After a lengthy hiatus, a stressful offseason, and an encouraging start to the season, I figured it was about time I got some things off my chest.
As critical as I have been of General Manager Peter Chiarelli throughout this offseason I’d be amiss to not mention what I believe to be significant improvement to the Oilers roster depth.
A common refrain a receive from my friends who are leafs fans is “If players x, y, and z, are as good as you say they are, then why do the Oilers still suck”
*hint those players are Hall, RNH, and Klefbom*
My response has always been a lack of Depth, specifically on the blue line. To steal a quote from Jonathan Willis “You can’t blame Taylor Hall for the sins of Lennart Petrell.”
Since taking over as GM, Chiarelli has added several important depth players such as Maroon, Kassian, and Gryba. All of which at a low acquisition cost, on top of a significant off-season on terms of college free agents.
So while particular high-profile moves were not to my liking, I have still appreciated the improvement on the margins.
At least for the time being the overall roster turnover has proved successful. The Klefbom-Larsson pairing has been dynamite and the improved depth has helped pick up the offensive production that left with Taylor Hall. Still many, myself include still question how sustainable these results are moving forward.
Now I’m pretty sure no one expects the Oilers to continue at a 7-2 pace all year-long, but are the Oilers a playoff team? Are they a threat to win a playoff series or two?
While you may not be a believer in analytics yourself, I believe that Corsi has been properly vetted as a much more useful predictive tool than wins, or GF%. As of today the Oilers sit 16th in the league with 49.13%. I don’t know if you know this or not but exactly 16 teams make the playoffs every year. Money. Last year finished with the Oilers 21st in this same metric.
It is also worth noting that the Oilers are missing Brandon Davidson, who was their strongest defenseman last year in terms of relative corsi.
Looking deeper than just the Corsi, what is perhaps my favourite stat available, xGF%, shedsthe Oilers in an even more positive light. With an absolutely glorious 50.75%, the Oilers sit 14th the NHL. Once again this is courteous of Corsica.
For fans of perennial contenders, those numbers would seem rather pedestrian, but for our abused fanbase, this is nothing but a welcome surprise.
Based off of these numbers I would say that it is fair to say that the Oilers are a bubble caliber team for this season. Those numbers however don’t take into account the Oilers hot start. For the Oilers, this hot start could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs come April.
There should still be some uncertainty in people’s minds about whether or not the Oilers are a legitimately improved team, but these underlying numbers are an encouraging sign. So with that being said, the Oilers may break the back of Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot along the way, but this team should be improved enough to play in the Playoffs for the first time in 11 years.