The last ten years of Oilers hockey were not very good. in fact they were downright bad. From the high of Game 7, even though the Oilers lost that game, to ten straight seasons that ended with the Oilers on the outside looking in at the playoffs is quite a fall. Six of the last seven seasons have seen the Oilers finish in the bottom three, this despite the team having selected first overall in the draft on four occasions; a fifth first overall pick could be added to the mix this year. There is no way to put a positive spin on the last ten seasons of Oilers hockey, it sucked, plain and simple.
I know that the Oilers have been a bad team. You know it too. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the NHL knows it. But for me there is a difference between knowing and knowing. I'm an engineer and I love numbers, and that means that I need to see something to put these seasons into context, that way I can really know just how bad the Oilers have been. And yes, I appreciate that this is likely a sign that there is something very wrong with me, but let's not forget that you're reading this too, so it might be worth considering your mental state as well.
There are three different ways that I want to break down the numbers: first comparing the Oilers of the last ten years to the league that they played in, then to the franchise's 43 year history, and then finally to the league's history. To keep things from getting too long, and too depressing I'm going to split this into three separate posts, starting first with a look at the NHL over the last ten seasons.
Over 786 games the Oilers compiled a 298-398-90 record. That works out to an 82-game average of 71.6 points, in a league where the other 29 teams averaged 92.4. Not surprisingly then, the Oilers had the fewest wins and fewest points in the NHL over the last ten seasons, as well as the lowest win percentage, the lowest points percentage, the worst goal differential, and the worst shot differential. The table below is sorted by points, but can be reordered by clicking on the headers; I find the shot differential to be particularly impressive.
In the points column the Oilers trail the 29th place Maple Leafs by 86 points, a total large enough that if the Oilers could all but one of their last ten seasons and still be in last place overall. Basically the Oilers got lapped over the last decade. Looked at another way, the difference between the 30 place Oilers and the 29th place Maples Leafs is larger than the gap between the Leafs and the 19th place Calgary Flames. The Oilers are basically playing in a different league than everyone else. And the goal and shot differentials tell a similar story.
The goals are bad but theshot differential is simply amazing. With a shot differential of -3234, a full season pace of -337, the Oilers deserve some sort of medal. The Buffalo Sabres are the next worst team on the list and they're 1253 shots better than the Oilers. Put another way, the Oilers shot differential over the last decade has been 63% worse than that of the Sabres. 63% worse than the Sabres. One more time, 63% worse than the Sabres. If you need to take a minute to let that sink in, I'll understand, it's a shocking total. Really, If ever there was an argument for the NHL adopting relegation, the Oilers are that argument.
And perhaps the best (or maybe it's the worst, I can't tell anymore) part is that things have been bad basically from the opening night of the 2006/07 season. The graph below shows the team's cumulative goal and shot differential over the last ten years, and the lines just go down, down, down. Sure, in a couple places things seem to level out for a few games, or even tick up slightly, but then it's downhill again. This graph would be funny if it wasn't so sad, or if it was the Flames instead of the Oilers.
In a couple days I'll compare these ten seasons to the franchise's history, and that will probably be worse.