Monday, 9 April 2012
04/08/12 The Big Breakdown
Now that the season is officially, mercifully, at its end, we can have a look at all the measures of a team and see if the Oilers have improved over their last two 30th place finishes. And, more importantly, how far are they away from being a playoff team?
Meh. The Oilers improved in the win column about as much as we expected. One could argue that injuries and bad luck played their part in the Oilers' losing ways, but there are still holes on the team. It was fun to watch them win seven more times than they did last year, and five more than the year before that, but they'll need 8-10 more than what they achieved this season in order to make the playoffs in 2012-13. If the world ends in December, Oilers fans will be some of the most upset people going. All that rebuilding just to die before finally making the dance...
2009-10: 206 (27th)
2010-11: 191 (27th)
2011-12: 207 (19th)
Sixteen more goals than last year, but only one more than the first year the Oilers finished 30th. However, the Oilers improved in their league standing because the bottom teams were scoring less than previous seasons. In 2009-10 just four teams scored less than 210 goals, in 2010-11 there were six teams, and this year there were 12. Again injuries played their part, especially key ones to Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, but the Oilers also need more from their bottom-six forwards and defense. The average number of goals scored by WC playoff teams this year was 222, which is a total that should be easily within striking distance of a healthy Oilers squad next season.
2009-10: 278 (30th)
2010-11: 260 (28th)
2011-12: 232 (23rd)
The improvements here are a little more tangible. The Oilers went from 30th to 27th to 20th in goals against at even strength over the last three seasons. Overall they went from 278 goals against to 260 goals against to 232. The average goals against of WC playoff teams was 194, so the Oilers still have plenty of work to do. However, that number is a bit skewed by St. Louis' very impressive (and perhaps a bit lucky) 155 goals against.
Again, we've seen improvements but there wasn't a playoff team in the West this year with a minus goal differential, which should come as a surprise to no one. The Oilers don't have that far to go to be average in Goals For, so it will take some big time improvements in Goals Against to get them into the black in goal differential.
2009-10: 2321 total (28th), 28.3 per game
2010-11: 2188 total (29th), 26.7 per game
2011-12: 2186 total (29th), 26.7 per game
No improvements in this category, which is extremely alarming. The Oilers benefitted from some better shooting percentages than last season, so unless they start to get more pucks to the net it's hard to think that they won't regress in the goal department. Broken record: injuries also hindered this area. Taylor Hall led the team in shots with 207 in just 61 games, and if he'd seen a full year he would have been on pace for around another 70 shots on his own. Nugent-Hopkins could have had another 40 shots or so if he had been healthy all year, and Magnus Paajarvi was on pace for about another 80 if he hadn't been demoted due to his lack of production. Had all of that actually occurred, the Oilers would have been up around 19th in the league with this roster, but there will need to be upgrades to get them into the upper echelon. WC playoff team average: 2536 (30.9 per game).
2009-10: 2716 total (27th), 33.1 per game
2010-11: 2597 total (21st), 31.7 per game
2011-12: 2518 total (19th), 30.7 per game
Improvement year over year, but there's still work to be done. 2372 is the WC playoff team average, which is 28.9 per game. Preventing two more shots against per game doesn't sound like a lot, but the margins in this category are thin. Averaging just one less shot per game would jump the Oilers up seven spots to 12th in the NHL. It can be done, but it will take a more experienced defense and maturation from the forwards. The encouraging thing is how far the Oilers have already come in the least few seasons, having improved by 2.4 per game since 2009-10.
2009-10: 17.3% (18th), 52 goals for
2010-11: 14.5% (27th), 44 goals for
2011-12: 20.6% (3rd), 54 goals for
The Oilers had a fairly steady amount of powerplay opportunities in the first two years listed, at 301 and 304, but converted 20.6% of the time on just 262 opportunities this season. The Oilers were 19th in total powerplay chances in the league in 2011-12, but they were very good at finding the back of the net. There are some powerplay whizzes on this team now, but will they be as good next season? Time will tell. Every Western playoff team was worse on the powerplay except San Jose.
2009-10: 78% (26th), 67 goals against
2010-11: 77% (29th), 74 goals against
2011-12: 82.4% (14th), 52 goals against
The Oilers were right in the middle of the pack in terms of PK percentage this season, which is incredible improvement over previous years, and reasonably acceptable going forward. Three Western playoff teams were below the Oilers in PK% (San Jose, Chicago, Detroit).
That's A Lot Of Data
Considering the hole the Oilers had dug themselves in 2010-11, it's not unreasonable to have expected them to improve in every category here. And they did. In fact, they aren't as far away in many of these categories as the standings reflect. They'll need to be healthy and upgraded if they're going to make the post season in 2012-13, but there's a foundation here that can be worked with.
Plenty more dissection of this season to come.