Oilers Looking Better Than Last Season

Originally part of the Good, Bad and Ugly post over at The Copper & Blue.

Coming off of a shootout win against the Islanders, the Oilers have now collected 17 points (0.708 points percentage) and sit on top of the Pacific Division, five points ahead of the Sharks, Ducks and Kings. Their +8 goal differential (all situations), ranks them third in the Western Conference, only behind Chicago (+12) and Minnesota (+11). After scoring twice on the powerplay in three attempts, the Oilers now rank 15th in the league with the man-advantage with 19.4%. They also rank 2nd overall when it comes to the penalty kill, sitting at 91.7%. Special teams performance fluctuates throughout the season, but that’s a nice way to end the week.

This team might cool off over the course of the month, especially with a tougher schedule coming up, but up until this point the Oilers are actually posting some numbers that indicate that they might be contending for a playoff spot in March. The Oilers rank 16th in the league when it comes to score adjusted Corsi For percentage (CF%), at 49.27%. This is up by a 1.18% from last season, when it was 48.09%, 20th in the league. (Source: Natural Stat Trick)

Why is Corsi For percentage important this early in the season? Because, as Charlie O’Connor of Broad Street Hockey demonstrated recently, it’s a good predictor of rest-of-season Corsi For percentage. And Corsi For% over a number of games is a good predictor of goals, which I hear is important for winning games. Here’s a list of the top 10 teams from 2015/16, ranked by their adjusted Corsi For percentage.

Los Angeles Kings 56.85
Anaheim Ducks 53.07
Pittsburgh Penguins 52.92
Nashville Predators 52.73
Dallas Stars 52.66
Tampa Bay Lightning 52.65
St Louis Blues 52.38
San Jose Sharks 51.9
Detroit Red Wings 51.78
Washington Capitals 51.52

We can also have a little more confidence that we’re looking at the ‘real’ Edmonton Oilers now as their PDO sits at 100.3. Both their shooting percentage (7.87%, 15th) and team save percentage (92.41%, 14th) at even-strength is right around league average again.

Having a CF% of 49.27% puts them right around where some of the playoff bubble teams, like Boston, Philadelphia, New York Islanders and Florida, were sitting last season. This doesn’t guarantee teams anything, but it increases their chances of making the playoffs considerably by having good possession numbers. Carolina, for example, had a great possession numbers throughout last season, but they also had the second worst team save percentage. Toronto was in a similar situation as they did well possession-wise, but they were sunk by poor goaltending and the worst shooting percentage at even-strength. The Oilers are a in a good spot with good goaltending from Cam Talbot (as long as he stays healthy), and enough skill up front to finish their scoring chances. If they can maintain a good CF%, by using the right on-ice tactics and deploying players properly, they should be able to compete for a playoff spot.

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