My post yesterday still left doubters in its wake. Surely, it has been argued, the current group of defensemen will be sufficient to make the playoffs. They're young, talented, and getting better with age and experience. The whole team improved towards the end of last season.
This has been argued elsewhere (Mc79hockey?) but I really don't believe the Edmonton Oilers were as good as their record last season. Lowe's constant talk about getting another top-6 forward makes me think that he too sees the need for improvement (with special goggles, perhaps even Prendergast could see the holes in the roster).
I had originally intended to focus solely on defensive statistics, but after reviewing the data, I think it might be nice to point out all the problems that this team's shootout record (among other things) obscured last season.
Without further ado, here are some fun team statistics, all from NHL.com.
Goals against per game: 3.01 (26th in the league, 14th in the West)
5-on-5 Goals For/Goals Against Ratio: 0.86 (27th in the league, 14th in the West)
Powerplay: 16.6% (21st in the league, 11th in the West)
Shots/Game: 26.3 (28th in the league, 14th in the West)
Shots against/Game: 31.4 (25th in the league, 14th in the West)Winning Percentage in 1-Goal Games: .641 (1st in the league)
Now, over at Mc79hockey
, there have been a bunch of very interesting discussions about the value of shots for/shots against in determining how likely a team is to win hockey games. My personal opinion, based on those discussions (largely because of Bruce's arguments), is that there is some correlation between outshooting opponents and winning games, but some teams (like the Oilers) have always won despite being outshot. That said, I don't think being consistently outshot by 5 shots/game is a healthy situation for the team to be in.
I did cherry-pick statistics, ignoring a very strong penalty-kill, because it's an area where the Oilers could conceivably win the Stanley Cup with the status quo; there isn't any real need to change things there, although I think it could improve (certain players, notably Smid and Greene, had poor performances over the course of the season).
Still, I find it hard to believe the sheer number of Oilers fans who are content going into next season with the same defense, a defense that finished ahead of only the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference in terms of goals against, and a team that scored only .86 goals for every goal they allowed, again ahead of only LA in the West. Yes, players will improve naturally; the majority of the blue-line is on the upswing, but will it really improve enough to compete for a playoff spot? And, with the rumours of Pitkanen leaving town in a trade for a forward, can anyone really see this defense, minus its most talented player, being good enough to secure a playoff spot? I certainly can't.