Fun storylines for 2010-11, other than the apparent complete demise of the Calgary Flames: the contest that OilersNation is running to predict the scoring for the Oilers. I don’t entirely understand the rules – it seems complex – but, as Robin Brownlee explains, he doesn’t think that you need to be one of them newfangled number nerds to get anywhere with this:
With all the advanced statistics websites out there the disciples of digits who lean heavily on them to predict future performance should clean up on rubes like me when it comes to a simple hockey pool, no?
It stands to reason that if a person can run the numbers, extrapolating this and projecting that based on a bunch of formulas I don’t understand, or really care to, surely they’ve got a leg up on an old hockey writer who simply eyeballs the players, glances at what nerds call the boxcars and throws out his predictions.
At the very least, the advanced stats people are making a more educated guess than the saw-him-good guys (more nerdspeak) like me, no? All this QualComp and Corsi and Desjardins jazz has to be a big advantage up against somebody who thinks taking into account even-strength ice time and power-play minutes is getting in really deep, no?
I don’t think so. Not for a minute. No sale. That’s why I think the writers at Oilersnation should have some fun by making predictions as to who’ll be the top 13 scorers — the top nine forwards and top four defencemen — for the Edmonton Oilers this season.
Pride on the line!
The picks were unveiled earlier today and browsing through them, I caught a noticeable difference between the picks of young Jonathan Willis, a Fort St. John based nerd who’s never filled his nostrils with the scent of another hard night’s work for Ethan Moreau, and Robin Brownlee, who has. Specifically, Brownlee has the 9th highest scoring Oilers forward scoring 41 points; fanboy Willis has only 5 Oilers cracking the 40 point barrier. Jason Gregor, who is part nerd (he wears glasses) and part kick ass journalistic machine absorbing insight from his proximity to the players, sawed it off and went with only 7 Oilers cracking the 40 point barrier.
This got me wondering. Has an Oilers team EVER featured nine forwards who scored 40 points? I mean, you’d think they’d have to have – that team in the 80′s was the greatest offensive team of all time. As it so happens, it’s never happened. The best they’ve ever done is 7 forwards cracking 40 points in a season. They haven’t had more than 6 in a single season since 1995-96 and that’s only happened once – 2007-08, oddly enough, when the team went on a shooting percentage binge over the final quarter.
Last year’s Washington Capitals, who put up an historic amount of goals relative to the league, featured only 7 40 points forwards. In an admittedly cursory review, the only team that I identified that had at least 9 40 point forwards was the 1977-78 Boston Bruins. Don Cherry didn’t seem to shut up about that team when I was a kid – it was famous for it’s offensive depth, with 11 20 goal scorers. They had 10 forwards hit the 40 point mark and are generally recognized as the deepest offensive team of all time. The 1971-72 Bruins, who were the GF record holders before your Edmonton Oilers, had either 8 or 9 F reach the mark, depending on how you count Ed Westfall, listed as a D/RW.
Assuming he isn’t just trying to game the scoring system (and maybe he is, and maybe this is the most sensible way to go about it; I can’t say – if I’d set up the contest, I’d have done it differently), which would be a dishonourable way to go about winning a test of knowledge such as this, Brownlee’s view seems pretty clear: this Oilers’ team has offensive depth at forward the likes of which has never before been seen in Edmonton and only exceedingly rarely in the NHL. At the end of the season, if his crystal ball is good, the team will join the 70′s Bruins as amongst the deepest groups of scoring forwards in history and displace all challengers for the local title. Gregor, widely known for his introspection and caution when it comes to joining the argument, doesn’t see this group as particularly historic: he sees them as having offensive depth that ranks only amongst the best in the NHL and Oilers history.
I can, in all fairness to Brownlee, see why you might expect more Oilers than usual to hit 40 points this year. Everyone’s looking at what top rookies do and pencilling these fellows in for something similar, while expecting something like career norms from the guys who are already in place. Something has to give though, in terms of ice time – someone has to take the faceoffs in the Oilers’ end, someone won’t get the necessary PP time (Brownlee has all of Horcoff, Hemsky and Penner at or near career highs in points, which implies that they’re getting lots of PP minutes, I don’t understand how guys like Cogliano are going to score 40+ in those circumstances). I made the (roundly ignored by those who dumped on my argument) point that there’s an opportunity cost to players like Cogliano being shunted aside so that we can worship at the feet of the Holy Trinity; Brownlee apparently doesn’t think that there will be.
As a fan, I don’t know that there’s ever been a team coming off a season in which they finished 30th that would be so obviously dominant as to have journalists with the credibiity and insight that comes from access calmly assuring us that an historic offensive season awaits. I, for one, look forward to the promised season of offensive dominance.