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+/-|
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.
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 +/-|
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.