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

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Monday, 13 August 2012

08/13/12 Can The Oilers Make The Playoffs? Part One

A lot has changed since the last time the Oilers made the playoffs. Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr were at the top of the league in points. Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals. Things have changed in Edmonton as well. Is the team good enough to make it to the dance?

Last time, I looked at the reasons some teams could drop out of the playoff picture. The Oilers will need some help if they're going to reach the top eight, but in the end their fate will be in the hands of their own players and coaches. Below is a look at one of the factors that will determine if the Edmonton Oilers can make the playoffs in 2012-13.

5x5 Goal Ratio

Fourteen teams scored more goals than they allowed at even strength in 2011-12. Thirteen of them were playoff teams. Controlling the game 5x5 is very important to a team's ability to make the playoffs, as the Oilers proved this past season. Fans in Edmonton enjoyed the third best powerplay and 14th-best penalty kill in the league and yet their team finished second last. That's largely because at even strength the Oilers weren't up to snuff, finishing 22nd in 5x5 goal ratio (0.91).

The Oilers were 22nd in the league in goals for at even strength with 139, and 20th in even strength goals against with 153. No Western Conference playoff team was in the bottom half of the league in both categories.

There's work to be done, but the Oilers aren't worlds away.

In order to move up seven spots in even strength goals for and reach 15th in the league, the Oilers would need an additional eleven tallies. Twenty more even strength goals would have moved them up to ninth. To get to 15th in 5x5 goals against the Oilers would need to allow just three fewer goals. In fact, the difference between 20th and 10th in even strength goals against was just five goals.

So it's not like the Oilers are starting from the bottom in the 5x5 goals against department. That honor belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who allowed 186 goals against (33 more than the Oilers). There's further to go in terms of goal scoring, but in theory that progress should come naturally as the kids become big guns.

When it comes to controlling the play at even strength the Oilers weren't the worst team in the league, but they also left much to be desired. It's reasonable to think that they will take a step forward in both goals scored and allowed, which will go a long way toward improving their playoff odds. Whether or not that improvement will be enough remains to be seen, and the Oilers will also have to rely on a host of other factors in order to make the dance.

A look at those other factors next time.

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