If outshooting your opponent matters, the Oilers are in very real trouble. After last night's loss to the Rangers the Oilers have now outshot their opponent once in sixteen games (Calgary sucks!) and have a shot differential of -9.0 shots per game. After the jump we'll look at teams who have been outshot by at least nine shots per game on the season since the lockout and see how they finished.
There are none. It's that bad.
The last team to go a full season at worse than -9.0 shots per game? The 2001-02 Atlanta Thrashers at -11.3. 19-47-16. 54 points. A goal differential of -101. So, for the sake of all of us who'd like to remain fans of this team, let's assume that the Oilers aren't that bad and that they're able to improve their shot differential. We'll look instead at teams that had a shot differential of -4.5 shots per game or worse by the end of the season. If any of those teams had success, how did they do it? Might the Oilers repeat it this year?
2007-08 Atlanta Thrashers, -8.1 shots per game. Don Waddell should not have a job. To think that a record of 34-40-8 is almost certainly better than you deserved. Their 76-point season was good for 14th in the Eastern Conference and 28th overall. This is the best kind of bad season in a lot of ways because their record really isn't all that bad, they have an exciting player to watch in Ilya Kovalchuk and they still get a top three pick. Zach Bogosian looks fantastic too. But yeah, this was a bad team.
2005-06 Columbus Blue Jackets, -6.3 shots per game. Ah, Doug MacLean's Blue Jackets, the Oilers need teams like you. Unfortunately, it seems, they are a team like you. The BJ's finished 13th in the Western Conference and 25th overall with a record of 35-43-4 and 74 points. They did manage to draft Derick Brassard that Spring, a fine young player who managed to foolishly injure himself in a retribution fight last year. For the sake of Blue Jacket fans who had to endure those Doug MacLean years, we can only hope he becomes a real player.
2008-09 Florida Panthers, -5.3 shots per game. This team did reasonably well. A 9th place finish in the Eastern Conference and 17th overall is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when it comes with a record of 41-30-11 and 93 points. So why were these guys so successful (on a relative basis)? Not because of their offense. When your leading scorer had 61 points and there was only one other guy above 50, you don't have much offense. No, it was their goaltending and defense that carried the day. Tomas Vokoun finished third in the league in save percentage (with an EV save percentage of .935) while Craig Anderson finished fifth (with a PK save percentage of .910). They had top-5 NHL goaltending for every single game. Hands up everyone that think both of Jeff Deslauriers (so far, so good!) and Nikolai Khabibulin will finish in the top 5 in the league in save percentage.
2005-06 Washington Capitals, -5.3 shots per game. Back to bad teams. They finished the season with a record of 29-41-12 and 70 points. Unlike 9th and 17th, 14th in the Eastern Conference and 27th overall is something to be ashamed of. The silver lining was the drafting of young Nicklas Backstrom who has the fortunate occupation of Alex Ovechkin's regular center. This was not a successful club.
2006-07 Washington Capitals, -5.3 shots per game. This season was a lot like the last one. They finished with a record of 28-40-14 and 70 points, good for 14th in the Conference and 26th overall. That would have been depressing hockey to watch, you know, if they didn't have Ovechkin. This time their draft "prize" was Karl Alzner who's still playing in the AHL. I wonder how Sam Gagner or (more likely since they care about size) Jakub Voracek would be doing on that club today. At any rate, these guys sucked.
2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins, -5.2 shots per game. They finished the season with a record of 22-46-14 and 58 points. That was good enough for 15th place in the Eastern Conference and 29th overall (I know, you wouldn't think someone would be worse, but there you go). That Spring they selected Jordan Staal who is turning into a pretty good player, though on his team, he'll never be more than the third best forward thanks to a couple of other truly awful years. In 2003-04 they had a shot differntial of -8.5 and drafted Evgeni Malkin. In 2002-03 they had a shot differential of -5.5, won the draft lottery and drafted Marc-Andre Fleury. And then they won the draft lottery before the 2005 draft and took Sidney Crosby. Ridiculous. Not a good example of how you can get outshot and still win hockey games (in the same year).
2007-08 Edmonton Oilers, -5.1 shots per game. Ah yes, this team. A 41-35-6 record is amazing in this context. How did they do it? Well, since it's the Oilers we kind of already know. It was with a stupid-good shootout record, Mathieu Garon leading the league in PK save percentage, a league best 25-8-6 record in one-goal games and 10%+ shooting percentages from Hemsky, Brodziak, Penner, Gilbert, Pisani, Horcoff, Cogliano and Glencross. so if we can just do all of those things we'll be good for... 9th in the Conference and 19th overall! Yeah! How lucky is Kevin Lowe that Brian Burke didn't get a lottery pick? Yikes.
Aside: people that blame Kevin Lowe for passing on Curtis Glencross at 1.2M over three years should give their head a shake. His breakout season in the minors came at age 24 and that beauty run of 13 points, +5 in 26 games as an Oiler came with a shooting percentage of 22%. He was a big physical player and I wish they would've kept him knowing what we know now but if the Oilers had signed him and he turned into Scott Fraser there would have been all kinds of lamenting overpaying another fourth line caliber player to too much money and term.
2008-09 New York Islanders, -4.9 shots per game. This team was terrible. The record of 26-47-9 was good enough to draft John Tavares first overall. Goal achieved!
2006-07 Boston Bruins, -4.6 shots per game. You'd think that as the numbers got better we'd be hitting on some better clubs. This Boston team posted a record of 35-41-6 for a total of 76 points, good for 13th in the Conference and 23rd overall. This is the worst kind of bad team since you don't even get a top end draft pick (they took Zach Hamill). They probably deserved to be worse but this was the year that the Smyth-less Oilers played the last twenty games (and that team didn't even make this list).
2008-09 Atlanta Thrashers, -4.6 shots per game. Seriously guys, fire Don Waddell. With a record of 35-41-6 and 76 points this Thrashers team is remarkably similar to the Bruins of 2006-07. They won a tonne of games over the last month and a half of the season (seriously) to push themselves up to 13th in the Conference and 27th overall. Apparently the West had fewer terrible teams in 2008-09 than in 2006-07. It would've taken a lot of losing to fall into Hedman territory but hey, at least Evander Kane isn't Zach Hamill.
So there you have it. No one is good. They all suck. Only three out of the ten teams drafted higher than 6th overall. And these teams all have a better outshooting record than the Oilers so far this season. What would the Oilers need to do to get to -4.5 on the season? Nothing outstanding really. To make it to a shot differential of -4.5 on the year, the Oilers just need to have a -3.5 shot differential from now until the end of the regular season. That seems possible. To get back to even? They'd need to outshoot their opposition by 2.0 shots per game from now until the end of the year... I think I'll stick with the first goal.