It's that time again! Let's look at how the Oilers are doing after 62 games and compare it to how they were doing after 62 last year. Are they better this year? Is there a light at the end of this long, long tunnel?
First thing's first: the record. Last year after 62 games the Oilers had a record of 20-34-8 (48 points) and were 30th in the NHL, but this year they're sitting at 25-29-10 (60 points) and 29th. Let's face it, that sucks. But when it comes to the Oilers, it's real, tangible improvement. It's up to the individual to decide whether they're happy that things are better or appalled that it's going to be six straight years out of the playoffs. Considering that the Oilers didn't improve in any meaningful way last year and finished 30th for a second straight season, things appear to be looking up.
The Oilers won just 25 of the 82 games on the schedule last year, but they've already* won 25 of the 62 they've played so far in 2011-12.
So here's the breakdown season over season after 62:
- The Oilers scored 155 goals
- Allowed 201 goals
- A goal differential of -46
- Fired 1648 shots on goal
- Allowed 1964 shots on goal
- Scored 30 powerplay goals
- Allowed 57 powerplay goals
- The Oilers have scored 164 goals (15th in NHL)
- Allowed 180 goals (21st in NHL)
- A goal differential of -16
- Fired 1673 shots on goal (29th in NHL)
- Allowed 1923 shots on goal (21st in NHL)
- Scored 48 powerplay goals (2nd in NHL)
- Allowed 40 powerplay goals (18th in NHL)
As we've seen all season, the Oilers are better in every facet listed here, but the degree to which they have improved varies widely. Edmonton still isn't shooting enough and they're allowing too many shots on goal. The success of this team going forward looks like it will hinge on the Oilers using their speed to draw penalties and punish the opposition on the powerplay. At least until the kids can also dominate at even strength, that is.
When you frame it that way, it makes a little sense to have acquired a pure shutdown defender at the deadline, because too often this season the good work that has been done by the kids and the powerplay has been undone by poor own-zone play. I'm still not convinced that Schultz is an improvement over Gilbert in any meaningful sense, but as recently as last season he was facing the toughest competition of any Wild defenseman with some very difficult zone starts and managing to flourish.
Ironically, the fact that the Oilers aren't shooting enough is also a measure of their need for a puck moving defender in addition to Schultz. Whitney is very good when he's healthy, and Petry is rounding into one as well, and not a moment too soon. Those two will be a huge part of the back end in the future. There's still a need to add another true number one guy who would push everyone down the depth chart and into positions where they could (theoretically) be more dominant. A strong push for Suter in the off season wouldn't hurt, as long as they don't overpay.
David Staples at the Cult of Hockey wondered aloud if the Oilers are on the rise because of their improvements on the powerplay and in scoring chance plus/minus. The answer is yes, they are on the rise from where they were. How far up the ladder they go remains to be seen.
* "already!" Hahahaha.