Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers and Moral Victories

In light of the Oilers’ too-rare three-game win streak (against the Pacific Division no less, the guys that we’re built to beat, wahoooo!), I thought it would be fun to look at one of our other favourite types of victories over the last many years: the moral victory.

This article was inspired by a conversation with Mike of @OilersLive, who was commenting on a Tampa Bay game and asked if there was some sort of Moral Victory stat. There isn’t but I figured there should be so:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

… and here we are!

Model Behaviour

First off, though this is just for fun, we still want to think a little bit about what it is we mean when we say moral victory. Without that, we can’t really come up with a statistical model for it, yanno?

Now, I think we (especially us Oilers fans) all have kind of a mental model of what a moral victory is – it’s where one team meaningfully outplays the opposition, yet somehow still loses. How do we turn that into a more formal definition?

[I really wanted to insert a picture of a supermodel here, but OilersNation has no supermodel pictures in its image library. What kind of hockey blogger site are we?!? For shame!]

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


The simplest definition of a moral victory, and maybe the most common one that I see, is a loss where the Oilers spend a lot of time in the other team’s zone, taking shots at the other team’s net … yet lose. The ones where the anti-stats folks trumpet that Corsi is obviously meaningless!

Oct 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matthew Murray (30) makes a save against Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

So the simplest moral victory statistical screen (note: all data from NaturalStatTrick.com) is to find losses where the Oilers had a Corsi For (CF%) of say 52.5% or higher, meaning they out-attempted the other guys by a reasonably wide margin.

Monday Mailbag - First thoughts on the Kris Russell extension?

Using that definition, the Oilers had 15 moral victories this season: WSHx2, OTT, VAN, CAR, DAL, TOR, BUFx2, NSHx2, DET, PIT, LAK, and FLA.

Two moral victories i.e. ACTUAL LOSSES against BUF is kind of horrifying if you think about it.


I’m not entirely satisfied with that definition though, because it ignores the impact of the goalies. Like, can you *really* call it a moral victory if your goalie had a terrible game? The goalie is part of the team after all, so a loss where you outplayed the other guys but your goalie gave up a lot of cheap goals is more of a bad loss rather than a moral victory in my books!

There are a few games in the list where the goalies had absolutely brutal games (sv% < 80%!)

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

So I’m going to extend our definition a little and look for games where the goalies at least didn’t have a terrible game. If we extend the requirement to include an all-situations sv% greater than .900 (i.e. at least we got competent AHL level goaltending or better), then the moral victory count falls to just 5: WSH, TOR, NSH, PIT, and BUF.

That does speak to another harsh reality about this season though: goaltending has torched many a decent game.


Even this definition (shots + goaltending) isn’t quite complete I’d say. Normally, I’d propose we should add penalties into that equation.

That’s because (in my opinion … this is all just my opinion) a loss doesn’t really count as a moral victory if you outplay the other guys at even strength, but lose because you took a billion penalties in the process. If bad goaltending makes it a bad loss, I’d be inclined to say that taking too many penalties makes it a dumb loss.

2020 NHL UFA Top 30: Anton Khudobin and Tyler Toffoli

This year though? Sorry, I’m not giving any weight to the penalty counts at all.

NHL reffing, which is usually not within spitting distance of competence most years, is just so insufferably bad this year that even mentioning it is making me see red. [I wrote this before the outrageous Kane/Benning non-call against San Jose]

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

In other words: “screw you, refs!”

So I’m leaving the list as is. For the record, that means just five real moral victories so far this season, namely:

  • Oct 24th, PIT, 2-1 OT loss, 54% CF%, 95% sv.
  • Nov 12th, WSH, 2-1 SO loss, 69% CF%, 95% sv.
  • Nov 24th, BUF, 3-1 L, 53% CF%, 90% sv.
  • Dec 10th, TOR, 1-0 loss, 61% CF%, 96% sv.
  • Jan 9th, NSH, 2-1 loss, 59% CF%, 92% sv.

What We Learned

So, what can we say we’ve learned from this analysis?

Absolutely nothing! Sweet fudge all!

Ha ha, literally, there is no real serious purpose to the analysis in this article! It’s just for fun, a little statistical bonbon for the last day of the shortest month of the year.

Just a distraction until next year when hopefully we can talk about real victories again.