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Edmonton's Problems aren't on Offense

CBS Sportsline had some fellow named Wes Goldstein write a column in which he makes a Christmas wish for each team in the NHL.  Apparently, Mr. Goldstein has yet to watch an Oilers' game or even take a look at the stats thus far in 2009-10.  Rather predictably, Goldstein writes:

Edmonton Oilers: Another scoring threat to take some of the heat off Dustin Penner. Edmonton has too many players with embarrassing stats.

He's parroting what many other MSM-types are saying, namely that Edmonton's problems are somehow related to goal-scoring, and that, once again, they lack players to play with Ales Hemsky.  It's the same thing that has been said since Ryan Smyth was traded, but this year, it's just not true.

Edmonton ranks 26th in the NHL in points per game.  That has little to nothing to do with offensive output.  Edmonton ranks 6th in the west in goals per game at 2.86.  That's good enough for 10th in the NHL.  That's good enough for the playoffs, and with some above average goaltending, maybe a home playoff series.  I feel like I'm stating the obvious here, but it needs to be said.  For all of the talking heads, the intermission panelists, the newspaper writers, the fans, the bloggers and the commenters blaming team offense - look at the numbers.  You're wrong.

The issue this season is team defense.  Edmonton is surrendering 3.22 goals per game, 14th in the west and 27th in the NHL -- that's draft lottery territory.  A lottery defense to go with a playoff offense.


Per Game
Western Rank
NHL Rank
Last 10 years
Goals for
6 10 2
Goals against



The breakdown is even more obvious when you compare offensive output from this year to the last ten years. This year's version of the Oilers is on pace for the fourth most prolific offensive output of any Oilers team over the last 10 years. 

2005-06  - Cup Finalist 256 3.12
2000-01 - Playoffs
243 2.96
2007-08 235 2.87
2009-10 (projected)
234 2.85
2002-03 - Playoffs
231 2.82
1999-2000 - Playoffs
226 2.76
221 2.70
205 2.50
2006-07 - 24th overall
195 2.38


When it comes to goals against, this is the worst team of the last decade.  Full stop.  The Oilers' problems this year rest solely on the backs of the team defense.   As we've have harped on since last season, this team lacks forwards that can play the game, and the goaltending situation is a mess.  It's been the same story for fifteen months and it's never been more evident than now.

182 2.22
208 2.54
212 2.59
222 2.71
230 2.80
248 3.02
2006-07 - Sam Gagner
248 3.02
251 3.06
251 3.06
2009-10  (projected)
273 3.22


This team needs to get out from under a bunch of contracts, bring in an entire line of Wes Walz', and find new on-ice leadership. Until then, 8th place in the conference is a mirage.


EDIT:  I've updated the stats in this post to include the last two games.  The story was written last week, but not published until today.  My apologies for the confusion.