• The Annual “It’s Early” Post

    by  • October 30, 2008 • Uncategorized • 5 Comments

    The Oilers wore their retro jerseys against the Boston Bruins on Monday, but unfortunately Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier were not in the lineup to score a few goals. It’s mystifying how the Oilers can have the second-lowest goals per game average in the entire league with their group of forwards. But here we are, almost through October and Hemsky, Cole and Gagner have NO even-strength goals in eight games. And only two players — Andrew Cogliano and Penner — have more than one goal playing 5-on-5. Penner has two, but hasn’t scored in seven games. The Oilers have 11 even-strength goals in eight games — that doesn’t begin to cut it. Is that the coach’s fault? I don’t think so.

    -Jim Matheson

    There are currently no fewer than three threads on the front page of HF Oilers that deal with firing the coach. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think it’s a little early for that and, more to the point, I don’t think that the Oilers slow start offensively is that mystifying. In an eight game sample, a lot of stuff can happen. The Oilers are a team with an iffy power play and a lot of unknown even strength scoring. As it so happens, scoring eleven ES goals in eight games isn’t that unusual. Each team in the NHL played 75 eight game segments last year, for a total of 2250 eight game segments. 23.7% of those segments saw the team score 11 ES goals or fewer. I’ve put together a chart summarizing the highs and lows per eight games at ES. I’ve highlighted some of the numbers that jump out to me.


    The Red Wings, who finished 8th in the NHL in ES GF, went through a horrendous stretch in which they couldn’t buy a goal at ES, scoring just three in eight games. The Rangers, who couldn’t buy a goal at ES for most of the season, scored 26 in an eight game span. Almost all teams had at least a twenty goal differential swing between their best and worst eight game ES swings. There isn’t enough there in eight games to draw any conclusions – which I don’t think Matheson was doing – because both good and bad teams go through stretches where they can’t lose and stretches where they can’t win.

    Looking at the Oilers numbers to date, I can’t see a lot to get worked up about. They’re presently EV+ 11 and EV- 12, with 172 ESSF and 189 ESSA. They’re good enough to have a good ES year if they make their shots and Garon has a good year. That’s about as much as reasonable people could have expected.


    5 Responses to The Annual “It’s Early” Post

    1. PDO
      October 30, 2008 at

      Figured here was as good as any place to throw this out there, and I’m guessing the answer is – “sample size” but…

      The Oilers Fenwick is -20, Corsi is -24.. but they’ve only been on for two more faceoffs in their own zone than the offensive zone.

      … there is a bit of disconnect there, is there not? Or perhaps I just added those numbers up as someone who was half asleep…

    2. October 30, 2008 at

      Good post, Tyler. The problems are largely fixable, as well. Really, the top line and the kid line have better underlying numbers than the tail end of last year, and I happen to believe that those underlying numbers are going to get better as all of those guys start playing a bit more physically. i.e. if they start getting their noses a bit dirtier they’ll have more of the territorial play, and that’s going to lead to more goals for and fewer against in time.

      Plus, sooner or later the pucks will start going in for those guys. Probably in a rash, and it will send bipolar Oiler fans into a state of euphoria.

      All six of the ‘top six’ forwards have shown the ability, over their careers, to either create great chances or bury the ones they get (granted, the track record isn’t very long for the kid line). And though they are, collectively, clipping along at a Stu Grimson type EVshooting% rate right now, my thinking is that won’t last forever. Hell, if a few more of their shots had hit the net and missed the goalie, radio callers would be offering up kisses and flowers to every bugger wearing the oil drop right now, instead of demanding the head of the coach (I listened to about 10 minutes of sports talk radio yesterday, which was plenty, and that was the theme).

      The fourth line was a bright spot at the tail end of last year though, and they’ve been awful thus far. And there is no scenario imaginable that results in a line with McIntyre and Stortini on it helping this team win. They’ve been a sinkhole so far. Again, easily fixable, shipping out Deslauriers and bringing up a forward from the farm that can play a bit, that would be a good start imo.

      And not playing Pisani at centre (I liked the experiment at the time, but it didn’t work, and enough is enough), and not playing Fernando when his “back” flares up … that would help too.

      They’ll be alright I think. As you say, the goaltending needs to be good, they need to finish more of their chances, and the special teams need to be in the black at least a bit. All those things are realistic I think, so this team still has a really good chance to qualify for the playoffs. Same scenario as September, really.

      Brutal stretch ahead though. Buckle up.

    3. October 30, 2008 at

      In putting together the scoring chances it wasn’t even like the first 10 line wasn’t making things happen, the light just wasn’t turning on.

      I”m not sure if 83 has played his off-wing before but maybe if they’d have tried that it would’ve made a little difference.

      OTOH, this PK projects to be all kinds of bad unless the goalie is lights out. Guys like Penner and Brodziak have been showing up terrible and things are going to have to change on that unit. I’m not sure if he’s played there before but I’d suggest using 26 as part of that unit and certainly 78 as well.

      And forget about using 89 there as well. Right now it’s certainly a “develop people and try to keep the GA down” unit and it’s just not working.

    4. Mike
      October 30, 2008 at

      Vic – do you know something we don’t re: Pisani, or just tossing out guesses?

    5. October 30, 2008 at


      I’m just tossing out guesses. And the next time that Pisani’s underlying numbers take a bootkicking (i.e. the puck isin the Oilers end every time he is out there) … well that’s not just Pisani-ish. So I’ll guess that something is up again.

      Hell, in 05/06, the one stretch where the Oilers really weren’t outchancing the bad guys was from around Xmas, maybe a bit before, up until the Olympics. And the swing came for the Moreau-Reasoner-Pisani line. They had been a real positive before, so when they went sideways, you could feel the impact from your couch.

      I always liked Fernando, and had spent enough time arguing on his behalf, for all the little things he does in a hockey game, well I wasn’t particularly interested in arguing with Dennis when he was pointing out that Fernando flat out stopped creating and getting scoring chances over that stretch. Mostly because he was right.

      The the Olympics and Fernando was a guy that wasn’t coming out to practice (My theory was core injury, I’ve never had one, but they always seem to hurt a guys game a lot).

      As far as I know, nobody guessed colitis.

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