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Compared to the Oilers' Franchise History, How Bad Have The Last Ten Years Been?

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There have been 43 seasons of Oilers hockey, how do the last 10 seasons compare? Spoiler: Not well.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Without looking at a single number you could probably guess that the last ten seasons of Oilers hockey has been worse than any other ten season stretch in the team's 43 season history. The Oilers have missed the playoffs ten seasons in a row after missing the playoffs eight times total in the previous 33 seasons, getting from there to worst decade ever isn't exactly much a of leap. Still, I wanted to know just how bad these years have been compared to the team's history, as if knowing will somehow make the last decade a little less painful.

A quick note before we get started. Thanks to the NHL's ever evolving overtime format, the Oilers have played with a number of different overtime formats during their franchise history. In their seven WHA seasons, games tied after regulation went to overtime, but in their first four NHL seasons, games tied after 60 minutes remained tied. It wasn't until 1983/84 that the NHL once again started playing overtime during the regular season, something they had stopped doing during World War II. Then in 1999 the NHL introduced the loser point, and from there overtime continued to evolve into what we have today.

So in order to make comparisons that are as close to apples-to-apples as possible, all games tied after 60 minutes have been considered ties for the purposes of this post. This isn't a perfect way of dealing with the problem but it does remove the coin flip shootout from the equation, something that can easily make a bad season look decent; see the 2007/08 Oilers for an example of this.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at some numbers. The table below was developed using the game results available from shrpsports.com and includes both regular season and playoff games. The era adjusted numbers were calculated using league wide goal totals from hockey-reference.com; this is not a perfect adjustment because of the decision to ignore overtime, but it's close enough for what we're doing here. Lastly, the table can be sorted by clicking on the headings.

Season Wins +/- GF GA G+/- Adj GF Adj GA Adj G+/-
1972-1982 -23 3169 3160 9 2368 2361 7
1973-1983 8 3406 3270 136 2525 2424 101
1974-1984 56 3661 3350 311 2691 2462 229
1975-1985 100 3884 3428 456 2839 2506 333
1976-1986 161 4068 3403 665 2955 2472 483
1977-1987 210 4267 3419 848 3108 2490 618
1978-1988 248 4401 3434 967 3219 2512 707
1979-1989 235 4344 3447 897 3181 2524 657
1980-1990 261 4437 3456 981 3235 2520 715
1981-1991 264 4395 3420 975 3236 2518 718
1982-1992 238 4299 3447 852 3212 2575 637
1983-1993 181 4032 3415 617 3032 2568 464
1984-1994 119 3757 3346 411 2887 2571 316
1985-1995 70 3395 3173 222 2661 2487 174
1986-1996 17 3170 3137 33 2549 2522 27
1987-1997 -16 2998 3076 -78 2470 2534 -64
1988-1998 -49 2789 2979 -190 2378 2540 -162
1989-1999 -56 2682 2882 -200 2370 2547 -177
1990-2000 -71 2515 2759 -244 2289 2511 -222
1991-2001 -64 2444 2666 -222 2275 2482 -207
1992-2002 -61 2303 2496 -193 2205 2390 -185
1993-2003 -35 2301 2404 -103 2279 2381 -102
1994-2004 -19 2256 2308 -52 2291 2344 -53
1995-2006 -6 2431 2425 6 2449 2443 6
1996-2007 -5 2386 2364 22 2417 2394 23
1997-2008 -18 2322 2332 -10 2362 2372 -10
1998-2009 -19 2313 2326 -13 2331 2344 -13
1999-2010 -43 2284 2371 -87 2285 2372 -87
2000-2011 -66 2240 2410 -170 2238 2408 -170
2001-2012 -87 2195 2407 -212 2196 2408 -212
2002-2013 -101 2114 2356 -242 2105 2345 -240
2003-2014 -126 2073 2376 -303 2057 2358 -301
2004-2015 -154 2049 2442 -393 2021 2409 -388
2006-2016 -181 1931 2381 -450 1931 2381 -450

There is really no nice way to put it, that table is gross. The last decade of Oilers hockey ranks dead last in win differential, goals, and goal differential. The mid-80's obviously skew things a lot, but even if you ignore those seasons and instead compare the last decade to "the little team that could" it's still pretty damn bad. This table basically shows a team that's been in free fall for ten straight seasons, and it's anything but pretty.

Another way to look at this is to look at the effect that these seasons have had on the team's cumulative win and goal totals. To that end, here are a couple of graphs for your enjoyment. To help you identify the last ten season, as if you'd need help, I've include a horizontal red line.

First goals.

And wins.

I look at those graphs and can't help but smile at the similarities between the slope of the line during the 1980's and the last decade. One is quite obviously good and the other quite bad, but there's something about it, as if the hockey gods are balancing things out, that I enjoy. It also makes me wish that I'd made this graph sooner, so that we could have celebrated the Oilers 3-2 loss to the Lightning on January 15 of last year, when the Oilers franchise record fell below 0.500 for the first time in 31 years and and 10 months.

For those wondering where the team sits today, or what the highs and lows were, I've summarized that in the table below, both with and without the WHA seasons.

Total Win+/- Max Win +/- Min Win +/- Total Goal+/- Max Goal +/- Min Goal +/-
1972-2016 -34 219 -55 236 886 -177
1979-2016 3 256 -18 322 972 -52

I can't take any more of this, so here is where we cut this off. In the final piece of this series I'll look at how this decade compares to similar stretches throughout the NHL's history. Get excited, I'm sure that'll be great.