Yesterday I looked at the Oilers' underlying statistics so far this season to see if they're any better than last year. They're not. Well, except when it comes to their Corsi. How is this possible?
The Oilers are sitting there with a Corsi For Percentage of 50.6%, which last year would have been good for 13th in the league. That represents a massive improvement for the team, and yet it hasn't shown in the win/loss column. That's because it's probably a mirage.
Because we're only eighteen games into the season, we don't yet have enough data to draw from to judge an expansive stat like Corsi. So far the Oilers have played 856:33 at even strength, but none of those minutes have come against the heavy-hitting western teams like St. Louis, Anaheim, San Jose, Chicago, or even Minnesota, with only one game against Los Angeles. Half of Edmonton's games have been played against the East, but over a whole season 60% of them are against the dreaded West. In addition, ten of the eighteen games so far have been played at home.
The Oilers got big, inflated boosts to their possession numbers from the games against Calgary and Buffalo, crushing both in the shot attempt department by a combined 160 - 90. These are two of the worst teams in the league in this discipline. Arizona, too, is a poor possession team, and the Oilers blasted them with 70 attempts to 57 on November 16th. Almost a third of their 800 Corsi For events this season came in these three games.
Somewhat paradoxically, the Oilers have also won the possession battle in games in which they were full measure for a loss, such as against Nashville on October 29th, or against Ottawa on November 11th. In both cases, score effects had a part to play in making the underlying numbers look more flattering than the team's overall performance.
Expect the Oilers' possession numbers to fall back down to earth as the season goes along and the competition stiffens. Thus far, the schedule has been titled toward eastern opponents, including six of the league's eleven worst teams - five of which hail from the Eastern Conference. As we saw last time, most of the other underlying numbers are just as poor as last year, and we will probably see more of the same going forward.