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.
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.