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Can the Oilers climb out of this hole?

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Photo credit:© Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
3 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers’ early-season woes continued with a 4-3 loss to Dallas last night. They are now 2-6-1 and sit five points out of the second wildcard spot with one game in hand.
What does history tell us about how often teams with five or fewer points after nine games make the playoffs?
Let’s dig in.
The Oilers have only played 11% of the regular season. It doesn’t seem like much, but they are already 16 points behind division-leading Vegas. Winning the division won’t happen. But what about making the playoffs?
In the history of NHL there have been 52 teams with five or fewer points in their first nine games of the season that rebounded to make the playoffs.
Thirteen of them occurred during the Original Six era.
Then four more between 1968-1979 when the league had 12-17 teams.
From 1980-1991 it happened 16 times when the NHL was a 21-team league.
Once in 1993 with 24 teams.
Eight times between 1994-1998 with a 26-team league.
Twice in 1999 with a 27-team league.
Once in 2000 with 28 teams.
Then with 30 teams it occurred three times between 2001-2004.
That is a total of 48, which leaves four teams during the shootout era and loser point. I think that is most relevant to this year’s Oilers.

COMEBACK KIDS…

1. The 2012 Washington Capitals had 92 points and finished seventh in the East.
They started the lockout-shortened 2013 season 2-6-1 and were outscored 33-21. Then they caught fire and went 25-12-2 in their final 39 games. They finished fourth in the Eastern Conference. Their recovery was very impressive because it was during the 48-game season. They only had 39 games to recover, and they did.
2. The 2013 Philadelphia Flyers missed the playoffs finishing 10th in the Eastern conference.
They began the 2013-14 season looking like it would be another non-playoff season going 2-7 and got outscored 25-13. But then they managed to go 40-23-10 in their final 73 games to finish sixth in the East with 94 points.
3. The 2015 Anaheim Ducks won 51 games and finished first in the Western Conference with 109 points. They lost the Conference Final in seven games to Chicago.
But they struggled out of the gate in 2015-16 going 1-6-2 while being outscored 25-9. They couldn’t score, but they suddenly woke up and proceeded to go 45-19-9 while outscoring teams 209-163. They finished fourth in the West with 103 points.
4. The 2019 Dallas Stars finished sixth in the West with 93 points. They lost in seven games in the second round to St. Louis.
They had a very slow start in 2019-20 going 1-7-1 and were outscored 30-17. But then they woke up and went 36-17-7 over their next 60 games and sat fifth in points and fourth in points% when the season was abruptly ended due to COVID. The Stars were in the playoff bubble and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Tampa Bay. Their big off-season acquisition before the 2019-20 season was Joe Pavelski, but he only had 31 points in 68 games. The core of their team was the same.

OILERS IN RARE COMPANY…

The Oilers are only the ninth team in NHL history with five points thru nine games to start a season, after producing 100+ points the previous year.
FranchiseSeasonGPWLTOTLPTSPT TOTPlayoffs
Montréal Canadiens1980-81926105103Yes
Boston Bruins1980-8192610587Yes
Pittsburgh Penguins1996-9792700484Yes
Toronto Maple Leafs2002-0392610598Yes
Philadelphia Flyers2006-0792601556No
New Jersey Devils2010-1192601581No
Anaheim Ducks2015-16916024103Yes
Montréal Canadiens2017-1892601571No
Edmonton Oilers2023-24926015??
I’d prefer to focus on the five teams in the OTL/SO era.
1. The 2006 Flyers finished fifth in the East with 102 points. They lost in the first round in six games to Buffalo.
They started the 2006-07 season at 2-6-1 and they didn’t improve much all year finishing last in the NHL with 56 points. They had many key injuries for 20-40 games with Peter Forsberg, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and others. And their goalies, who were below average in 2006 with subpar .900Sv%, were even worse in 2007.
2. The 2010 Devils were second in the east with 103 points, due to defence and goaltending. They were 19th in goals scored, but first in goals against. They lost in five games in round one to Philadelphia.
They started the 2010-11 season slowly at 2-6-1 and never got on track. They finished 23rd in the standings with 81 points. Their offence got worse as leading scorer Zach Parise left in free agency and signed with Minnesota. The Devils finished dead last with 171 goals, and even a decent defence (ninth in GA), couldn’t save them. They did go all the way to the Cup Final the following year.
3. I outlined the Ducks above. They had 109 points in 2015, had a slow 1-6-2 start, but then played up to their capabilities and finished with 103 points.
4. The 2017 Canadiens finished fourth in the East with 103 points. They had two players with more than 50 points in Max Pacioretty (67) and Alex Radulov (54). They were sound defensively finishing fourth in GA and Carey Price was a Vezina finalist. They lost in the first round in six games to the Rangers. It was the only year in a four-year span they made the playoffs.
They began the 2017-18 season at 2-6-1 and finished 28th with a record of 29-40-13. Radulov wasn’t on the team and Pacioretty only scored 37 points while Carey Price had a below- average .900Sv%.
The Oilers closely resemble the Ducks in that they had 109 points prior to their awful start, and they had playoff success in previous seasons. The Oilers have to hope they can match what the 2016 Ducks did. But there is no guarantee. They need to play much smarter, with more consistent energy and emotion, and they know it.
They played well against Calgary, but their defensive awareness in most of the other games has been unacceptable. Dallas crushed them off the rush last night. Cody Ceci made a bad pinch and the Stars had a two-on-one from centre. Philip Broberg had a horrible dump-in attempt while the Oilers were looking to change, and Dallas went the other way on a three-on-one. The most frustrating goal was the Stars’ fourth. It was a three-on-three, but Evan Bouchard slid way too far to the outside, which allowed Roope Hintz to go untouched to the net and tap home the cross-ice pass.
There is zero reason for Bouchard to vacate the middle of the ice on this play. He puts himself out of position and then showed little effort trying to get back in the play. That should have been a harmless rush, and it ended up being the game-winning goal for Dallas.
And the Oilers’ best forwards weren’t good enough last night. Leon Draisaitl fanned on multiple one-timers and forced too many passes that the Stars knocked down in the offensive zone. Draisaitl has been quite good all season, and he is far from the problem, but last night the Oilers’ power play couldn’t match Dallas’, which entered the game at 8.7%, but managed to score on one of their two power play opportunities. You can say they Oilers got a bit unlucky when Evan Bouchard hit the post twice on the same PP, but luck, good or bad, is always a factor in games.
The Oilers played well for long stretches last night, but again, the glaring errors cost them. Until they commit to playing smart, sound hockey the losses will keep mounting. They need to do some soul searching and decide if they want to be a contender or a pretender.

BAD STARTS SINCE 2006…

There have been 33 occasions where a team had five or fewer points in their first nine games in the Salary Cap and shootout era.
TeamSeasonGPWLTPTSPT TotalPlayoffs
PIT2005-069045558 (29th)No
PHI2006-079261556 (30th)No
ARI2006-079270467 (29th)No
CBJ2006-079241573 (24th)No
ATL2007-089270476 (28th)No
NYI2008-099261561 (30th)No
TOR2009-109171374 (29th)No
FLA2009-109261577 (28th)No
MIN2009-109270484 (22nd)No
NJ2010-119261581 (23rd)No
CBJ2011-129171365 (30th)No
WSH20139261557* (10th)Yes
BUF2013-149171352 (30th)No
EDM2013-149261567 (28th)No
NJ2013-149153588 (20th)No
PHI2013-149270494 (13th)Yes
TeamSeasonGPWLTPTSPT TotalPlayoffs
BUF2014-159270454 (30th)No
CAR2014-159162471 (26th)No
TOR2015-169162469 (30th)No
CBJ2015-169180276 (27th)No
CGY2015-169270477 (26th)No
ANA2015-1691624103 (6th)Yes
ARI2017-189081170 (29th)No
MTL2017-189261571 (28th)No
DET2018-199162474 (28th)No
LA2018-199261571 (30th)No
OTT2019-209261562* (30th)No
DAL2019-209171382* (10th)Yes
OTT2020-219171351* (23rd)No
CHI2021-229072268 (27th)No
ARI2021-229081157 (31st)No
MTL2021-229270455 (32nd)No
ANA2022-239261558 (32nd)No
Twenty-four teams finished bottom five in the league. I don’t see the Oilers as a draft lottery team that finishes in the bottom five, so that leaves nine other teams which seem like realistic comparables.
Four made the playoffs, four were a bottom-10 team (22nd, 23rd, 23rd and 24th), and one, the 2014 New Jersey Devils, missed the playoffs by five points and finished 10th in the East and 20th in the NHL.
If you look at the Oilers’ roster, I’d be surprised if they don’t become the fifth team in the salary cap era to make the playoffs after a slow start.
What about you?

PIZZA PIGOUT…WINNERS

Thank you to all who attended the 5th annual Jason Gregor Pizza Pigout last month. We had a fantastic turnout and raised over $42,000 for KidSport. Thank you very much to all the sponsors, ticket buyers and the pizzerias. They donate all the pizza to make the event great, and here are the winners. If you love pizza, make sure you go visit these great establishments. You won’t regret it.
Thanks again for supporting our Pizza Pigout. We look forward to having you again next year.

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