The deck has been stacked against them from the start. They’ve only had the first pick in the draft four of the last six years. They have one of the most sought-after coaches in the league, and the kid hailed as the world’s next generational talent. How could they ever succeed in the modern NHL?
I repeat: the deck has been stacked against them from the start.
Well, fear not, Edmontonians: the night is always darkest before the dawn, and also for about seven to eight hours before that. It’s really dark at night, and sometimes the night feels like it goes on forever when you can’t sleep. It’s so long; why can’t I sleep? What was that noise? Is someone in the house? Did I lock the door? I feel like I should check.
At any rate, here are some Depressing Signs the Oilers Are Actually Improving™:
Their 134 even-strength goals were the most the team has scored since the 2011-12 season.
It was tied for 20th in the NHL, but it was still their best in a long time. What’s that smell? It’s Stanley Cup polish. Get your microfiber cloth ready, Phil Pritchard. The Cup needs a one-way ticket to the Big E.
They moved up to 29th in points in the NHL this season.
This is a significant victory for a team that was 30th just one year ago. By my math, just 28 more years until they’re the best team in the NHL. Connor McDavid will be 47 by then, and smashing Jaromir Jagr’s records. Oilers fans will still be complaining about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and discussing how they should trade Nail Yakupov.
They allowed 170 even-strength goals.
That was the worst in the NHL, but it’s 27 fewer goals than they allowed last year, and eight fewer goals than they allowed the year before that. We’ll call that the Peter Chiarelli Bump.
Their 48 percent Corsi For percentage (meaning they took 48 percent of even-strength shot attempts during their games this season, while the opposition took 52 percent) is their best CF percentage since 2005-06, the last time they took more shot attempts than the opposition.
It’s not really that important to have more shot attempts than the opposition, no matter what the nerds say. Colorado made the playoffs just fine in 2013-14 and Calgary did in 2014-15. It worked out great for them, what with no championships. What could go wrong?
Their 7.3 percent shooting percentage is the second-worst even-strength shooting percentage since 2005-06.
It has to get better. It’s just got to! Get psyched, Edmonton!
They’ve got some decent goaltending, kind of.
Their .915 even-strength save percentage was their fourth-best mark since 2005-06, and their best since the 2012-13 season. It was the third-worst mark in the league, but it was personal improvement. If they were a summer-camp attendee, they’d get a “Best Attitude” or “Most Improved Swimmer” award. Don’t rain on their game of Red Rover. They were worst in the league the year before.
Their 12-23-6 record on the road was the league’s worst road record. On the upside, their home record ranked 21st in the league. On the more upsidier-side, they only won nine games on the road the prior year.
That was good for 28th place, in a year when tanking was en vogue (we see you behind that statue of Jack Eichel, Buffalo). Hopefully they remember their new arena, Rogers Place, is home next season. That way they don’t play all 82 games on the road.
They won four of seven shootouts.
That’s 13th-best in the league. Hello, top half! We’ll take the keys to the secret playoff club now, thank you! The last time they had a winning record in shootouts was… 2013-14. So, not that long ago. That’s fine, though. Success breeds success! This is a hugely important stat. You can tell because five of the top seven teams in this category were Toronto, Columbus, Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal. You know, pillars of success.
It’s clear from these stats: the Oilers are a team on the rise. Look out, world!
Dustin Nelson is going to be the best hockey writer in the world really soon. You should follow him on Twitter.