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A few days ago I did a casual exercise of what it would take for the Oilers to achieve a neutral goal differential next season (the bare minimum requirement in order to be a playoff bubble team).
As daunting as it may sound to do that after a -83 goal differential (including ENG), it’s not as unlikely as you might think. The Oilers were absolutely torched by horrendous goaltending behind an abysmal defense (though as I’ve pointed out before, even when accounting for the defense, the goaltending sh*t the bed in a big way).
Modest improvements in those areas alone would have a huge potential impact.
To reach a neutral goal differential, the Oilers need “only” do the following:
- Reduce shots against by a shot per game (this would jump them about seven to eight spots in the rankings, and is in line with their early season results)
- Increase shots for by one shot per game (this would jump them about six spots in the standings, and is in line with their early season results).
- Increase their all situations shooting percentage to about 8.8% (a jump of five spots, to just below average, and still less than their results the previous season, when they were at 9.0%)
- Increase their save % from a league-worst-by-far 0.888 to about 0.910, about average to slightly below average.
That gets you to just shy of zero.
Not a bunch of radical improvements. Just average goaltending and moderate improvements in their overall game. Now of course, you might think it impossible that such changes occur all at the same time.
I do think it’s possible, for the following reasons:
- Shots on goal: I think the increase of one will (easily) happen just as a result of the McLellan power play. We already saw that with the Nelson power play, and I expect TMc will match that.
- Shots against: this might be tougher to achieve, but with the forwards playing a TMc 200 foot game, plus sensible roster decisions on the defense, plus a couple of guys on the bottom pairing (I’m betting on two of Gryba, Reinhart, and Nurse over Nikitin, Ference, Hunt, and the not dearly departed Aulie) that can actually play defense could make this happen.
- Sh%: with this much talent and Todd McLellan’s aggressive game planning, I think having the sh% regress to average, especially on the power play, is pretty conservative.
- Sv%: this might be the big question mark. I hope we get elite goaltending out of Talbot, and a rebound from Scrivens giving above average backup goaltending. Getting to .910 ought to be no problem if that’s the case. It’s close to what Buffalo achieved behind their even larger tire fire. But the whole year will likely hinge on goaltending more than anything else.
Anyway, that’s *my* take on the possibilities for next year. I’m still not convinced this is a playoff roster, but I think if the goaltending holds, the team will be playing meaningful games well into the New Year. And if Chia Pete can add one more legit Top 4 defender, it probably is a playoff roster.
However, I’m interested to see what you have to say. So I’ve put together a survey where I’ve captured the key changes (so far) from last year to this year. The challenge for you (should you wish to take this mission) is to estimate what the changes in goal differential will be as a result.
My intention is to take the overall results and make a crowdsourced prediction about the goal differential for next years Edmonton Oilers.
If you’re interested, take the survey here, it will take just a couple of minutes:
I’ll publish the results once the survey reaches its limit (100 respondents), or one week, whichever comes first.