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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Build a Winning Attitude

Stop me if you’ve read or heard this in the past few days. “The Oilers start isn’t sustainable.”

To those making these statements: “No Shit, Sherlock.”

Please show me one person who thought it was sustainable. The most unnecessary and Captain Obvious statement is claiming their hot start wasn’t going to last.

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Of course it wasn’t sustainable, but no one expected it to be. Those people pumping their chests today claiming “The PDO would regress,” or “I knew the Oilers couldn’t keep winning at this pace,” are in fact the ones looking foolish. What’s next —  are you going to tell us Connor McDavid is really fast? No one expected them to skate through the NHL season winning seven of ten games.

Since 2006, and excluding the 2012/2013 lockout shortened season, there have been 392 occasions for an NHL team to maintain a pace of winning seven of ten games all season, which would equal 57 wins.

A grand total of two teams have done it. The 2018 Tampa Bay Lightning won 62 games and the 2006 Detroit Red Wings won 58. Oddly, both of them lost in the first round of the playoffs to eighth seeded Columbus and Edmonton.

So a team has a 0.05% chance of winning seven of ten all season. Extremely rare.

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What about a pace of winning six of ten games all season? That would equate to 49 wins over a full season. That has occurred 61 times since 2006, meaning 15.5% of the time. Last season only three teams, 9.6% of the league, managed to do it. Essentially 84.5% of the league is going to win, on average, fewer than six of every ten games all season.

POINT TOTALS…

Due to the loser point, point totals are arguably a more accurate number to look at than wins.

The Oilers managed 15 points in their first ten games. A solid start, but, again, we don’t need to be told this is unsustainable.

To maintain a 15-points-in-10-game pace the Oilers would finish with a whopping 123 points. Guess what, only two teams, the same 2018 Lightning (128) and Red Wings 2006 (124), managed to do that since the shootout was implemented in 2005/2006.

A total of 14 points in every ten games is rare as well, with only 13 teams (3.3%) achieving 114 points since 2006.

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Pick up 13 points every ten games and you’d finish with 106 points. Sixty teams (15.4%) have managed that since 2006.

Pick up 12 points every ten games and you finish with 98 points. This is where it jumps up quite a bit to 37.7% (148 teams).

WHAT HAS TO CHANGE IN EDMONTON

I didn’t see anyone predicting the Oilers would finish with 98 points. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see it. Yet many were feverishly typing how the Oilers start wasn’t sustainable, like it was some earth-shattering, highly-insightful analysis.

It wasn’t.

At best this team was going to battle for a wildcard spot. I thought that was possible, and I still do, but there is one change that must occur within the room.

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It is difficult to find, but the Oilers have to find a winning, positive attitude.

When adversity hits, this team can’t fold. We know they aren’t blessed with the deepest roster in the NHL, but isn’t an excuse not to match the work ethic of the opposition most nights.

Some games it won’t happen. Even the best teams in the league have bad games.

The challenge for the Oilers is to not allow the losing attitude to resurface. It has hung over this organization for 12 of the past 13 years.

A winning culture requires accountability and consistency and a desire to play smart, committed hockey. It is getting the puck out when you have a chance. Making the right defensive read more often than not. And more importantly, when a mistake is made, which occurs often, you don’t let the mistake fester and build into more and more. They can’t afford to allow bad habits, which I equate to a losing environment, creep into their game.

Last night was the first game I felt the Oilers were outplayed for much of the game. That will happen. The challenge for them is to not let that grow into two, three or four bad games, because then the negativity and lack of confidence snowball starts to roll and it can be very difficult to stop.

A winning culture isn’t easy to find.

The Oilers were very good in 2017, but couldn’t maintain it. Talent is obviously a major component, but the Oilers top to bottom talent pool isn’t much shallower than other teams you would expect to be battling for a wildcard spot. Edmonton’s high-end talent rivals any team in the NHL, and that is a major advantage. Their depth scoring is a concern and how well their defence holds up long-term without Adam Larsson will be a major question.

How good can the goalies play? Again, I’m sure you will read a lot of “unsustainable sv%,” which FYI, is not breaking news. Can the Oilers finish with a team SV% between .915-920? If so, then they will be in the mix. So far they’ve shown an ability to battle and keep their team in every game.

One loss to Minnesota doesn’t mean the sky is falling. It is one game. But how they respond could give us some insight into what this group is made of. The key to staying in the hunt is to avoid longer losing streaks. Last year they lost six in a row, five in a row (three times) and four in a row once. (I included OTL as a loss, but only four of those 25 games were OTL.)

As Kyle Brodziak said to me in the summer, “There is nothing worse than coming to the rink during a losing streak. The negativity surrounds you.”

After a solid start, Edmonton just needs to avoid numerous lengthy losing streaks. Battle, compete and ensure they don’t let a losing attitude creep back into their dressing room.

Stop it before it snowballs and slowly they will develop a winning attitude.

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