With wins finally coming in consistent numbers, the Edmonton Oilers may not be quite where they’d like to be in the Western Conference standings, but the team would agree things could be a lot worse.
Now that some semblance of order has been established and most of the team is healthy (well, as healthy as the Oilers will ever be), the next step to climbing the rungs of the West is for the team to shore up some of its intangibles. The Oilers must delve deeper than ‘Ws’ and ‘Ls’ and move into the more arcane, yet still important statistics.
Giveaways are a perfect example. Edmonton currently sits second-last in the NHL with 399 – only the Montreal Canadiens are worse (469) – and with young goaltender Jeff Deslauriers carrying the load until Nikolai Khabibulin returns from injury, the motivation not to turn the puck over should be paramount. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this statistic is that the Oilers only have one player in the top-30 of the league in individual giveaways – defenseman Jason Strudwick, with 30 through his first 30 games – so unfortunately, this is a team-wide problem.
The other major leak in the ship right now is faceoff win percentage. Again, Edmonton ranks near the bottom of the NHL with a success rate of just 46.7 percent, which puts the Oilers 28th overall in proficiency. The best faceoff man on the team has been Sam Gagner, who clocks in at 49.2 percent – and as simple math would dictate, that still means he loses more draws than he wins. When games get tight and the clock is a factor, a blown draw can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
Although there are many factors that go into the results of a hockey game, it’s important to look into the little things and see where a team can tweak. After all, it’s been standard for the playoff races in both conferences to come down to one point and even sometimes a tiebreaker since the lockout and it’s the boys who are golfing while others are still skating in search of Stanley who are wondering what might have been.
Now that the Oilers have righted themselves, peaking into the intangibles should be the next order of business.
This article also appeared in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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