The article Mike Brophy wrote for the Hockey News recently got me thinking about the Oilers and whether they’re actually as bad as their record suggests. He essentially said that it’s absurd how bad the Oilers are after drafting first overall four times in the past six years, and that the league should do something to ensure that teams aren’t constantly rewarded for their ineptitude. He also talked about a coach named Scott McLellan and the Columbus Blue Jackets selecting Erik Johnson first overall in 2006, but that’s beside the point.
When I watch the Oilers, I don’t see a basement team. I certainly don’t see a playoff team, but I have a hard time believing that this team is as bad as it was last year, and frankly, I’m confused as to why their record is so poor. In total, the Oilers have lost 17 games this season. Of those 17 losses, eight of them have been by one goal, and only four have been by more than two goals. And when you take away empty net insurance goals, the Oilers have lost 11 games by one goal. Let’s break down each of those losses further to see who this team actually is.
(I’m going to look at each of the Oilers’ 17 losses and try to determine whether they deserved to lose or win, or if it was too close and easily could have gone either way. Feel free to disagree with my analysis of how each game should have gone. I link to the statistical breakdown to each individual game so everyone can come up with their own way to categorize each of these 17 losses.)
Oct. 8, 2015: 3-1 loss in St. Louis. The Oilers took the lead late in the first period, then the Blues tied the game in the second, took the lead in the third, and added an empty net insurance goal with 18 seconds to go in the game. The Blues had 43 even strength shot attempts while the Oilers had 39, and the Blues outshot the Oilers 31 to 25 in all situations. This game was pretty tight, but the Oilers were outplayed slightly. I’ll put it in the “could go either way category.”
Oct. 10, 2015: 2-0 loss in Nashville. The Predators scored one goal late in the second period and one more in the third on their way to a 2-0 shutout win. The Oilers had 42 even strength shot attempts while the Predators had 38, and the Oilers outshot the Predators 31 to 26 in all situations. In the third period of this game, the Oilers had an all situations Corsi For percentage of 78.6 per cent. Much like the first game, this one was pretty tight. Outside of a pretty horrible first period, the Oilers outplayed Nashville, so this could have gone either way.
Oct. 13, 2015: 4-2 loss in Dallas. The Stars took a 2-0 lead, but the Oilers tied it up before the end of the second period. Dallas took the lead again with under five minutes to go in the game, then added an empty net insurance goal with under one minute left. Dallas outshot the Oilers heavily in this game, 52 to 28 in situations and 40 to 21 at even strength. The score makes this game seem closer than it really was, so I would say the Oilers deserved to lose this game.
Oct. 15, 2015: 4-2 loss to St. Louis. The Oilers took a 1-0 load in the first period, then St. Louis scored goals in the first, second, and third period to take a 3-1 lead. Edmonton added one more goal in the third, but St. Louis countered with another goal of their own and won the game 4-2. The Blues outshot the Oilers 29 to 26 in all situations and 25 to 19 at even strength. The Blues also posted a 57.6 Corsi For percentage at even strength. I think this game also wasn’t quite as tight as the score suggested. Despite the total shot counter being close, St. Louis was dominant at even strength and in possession. I’ll give the Oilers a loss on this one.
Oct. 23, 2015: 7-4 loss to Washington. The Oilers and Capitals went back and forth with goals in the first period, but in the second period, Washington scored three in a row to take a 6-3 lead. Each team added one more goal and the final score ended up being 7-4. This game was marked by some pretty horrible goaltending, as Anders Nilsson allowed six goals on 17 shots and Philipp Grubauer allowed four goals on 19 shots. Shots and possession were pretty equal throughout the game, as Washington slightly edged Edmonton 19 to 18 in even strength shots, while both teams posted a 50.0 Corsi For percentage. The Oilers weren’t outplayed, and this game easily could have gone either way had it not been for terrible goaltending from Nilsson.
Oct. 25, 2015: 3-2 loss to Los Angeles. The Oilers took the lead in the first period before L.A. added a couple of goals to take a lead of their own. In the third, Edmonton tied the game, but L.A. quickly answered and won 3-2. The Oilers were outshot 34 to 28 in all situations and 25-21 at even strength. The second period was dominated by the Kings, as they boasted an 81.2 even strength Corsi For percentage in the period. L.A. outplayed Edmonton, but it can go under the either way category.
Oct. 27, 2015: 4-3 loss in Minnesota. The Wild took a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Oilers answered back with a goal in the first, second, and third period to take a 3-2 lead. Minnesota eventually scored a couple in the third period to win the game 4-3. Minnesota outshot Edmonton 28 to 25 in all situations and 23 to 18 at even strength, while also posting a 55.3 even strength Corsi For percentage. Just like the game above, this one was tight, and could have gone either way.
Oct. 31, 2015: 5-4 loss to Calgary. The Oilers battled back from a 4-2 deficit in the third period and looked to have forced overtime, but Michael Frolik scored a hideous goal from behind the net with nine seconds to go in the game, giving the Flames the 5-4 win. While the Oilers and Flames posted similar possession numbers in all situations, Calgary outshot Edmonton 24 to 16 at even strength and 32 to 23 overall. This was a terrible situation. The Oilers were outplayed throughout the game by the Flames, but despite that, they appeared to be on their way to overtime before allowing a last second soft goal. While they did deserve the loss for the way they played, they should have at least received a loser point.
Nov. 6, 2015: 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh. The Oilers scored the first goal of the game in the second period, but Pittsburgh answered with two more and eventually won 2-1. The Penguins outshot the Oilers 27 to 20 at even strength, and 33 to 28 overall, and also dominated the possession game, posting an even strength Corsi For percentage of 57.0 per cent. The Oilers were dominated in the first period, but played better in the second and third. That said, I don’t think the Oilers played well enough to say this could have gone either way, so I’ll give them a loss.
Nov. 8, 2015: 4-2 loss in Chicago. The Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, then the teams exchanged goals in the third before Chicago eventually won 4-2. The Oilers outshot Chicago 31-24 at even strength and 36-28 overall, and also posted an even strength Corsi For percentage of 52.6 per cent. The Oilers dominated the second period, outshooting Chicago 22 to six, all at even strength. This one was tight and could have gone either way.
Nov. 12, 2015: 4-1 loss in Arizona. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, Edmonton allowed four unanswered goals and Arizona took the game with a 4-1 win. Edmonton outshot Arizona 23-14 at even strength and 28-21 overall, and they also dominated the possession game, putting up a 61.1 even strength Corsi For percentage. Mike Smith was the difference in this game, as he saved 27 of 28 shots, while Anders Nilsson allowed four goals on 21 shots. The Oilers were the better team in this game, but unfortunately, their goalie was poor and Arizona’s was good. I’ll put this in the deserved to win category.
Nov. 14, 2015: 4-3 loss in Los Angeles. The Kings took a had a 3-1 lead in the second period before the Oilers battled back to tie the game 3-3 with under five minutes to go in the game. With just under two minutes to go, L.A. took a 4-3 lead and won the game. The overall shots were close, but L.A. was pretty dominant at even strength, outshooting Edmonton 24-17. The Oilers were terrible in the first period, dominant in the second, and the two teams were evenly matched in the third. Cam Talbot wasn’t very good, allowing four goals on 28 shots. This is a tough one, so I’ll put it in the either way category.
Nov. 18, 2015: 4-3 OT loss to Chicago. The Hawks grabbed a 2-0 lead, the Oilers battled back to tie it at 2-2 in the second, then the two teams exchanged goals in the third before Chicago won in overtime. Edmonton outshot Chicago 29 to 23 at even strength and 37 to 27 overall, and also posted a 56.2 even strength Corsi For percentage. The Oilers led in all situations shot attempts in each of the three regulation periods, and dominated the third. I think Marian Hossa should have been called offside, but regardless, Edmonton was the better team in this game and deserved the win.
Nov. 23, 2015: 1-0 loss in Washington. The only goal in this game came from Washington with under 10 minutes to go in the third period. Braden Holtby was fantastic, saving all 33 shots he faced. The total shots were close at 33-30, but Edmonton dominated the first and second periods in terms of possession, ultimately finishing the game with a 55.7 even strength Corsi For percentage. This was a pretty close game, so I’ll put it in the either way category even though Edmonton was the better team.
Nov. 25, 2015: 4-1 loss in Carolina. This game was a carbon copy of the Arizona game in terms of scoring, as the Oilers scored the first goal of the game in the first period and allowed four unanswered goals, including an empty netter, eventually losing 4-1. Edmonton’s best period was the third in which they had 26 shot attempts in comparison to Carolina’s 16, but the Hurricanes outshot them in both the first and second period. Edmonton outshot Carolina in all situations 31 to 27, but the Hurricanes had more shots and better possession numbers at even strength. So I’ll put this in the deserved to lose category.
Nov. 27, 2015: 4-3 OT loss in Detroit. The Wings scored the first two goals of the game, the Oilers answered back soon after with two of their own, then each team scored another before Detroit eventually won the game 4-2 in overtime. Detroit controlled the game in a very lopsided first period, posting a 76.2 even strength Corsi For percentage, and Edmonton was dominant in the third, posting a 60.6 even strength Corsi For percentage. Detroit ended up leading in total shots 32 to 24, but the possession numbers suggest a much closer game, as the Wings just edged the Oilers 47 to 45 in even strength shot attempts. The shot counter suggests that Detroit dominated, but the possession numbers say otherwise. I’ll put this in the either way category.
Nov. 30, 2015: 3-0 loss in Toronto. The Leafs scored a goal in the first and third period, then capped it off with an empty netter with just over a minute to go to earn a 3-0 win. Toronto outshot Edmonton 26 to 24 in total, but Edmonton outshot them 22 to 18 at even strength, and also posted an even strength Corsi For percentage of 53.1. Just like the game above, the possession numbers suggest a better fate for Edmonton, but it could have gone either way.
All in all, of the 17 games the Oilers have lost, I think they certainly deserved to lose five of them, they deserved to win two of them, and the other 10 were too close to call and could have gone either way. When you break down their wins, you’ll also find a few games that could have gone in the other team’s favour that the Oilers didn’t necessarily deserve to win. That said, 10 close games tipping in the favour of the opposing team suggests that the Oilers have been getting terrible luck.
This is a team that’s 20th in the league in even strength Corsi For percentage, right around San Jose, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh. They also boast the fourth worst even strength PDO in the league thanks to a pretty terrible team save percentage of 91.18 and a mediocre team shooting percentage of 6.90. Obviously this is a somewhat subjective analysis as to how the outcome of games should shake out, but with all of it considered, you have a team that doesn’t deserve to have a record as bad as 10-15-2. If I had to venture a guess, I would say they should end up around 20th overall, right where their possession numbers have them ranked in the league. Certainly not a playoff team, but also not the surefire first overall picking lottery team that Mike Brophy is suggesting.