How long has it been since we first started hearing about the Oilers' need to improve in one goal games? Before they started finishing 30th like it was going out of style (it is). So, has there been improvement?
For the following data I have excluded games in which a team was leading by a goal and scored an extra one on the empty net. Even though those could be considered games that were decided by single goals, they weren't in the end. Having the extra attacker is meant to offset the empty net gamble, and figuring out how good or bad the Oilers are with their goalie pulled is an exercise for another day. I've also excluded games decided in the shootout.
Having said all that, let's have a peek at the Oilers' record in one goal games from the first time they finished 30th, in 2009-10:
6-13-2 (14 of 42 points)
In games that were won by a single goal the Oilers were 6-13-2 in 2009-10, which means that they won 28.6% of the time and collected 33.3% of the available points. That's not good.
How about 2010-11?
6-10-3 (15 of 38 points)
Once again our heros came up woefully short in one goal games. They improved to winning 31.6% of the time and collecting 39.4% of the available points, but it's not hard to see how another 30th place finish was in the cards.
Finally, here's the record from 2011-12:
7-9-3 (17 of 38 points)
Aha! A tiny glimmer of hope. The Oilers won 36.9% of their one goal games this past season and collected 44.7% of the available points.
The interesting thing is that the team actually did get better from one season to the next in games that were decided by a single goal. Obviously it wasn't enough in 2011-12 to move the needle of the standings, but it does show that the Oilers are moving in the right direction.
A winning record in games that were decided by one goal would not necessarily give the Oilers a playoff spot, but it would bring them that much closer to the dance. When your team is 22 points out of the playoffs, as the Oilers were in 2011-12, every little bit helps.