Travis Yost posted a fascinating look at even strength performance in the Western Conference in 2012-13. Travis cobbled together a moving average by game and published a graph for each team:
"I collected team Corsi -- our shot-differential metric, an excellent proxy for puck possession and scoring chance differential -- for all forty-eight regular season games. I then rolled each number through the course of the season, hoping to find some trends that may not meet the eye looking at a raw season average."
His conclusions on the Oilers:
"You look at a game-by-game basis and wonder if there was any sixty-minute window where this team wasn't getting killed...Ralph Krueger's firing was warranted."
I took a stab at explaining the Oilers' problems last season and concluded it was a failure of Krueger's new age system:
"...[this]point to a problem I'm seeing over and over again - there is no support for the centres in the defensive zone (though Taylor Hall does not abide by the system - he's all over the place), the wings are so high and wide that the middle of the ice is undefended and even when the Oilers do recover the puck or move it towards the wings, they're so far away that they can't gain possession of the puck. It happens multiple times per period."
Craig MacTavish eventually relieved Krueger of his duties (predicted by Alan Hull in the comments of the aforementioned article) and brought in Dallas Eakins to get the Oilers out of the rut they've been in. Does he have a chance?
Jeff Veillette published an outstanding article earlier this year about Eakins' background and transition to Edmonton. In a section entitled "What Else Can The Oilers Expect?", Veillette explained Eakins' defensive philosophy:
"Eakins encourages defensive responsibility, and likes to have his teams full of talent in the back end. In the three years where the team became more defensively successful, he's been able to work with multiple solid goalies at the AHL level and beyond, including James Reimer, Ben Scrivens, Jussi Rynnas, Mark Owuya, and Drew MacIntyre (the final three remain to be seen if they'll have NHL success). Rosters were usually filled with an abundance of defencemen that he would bring in and out of the lineup as the situation needed them."
This goes hand-in-hand with Craig MacTavish bringing 10 NHL defensemen into training camp and signals a change in strategy from an Oilers' General Manager, namely, that he's acting on coach input when shaping the roster. I wonder if MacTavish learned a thing or two after being handed piles of crud by his GM.
Offensively, Eakins recognized the AHL's lack of roster consistancy and avoided keeping constant lines, even when callups and injuries stayed silent. Beyond the wildly successful line of Jerry D'Amigo, Joe Colborne, and Joey Crabb that stayed together for nine games before Crabb was called up, I'm having trouble thinking of any other mainstays. He would have certain defaults that he the team was in need of a goal or had to shake things up, but wouldn't let other teams rely on knowing what they were facing going into a game. Opening lines have been often known to be thrown out the window minutes into the first period. Also worth nothing, he's had a tendency to run a five forward primary powerplay a few times, taking a dispersal guy with a good shot and letting them fire away. In the Marlies case, this was often Mike Zigomanis, on Edmonton, Jordan Eberle may see some time. To him, the concept of a 1/2/3/4 line system will fly out the window, with no shyness to dropping down a good player on a cold streak to a lesser role until he begins to contribute.
This is going to drive Oilers' fans nuts, especially if they don't have a "kid line" and a "checking line" to prattle on about.
While Eakins has a mountain to climb to get the Oilers back to respectability, it's going to be hard not to improve at even strength. The Oilers have been the worst even strength team in the league for the last six years. Five coaches later, have they finally struck upon a personnel / coaching balance?