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Looking into the teams who have also started poorly but managed to finish well.

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

My colleague here at C&B Scott Reynolds put together an insightful post yesterday comparing previous teams that mustered 6-7 points in the first 10 games and had goal differentials similar to what the Oilers have this season. The good news, as Scott found, is that teams have bounced back from poor starts to at least compete for the playoffs. But before holding out hope for the 2015/16 Oilers, I decided to look into some of the high level performance metrics including possession, shooting percentage and save percentage (at even-strength) for these comparable teams in their first 10 game segments (Source: War on Ice).

Team Corsi For% Shooting % Save % Points (10 games) Points (Season End)
New York (2007/08) 53.2 4.1 94.8 7 97
Calgary (2006/07) 50.9 7.9 92.6 7 96
Philadelphia (2013/14) 48.1 6.0 92.9 6 94
Minnesota (2009/10) 49.8 4.1 88.0 6 84
Winnipeg (2011/12) 51.4 9.6 89.2 7 84
Phoneix (2005/06) 51.2 7.9 92.4 7 81
Carolina (2009/10) 54.4 6.3 89.3 7 80
Columbus (2006/07) 43.4 7.7 90.8 7 73
Edmonton (2013/14) 45.8 10.6 90.2 7 67
Chicago (2005/06) 58.4 8.8 87.9 6 65
St. Louis (2005/06) 48.0 11.0 87.7 6 57
Edmonton (2015/16) 45.9 8.0 90.9 6 ???

Findings

The Rangers and Flames clubs that started slow but still got 90+ points had  good possession numbers in the first 10 games, and finished the season with strong numbers. Their goaltending was good, but their shooting percentage was below average (usually around 7%), so maybe they were primed for a bounce back. The Flyers weren't great possession-wise in those first 10 games, but they did have a Corsi For% of 50.2% over the remaining 72 games, en route to a 94 point finish that season.

Three of the four teams that started their seasons off poorly but finished between 80 and 89 points had a Corsi For% above 51.2% in their first 10 games. The fourth club was just under 50%. It appears that Minnesota was sunk by bad goaltending in those first 10 games, but managed to bounce back to finish with 84 points.

And finally, the four teams that started the season poorly and finished poorly (securing less than 74 points) had poor possession numbers in those first 10 games, with Chicago being an exception, along with sub-par goaltending. Should note that the Blackhawks' Corsi For% dropped slightly to 51.4% over the remaining games with the goaltending continuing on as a main culprit for their demise.

What does this mean for the 2015/16 Oilers?

The underlying numbers, as listed in the table above, tell us that the Oilers are a poor posession team that has a lot of work to do. This includes not only improving the roster, but also limiting shot attempts and high danger scoring chances. The team shooting percentage is about where it should be and there should be no issues there considering the talent we have up front. The team save percentage is below average, and needs to be better over the remaining 72 games. Fully integrating McLellan's systems along with adding a defenceman (or two) could make the team drastically better. But until those two requirements are met, the Oilers appear to be headed down the same path as the 2013/14 Oilers.