a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

Welcome to Oil Acumen. All Oilers, all the time... Occasionally other stuff.

Monday, 17 October 2011

10/17/11 Glimpses

Are we seeing a glimpse into the future of the Edmonton Oilers? The Oilers came out and played an almost perfect game on Monday night, which is something that hasn't happened in Oil Country since... Well, since... Hmm...

The photo of Ryan Smyth above came from the last time the Oilers were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The blast from the past is injecting some life into this team, and he's teaching the kids all the right habits along the way. Here are some other notes from the game:

Jason Gregor made a great call when he predicted that Nugent-Hopkins would improve his faceoff stats in Game 4. Gregor thought RNH would win 5 of 11 draws, while in actuality the youngster won 5 of 12. That's a large improvement over his 2 for 15 showing on opening night, just 3 games ago. Before the Draft, people said that there was nothing that Nugent-Hopkins couldn't do once he put his mind to it, and he's made strides in proving those people right when it comes to his only real weakness in faceoffs. He's now a modest - but improved - 24% overall.

- The last time the Oilers limited an opposing team to 12 shots on goal was way back on March 1st of 2006 in a baffling 4-2 loss to St. Louis. The Oilers have now outshot the opposition in 3 of the 4 games to start the season.

- In 2009-10 the Oilers started the season 2-1-1, which lead many to believe that the team was playoff bound. They ended up finishing 30th and selecting Taylor Hall. Some key differences between this team and that team? Most important are the resulting 1st overall picks that came from those 30th place finishes, but here is some raw data:

In those first 4 games of 2009-10, the Oilers outshot the opposing teams just once; in a 4-3 loss to Calgary. They mustered 105 total shots on goal over those four games, and allowed 118. So far this season the Oilers have 112 shots on goal and have allowed 107.

The Oilers have been shorthanded 20 times and allowed 3 PP goals against (PK of 85%). In the first four games of 2009-10 the Oilers were shorthanded 15 times and allowed 4 PP goals against (PK of 73.3%).

The point here is that the underlying flaws in the team were present even while it was winning back in 2009-10. The Oilers started that year 6-3-1 despite only outshooting the opposition once in that span. So far this year the underlying stats are more favorable. Of course there's no guarantee that the trend will continue, but getting Gagner and Whitney will almost certainly make the Oilers better.

- Horcoff and Belanger are both North of 60% in the faceoff circle. Having Belanger on board means that Horcoff doesn't have to take all of the difficult draws anymore, which can only help him. So far he's at 62.6%. Belanger has been a massive addition for the penalty kill, and Steve Tambellini gets a gold star for picking him up. The former Coyote spent 4:03 on the PK in Game 4; more than any other Oilers player. Nashville's powerplay went 0 for 5 on the night, and the last three opportunities didn't even result in a shot on the Oilers' goal.

- Ryan Suter played 28:17 in this game and was strong for almost all of it. He took two penalties, but despite playing nearly half the game he ended up Even on the night. Sound like someone the Oilers could use? Nashville has the look of a team that isn't going anywhere this season, and if they don't make the playoffs or exit in the first round, Suter might jump ship via Unrestricted Free Agency. This will be the year that UFAs start looking at Edmonton as a realistic option, but Suter might price the Oilers out of the market for him. If he wants Shea Weber money - a $4 million bump from his current stipend, up to $7.5 million - the Oilers would be wise to let him sign elsewhere. All these kids are already going to need raises in a few short years.

- As great as this win was, it's important to remember that it's only Nashville. They can't score at the best of times, and Martin Erat and Mike Fisher were both out with injury. The real test is tomorrow. Not because Calgary is any good, but because it'll be a hard fought affair and the Oilers will be a little tired. If we see an effort that even approaches what we saw tonight, it may signal the start of something special.

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