The Edmonton Oilers were not a very good team last year. Yeah, the goaltending was really bad, but really, the whole team was bad. They were terrible on the power play, they were poor penalty killers, and they were awful at even strength. The 2010-11 season was a lot more hopeful than 2009-10 because we were watching the young men of the future, but in some ways, the team was actually worse. One of those ways was the possession game at even strength where the club went from generating 44.9% of the Fenwick events (shots on goal + missed shots; data from Vic Ferrari's timeonice.com) with the score tied - which is really terrible - to generating 43.7% in 2010-11.
In some ways, that level of bad is a blessing. In the last three seasons, no team has been worse by that measure, which means that with marginal improvements (check!) the team is virtually guaranteed to be better (hooray!). But how much better? There's a rather large gap between 43.7% and 50.0%, better known as, "average". How many teams have made that kind of improvement in the last couple of years? I thought you'd never ask!
Not very many. One team each year that rockets upward, and three or four each season that show the kind of improvement the Oilers will need to be respectably below average. The good news is that it's possible. The bad news is that it's not bloody likely, and when you combine the need to have an improbable improvement at even strength with the need for substantial improvements in goal and on special teams just to be average in each category, you can see why most folks think that this is going to be a pretty bad team. But like I said in the title, the team is pretty much a lock to be better than last year... Positivity!