Being a terrible hockey team for almost a decade impacts a lot of things. The low morale of fans, the constant trade rumors and bogus narratives, and the negative perception of management and owners are all tied to loser franchises. These are things that can easily be reversed if the team starts winning, but unfortunately, that isn’t happening any time soon.
And as the playoff drought continues for the Oilers, the history of a franchise also starts to get diminished. There’s this notion that the Oilers have been bad far past the 2006 cup run. The narrative makes sense: they were the 8th seeded team that barely made the playoffs in 2006 and beat out Detroit (1st), San Jose (5th) and Anaheim (6th) to get to game seven of the finals. Following the loss to the Hurricanes, the team went on to missing the playoffs nine straight years. Add it all up, and you could safely assume that the 2006 run was a complete fluke.
What gets overshadowed by the Oilers remarkable playoff run in 2006 is their regular season performance. While it’s true that the team finished 8th and clinched a playoff berth in the last week of the season, there are some underlying numbers worth highlighting. Here’s their overall record
|GP||W||L||OT||PTS||PTS%||VS WEST||VS CEN||VS NW||VS PAC|
That Northwest division was quite the killer that season. All five teams had points percentages above 0.500. No other division was as this tight. The Oilers needed 95 points to qualify for the playoffs and were only four points back of 5th place San Jose. The club ranked 14th on the powerplay (18.1%) and 8th on the penalty kill (84.1).
Here’s a high level snap shot of the Oilers’ advanced stats from the 2005-2006 regular season. I took into account all situations and found a comparative team from the 2013-2014 season based on rank. Regular season shot attempt data is worth reviewing, as it’s been a pretty good predictor of championships.
|Corsi For % of total||Fenwick % of total||Shot Differentials||Total Percentage of shots||On ice shooting percentage||On ice save percentage||PDO||Off Zone Starts|
|2013-2014 Comparison||St. Louis||Chicago||LA||LA||Montreal||NYI||Calgary||
Source: War on Ice
The Oilers put together some fantastic numbers over a full season, and compare well to some of the more recent top teams. The Oilers were a strong possession team over 82 games and had the sixth highest offensive zone starts. The team allowed the fewest shots in the league, but had the worst on-ice save percentage. That of course impacted the PDO, which was one of the lowest in the league. Worth noting that the Avalanche, who finished 7th overall, had the second highest on-ice shooting percentage (11.4%), while the 6th seeded Ducks combined their excellent possession stats with the sixth highest on-ice save percentage (90.9%).
Chris Pronger was instrumental in the team’s possession numbers, but the Oilers had a very well constructed roster that started with talent down the middle. They had the second best team-faceoff percentage that season (53.4%), with Horcoff and Stoll both finishing with 65+ points. The wingers took close to half of the total shots, with Smyth and Hemsky finishing with 66 and 77 points respectively. And of the top six defencemen based on total ice time, only one was under 30. Not bad roster management. Source: Hockey Reference
The weakness of the Oilers that year was definitely in goal as the club struggled all season to get consistent performances. The goaltending was pitiful with no clear cut starter all season. Only two shutouts registered in 2005-2006, while the Flames got 10 from their keepers. It was finally at the deadline that Lowe acquired Roloson from Minnesota for a first round pick and sent away Morrison (waivers) and Conklin (AHL).
Source: Hockey Reference
Piecing together these stats is really just a way to get a fair assessment of what the team actually was ten years ago. The narratives grow and evolve over time depending on the context, so it’s critical to ground our understanding of the game in some degree of quantitative evidence. A blend of the advanced stats derived from analytics with the standard boxcar numbers of the players give a much better assessment of the team’s regular season success.
If there are additional stats or stories from that season worth mentioning, let me know.
4 thoughts on “Looking Back at the Oilers’ 2005-2006 Season”
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