I always go on holidays for the final two weeks of August,
because the weather is usually great, which it was, and it allows me to relax
and recharge before the sporting world explodes in September and October. It is
a great time to be a sports fan.
The NFL gets going –The Dolphins will win the AFC East — MLB
is in the stretch run and the Jays are ripping it up, the CFL season heats up
after Labour Day and NHL camps, for the rookies, start in less than two weeks.
There is no shortage of story lines heading into the NHL
season, and no team has had more major changes over the past five months than
the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers have a new president, a new general manager, a
new head coach, new assistant coaches and the most talked about prospect in a
decade, Connor McDavid.
Everyone expects the Oilers to improve, me included, but by
I’ve been asked more in the past two weeks if the Oilers
will make the playoffs, than I have in the past two years. There is a new
excitement amongst the fans, but are the playoffs realistic?
My first instinct is to say no.
I expect them to be more
competitive, but they would need to beat out the Kings or Flames to make the
playoffs. I expect five teams from the Central to make the postseason, meaning
only three from the Pacific will challenge for the Cup.
The Flames finished 35 points ahead of the Oilers and had 22
more wins. The Kings were 33 points better with 19 more wins. Many expect the
Kings to bounce back, and even if you believe the Flames will regress due to
their possession numbers last year, 22 and 19 more victories is a massive gap.
If the Oilers are to challenge
the Kings and Flames (I don’t see the Canucks being a playoff team), they will
need to stay healthy, get some lucky bounces and collectively play much more
competitively on a nightly basis.
IT HAS HAPPENED
Ten other NHL teams have improved by 35+ points from one season
to the next.
The San Jose Sharks went from 24 points in 1993 to 82 in
1994. They had a 58-point increase,
the largest in NHL history, and they made the playoffs. They allowed 149 fewer
goals and scored 34 more than they did in 1993.
The Quebec Nordiques improved 52 points from 1992 to 1993. They scored 96 more goals in 1993 and
allowed 18 fewer than in 1992. They had
missed the playoffs in five consecutive seasons before their 52-point jump up
The Winnipeg Jets improved 48 points from 1981 to 1982, going from 32 in 1981 to 80 in 1982. They added Dale Hawerchuk amongst others and went from -154 GF/GA ratio to -13 in 1982.
The Pittsburgh Penguins improved 47 points in Sidney Crosby’s second season. They had 58 points in
his rookie season, before tallying 105 in 2007. They allowed 70 fewer goals and
scored 33 more in 2007 compared to 2006.
The 2002 New York Islanders finished with 44 more points than they had in 2001 (52
to 96). They were -83 in GF-GA ration in 2001, and improved to +19 in 2002.
They made the playoffs in 2002 after missing the seven previous years.
The Philadelphia Flyers had 56 points in 2007, but rebounded
with 95 points in 2008 for a 39-point
improvement. They allowed 70 fewer goals and scored 34 more. The Flyers had
made the playoffs for 11 straight seasons before self-destructing in 2007, so
their improvement wasn’t that unexpected.
The Dallas Stars improved 38 points from 1996 to 1997. They allowed 82 fewer goals and scored
25 more. They lost to the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs in 1997,
but won the Cup two years later.
The Detroit Red Wings also improved by 38 points between 1986 and 1987. They went from 40 points to 78 by
allowing 141 fewer goals and scoring six fewer goals. Their offence didn’t
improve, but their team defence did.
The 1982 Edmonton Oilers finished with 37 more points than they did in 1981. They are the only team in NHL
history to improve by 32+ points and make the playoffs both years. They scored
89 more goals and allowed 32 fewer goals in 1982 compared to 1981.
The Ottawa Senators improved 36 points between 1996 and 1997. They had 41 points in 1996 and
tallied 77 in 1997. Their GF-GA ratio went from -100 in 1996 to -8 in 1997, and it
started a streak of 11 consecutive playoff appearances.
It isn’t a surprise every team had a big improvement
in their GF/GA ratio, but only the Oilers and Nordiques did it by scoring more
goals. Most teams improved by lowering the GA. The Oilers have been the worst
defensive team in the NHL over the past decade, and if they plan on making the post season for the first time in
ten seasons, the entire team needs to be better defensively.
Excluding the 1982 Oilers, all of the other teams had significant
change to their rosters and coaching.
The Sharks, Islanders, Red Wings and Jets hired a new coach during
the off-season, while the Nordiques, Penguins, Flyers, Stars and Senators fired
their coach at some point in the first season, but started the rebound season
with the coach who had taken over midway through the previous year.
The Oilers have a new coach with a new philosophy and a potential franchise player in McDavid. I’d be shocked if the Oilers don’t improve, but I don’t see them becoming the 11th team in NHL history to improve by 35 points.
The good news for optimistic Oilers fans is ten other teams
have improved by 35 points from one season to the next. So it is possible.
What are your expectations?
The tour stops in Edmonton on Thursday, September 17th at the Pint off Whyte. Join me, Jason Strudwick, Mark Spector, Bob Stauffer, Joanne Ireland, Derek Van Diest and Chris Johnston for a fun night of hockey talk and stories.
You can get tickets here. Use the promo code Oilersnation and you will get a 25% discount. See you on the 17th.
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