IN THE ENTIRE NHL.

        Lowe and ST have to go.

  • Toro

    Move our draft pick along with whatever draft picks needed too move up too take any of Mackinnon,Barkov, or Monahan , then move Gagner, Hemsky, 2014 1st rounder for Shea Weber , we will have the newest drafted Oiler as our 2nd like center with Yakupov taking Hemskys spot on 2nd line , and we have the Franchise Dman we need , NHL 13 thinking ? Maybe but I wish Tambo had the balls too pull something like this off but sadly he doesn’t ….

    • Any trade the Oilers make will be bashed by Oilers fans. Whoever the Oilers sign will be bashed by fans. Whoever the Oilers draft will be bashed by fans. Oilers are still getting criticized for drafting Hall over Seguin. It’s what Oilers fans do best.

      • Eddie Shore

        well as soon as the moves that the peanut gallery (tambellini and lowe) produce results (a playoff team followed by a cup contending team) i’ll shut up, but if you objectivly look at their trade record and most of their draft record (hall,rnh,yaks anyone could have made those picks) they deserve every bit of venom spit at them. how long did it take pitsburg or chicago to win a cup after their rebuild began? find the answer to this question and it quickly becomes apparent how incompetent this managment team is, 4 years into a rebuild and we’re still a year or two away from playoff contention, hall and eberle will be ufa’s before this team ever becomes a cup contender. this rebuild is a joke.

    • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

      Chances are slim to none on moving up in the draft…and that has nothing to do with our managment.

      As for trade Gagner, Hemsky and the 2014 first rounder…yes please….and personally (going against the peachings of Jason Gregor and David S.) I don’t care if we create a hole at #2 center…..This team has 3 or 4 or 5 holes….If you create a hole at #2 center (perhaps fill it with Stephen Weise in free agency) while filling one or two other holes in the process (#1 Dman) , AND get the bonus of changing the chemistry/makeup/identity of the team….THEN YES YES and YES!

  • Toro

    Keuger has said it many times… in a typical season they like to practice twice for every game. Due to the condensed schedule this year they have been playing twice for every practice. The impact of fewer practices on the kids development is massive! No wonder nuge and ebs have slowed down. Watch how some will have breakthrough seasons next year.

  • Oilfred

    I’m cunfused about all the disapointment. The season was lost when Horcov went down during the longest road trip in team history.

    It was too much for a young team to recover from in a very tough western conference.

    They gave it a good shot and there are many positives.

    The main negatives are UFAs.

    Its not over yet but I am pleased with this young group and would place good money on a 5th-7th place finish next year.

    Higher if their can be another miracle this off season.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      If you believe that the season was lost when Horcoff went down, your nutz. This is the same Horcoff with what 6 points. Who captained this team to last place finishes. A fourth liner in this stage of his career. Hes the player we need to get rid of. The Oilers won with him for one reason, it balances out the lines a little. However this team has 3 lines that get destroyed at even strength. Horcs gotta go for this team to make the playoffs.

    • ARE YOU ON SOME FORM OF MIND ALTERING HALLUCINOGEN?! YOU SHOULDN’T BE CONFUSED. IT HAS BEEN SPELLED OUT ON MULTIPLE BLOGS BY MULTIPLE BLOGGERS FOR WEEKS & WEEKS. THEY ARE A BAD TEAM OUTSIDE OF A SELECT FEW. GOOD TEAMS DON’T GET OUT-SHOT BY MORE THAN 5 SHOTS PER GAME. TEAMS THAT ARE IMPROVING AS A WHOLE DON’T SEE THEIR NUMBERS DROP FROM A SEASON WHERE THEY FINISHED 30TH. J*SUS-H-CHR*ST. GOOD MONEY ON 5TH TO 7TH?! HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW DIVISION YET? I’LL TAKE YOUR MONEY! ALSO, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU HAVE TO BREATH TODAY TO LIVE!

      • Citizen David

        My point was that it’s ok that we didn’t make the playoffs again. The oilers have the high end talent. Which is the hardest thing to acquire. Now just fill in the blanks. Plus we didn’t draft Patrick Stefan.

        Drafting high doesn’t guarantee success. It’s a case by case basis. But I’m just saying, What do you think Pitsburgh fans were saying after they finished so low for the fourth year? These things take time. Looking at our case, I’d say it will all start coming together. The sky is not falling.

    • Jason Gregor

      They did that over span of 5 years…FYI…

      They drafted 3 centres and a goalie. Enlighten me on how the Oilers are the same. Pittsburgh also drafted two of the top-three best players in the game.

      No offense to any of the Oilers but none of them are Sidney Crosby.

      It is wishful thinking, and a bit “bozo” of you to assume that because one team had success that the Oilers will also.

      Pens made playoffs in Crosby’s 2nd season, Malkin’s and Staal’s first year, then went to Cup the next year. Oilers aren’t on the path with Hall.

      And unless they make some changes they likely won’t make playoffs next year.

        • Jason Gregor

          I used them to show that the Oilers aren’t on the same path as the Penguins. Pretty simple.

          And if he used Pittsburgh, why didn’t he use Atlanta who had four straight seasons of 1,2,1,2. Likely because they haven’t done squat and he’s hoping the Oilers don’t go down that path.

          • Atlanta can’t be used because the error in their build was not keeping their lottery picks.

            When they lost Heatley and Hossa and put a dynamite stick to the original plan never rebounded and now they are in Winnipeg.

            The NY Islanders can’t be used because Mike Milbury destroyed that team for having no patience to see things through and there is a roster of exIslanders out there that would have made a deep run in the playoffs had they all remained Islanders.

            The Chicago Blackhawks can’t be used because the Oilers have not drafted a Seabrook and Keith which are just as important as lottery picks Toews and Kane are.

            What could be used is the LA KINGS but note – their build through the draft was the start THEN they went for it by using some of that prospect depth to go get the pieces they needed to contend. Carter and Richards and signing legit UFA’s that stregthen their roster (Willie Mitchell)

            When the oilers start making bold trades and legits UFA signings then we can start talking playoffs.

          • Citizen David

            Again, the oilers are not guaranteed success but only three years of bottom feeding and then bottom feeding a fourth doesn’t mean the sky is falling.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Excactly the PITT model wasn’t draft 1st, it was draft the two best generational Centres.

        Besides… they managed to fill out their team with actual NHL players. that helps too.

      • Citizen David

        Like I said the point isn’t that the oilers are guaranteed to have success just that it takes time. If The Penguins did it over five years that means the oilers have even more time before we should expect them to compete.

      • Citizen David

        I’m not comparing the players between the Oilers and the Penguins, I’m comparing the time it took to rebuild. For years and years oiler fans have longed for star players. What are the hardest players to get? Elite players. The rebuild if nothing else acquires those players.

  • The whole. Roster need.’s to be improved minus the fab five.

    They need a top 6 LW they have to draft another elite center, they need a top pairing defensmen, they need a whole new checking line or 3rd line.

    They are going to need depth defensmen. The Oilers need to get rid of the butter soft players on this team.

    I honestly think the Oilers over value there roster.

    Just think who would Burke keep on this team and who would he get rid of.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Management has the Oilers right where they want them to be. Nice and close/armslengths reach to yet another lottery selection. The players and coaches can only do so much on their own. Blind Eye management has intentionally left a few holes in this lineup to achieve their goal. We can hold out hope this is true, it has to be that, or we have the dumbest management group ever assembled.

    Every seat sold for every home game, means management isn’t required to give a flying fawk about what fans or the media are saying. Shut up and renew your seats or they’ll sell’em to someone else who won’t biotch and moan as much as we do. The Oilers are to be supported and never questioned, you ungrateful bastages……now drink this koolaid, and don’t you ever forget it.

  • J-Dogg

    This summer has so much potential for much needed improvement of our roster between the draft, trades and free agency.

    Its exciting to think what a really bold and savvy GM could have done by September.

    Then I remember we have Steve behind the wheel, and it seems squandered before it’s even begun.

    It’s time to get a GM who can do more than drive straight on cruise control and pick up default top 5 draft door prizes.

    In phase 2 some finesse will be needed.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Bang on, Gregor! The Oilers haven’t improved this year and that is a problem. Our superstar kids are the only valuable players we have, and that too is a problem. It’s amazing having Hall, Eberle, RNH, Yakupov, Gagner and Schultz. And I respect what Horcoff, Smid and Dubnyk bring but outside of that I don’t see much of a hockey team.

    This is all the fault of Tambellini (and to some unknown extent, Kevin Lowe). If they don’t improve this roster in the off season, giving McTavish the GM reigns is the only option.

  • The Worrier

    The Oilers aren’t improving despite having the 1st overall pick for 3 years in a row. Do you know who is? The Columbus Blue Jackets.

    How did they manage that???

    • ghostofberanek

      I believe having new management / a fresh outlook can make a big difference. Look at Toronto after Burkie was let go too. Sometimes a breath of fresh air can do wonders for an organization.

      • Too bad fans would run new management out of town like they forced Lowe to resign because they constantly bashed Lowe. Other things fans did to Lowe I can’t mention. Fans will run every management out of town because it’s not Slats.

  • The Worrier

    @Oil Change

    And the seat renewal date will be before the draft and before you get to see all the Dithering over the summer, leading up to yet another year of the same crap.

    As George Bush said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well…how does that go?”

    I’ve been fooled too many years already as a season ticket holder. I’m done. Whoever wants my tickets can have them.

    I’ve cheered for the Oil since the WHA days, but I can only take so much.

    • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

      Thank you very much for giving up your seasons. That moves me up the list. Another “die hard” Oilers “fan” with the patience of a 4 year old. In 2 years I’ll be laughing my ass off when new Rexall opens and the Oilers are puting up 40+ seasons. You’ll be saying why did I give up my seats. Again thank you for getting out of the way. By the time new Rexall opens I’ll be 50 .That will be an awesome gift to me. Tell your friends to give up their tickets too .Please.

  • The Worrier

    I think Hemsky and Gagners time as Oilers is coming to an end, these two are at a peak value and both or by themselves can be easily parlayed into a solid top 4 defenceman to the right team. Then try and imrpove the center position size through a free agent signing. With Yakupov gaining a full year experience its a matter of time before he starts to utilize that rocket shot of his. Getting a bigger centerman to create space only makes sense right? Gagner bless his heart tries hard enough but he gets pushed off too easily.

    I like the idea of targeting Weber in the offseason, he comes with a big ticket but sending off Gagner, Hemsky and Whitneys contract off the books offset this. You can even put Bulin in the same boat, having Weber there gives us a true blue number ome stud dman we sorely lack. I have all the confidence in J Schultz but having Weber brings us to the next level.

  • bwar

    I would like to think a beneficial trade could be worked out using Gagner and Hemsky as bargaining chips but honestly who wants to pay the price that the Oilers would be after for those players? We are talking about trading second line talent for a blue chip dman. I just don’t know who we could con into making that trade.

    It will be interesting to see how the Oil close out the season. Right now they are both on the cusp of the playoffs as well as another very high draft pick. At this point the climb might be too tough to edge into a playoff spot but a strong finish would give me higher hopes for next season.

    Some tough decisions await Oilers brass in the upcoming offseason and I think the worst course of action would be to do nothing. It’s not just about making one move and then magically being a cup contender, it’s more about determining which pieces give us the best chance of winning a cup and which pieces can be moved to shore up the teams deficiencies. At this point I just don’t see management being able to get the team over the next hurdle and making the Oilers a real contender.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Are the Oilers a better team this year over last year? Well…If you can answer YES to these three questions then YES, they are better.

    1. Are the Oilers playing MEANINGFUL games in April?
    2. Are the Oilers NOT a 29/30th place team in the standings? and
    3. Are the Oilers ahead of the godless fLames?