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Auguring the Tough Start

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Does Edmonton's 3-7 start signal doom for the whole season? Or is it reasonable to expect the Oilers to recover?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

We recently did a roundtable where the writers explained how they felt the team is doing this year relative to expectations. Most people agreed that the club was doing poorly, at least in part due to a tough schedule, and that this was largely to be expected since no one really though they'd make the playoffs this year anyway.

Seems like a reasonable assessment, but what might this start tell us about how the club might do overall if we just look at how other teams have done by the end of the year with a start like this one? I'll be looking at really simple metrics to answer that question: points and goal differential. Both measures have a correlation of about 0.57 with end of season point totals so using them together seems like the right way to go. That said, goal differential makes a prettier chart, and a visual representation often helps people to see the connection, so here's what that comparison looks like over the last ten years (excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season):

Points and GD

As you may have guessed, the red dots are all of Edmonton's seasons; you can find them by looking down and to the left. It's almost hard to believe that through all of these awful years, the worst goal differential we've had after ten games is -13, and that doesn't even crack the top ten. Anyroad, the Oilers sit at -7 this year and have amassed six points. Looking back over the last ten seasons (again, excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season), this is how clubs with a similar start in those two metrics have done by the end of the year:

Similar Starts

There's a pretty wide variety in there, which should provide at least a little bit of hope for something other than a death march. The top three teams made the playoffs, the bottom three finished 28th overall or worse, and the rest were somewhere in between. I'd suggest that the average (80 points) would be accepted grudgingly as progress by most Oiler fans, even if that likely means this team never really gets into the playoff race this year. Does that seem fair, or will this team need to beat that number for you to feel satisfied with the season?