The Edmonton Oilers have their fair share of flaws. They also have five more wins and seven more points this season than they had at the exact same point last season.
The Oilers are on pace to be one of the most improved teams in the NHL despite persistent defensive breakdowns, inconsistent goaltending and the massive hole in their lineup created by rookie center Connor McDavid's broken left clavicle.
Everything is relative, of course, and that's why it's fair to call the Oilers improved but far too premature to call them successful or a success story. However, the Oilers are getting closer to warranting the latter.
Four teams have improved their points season-over-season from the same day in 2014-15 to this season by more than the Oilers' plus-7. The Oilers have 26 points through 29 games as of Dec. 9; last season, they had 19 points through 28 games on the same day of 2014.
Other teams with positive point differentials based on points they had Dec. 9, 2014, vs. points they had Dec. 9, 2015:
Dallas Stars: plus-19 (44 points vs. 25 last season)
New York Rangers: plus-11 (39/28)
Washington Capitals: plus-10 (40/30)
Ottawa Senators: plus-8 (35/27)
Edmonton Oilers: plus-7 (26/19)
New Jersey Devils: plus-5 (32/27)
Philadelphia Flyers: plus-5 (28/23)
Carolina Hurricanes: plus-5 (24/19)
Los Angeles Kings: plus-4 (37/33)
Arizona Coyotes: plus-4 (27/23)
Buffalo Sabres: plus-3 (25/22)
Montreal Canadiens: plus-3 (41/38)
Minnesota Wild: plus-2 (33/31)
Florida Panthers: plus-1 (30/29)
Colorado Avalanche: plus-1 (25/24)
NOTE: The Rangers have played three more games to date this season than they did last season. The Panthers have played two more. The other teams listed are within one game, plus or minus.
Being in the top five of the above group offers a picture of the Oilers' growth under first-year coach Todd McLellan. It's evident in their improvement in the following statistical categories:
Oilers through Dec. 9, 2015 (29 games)
2.52 goals per game
2.93 goals-against per game
73 goals for
85 goals against
18.5 percent PP
80.9 percent PK
7-6-2 in one-goal games
9-6-0 when scoring first
5-0-0 when leading after two periods
6-2 in OT/SO
Oilers through Dec. 9, 2014 (28 games)
2.2 goals per game
3.4 goals against per game
62 goals for
95 goals against
12.9 percent PP
80.0 percent PK
4-5-5 in one-goal games
5-4-1 when scoring first
4-0-2 when leading after two periods
0-5 in OT/SO
The Oilers, though, recently started to see their improvement show up in the standings. They won their fourth consecutive game Wednesday. They had 18 points in 25 games before the winning streak; they had 16 points through 25 games last season.
It would be interesting to know how much better the Oilers would be with McDavid in the lineup considering five of their nine losses since his injury have been by one goal. McDavid had 12 points in 13 games before sustaining his injury.
Considering his point-per-game pace, if McDavid were healthy, it would be reasonable to consider the Oilers would have more points than their current 26, pushing their positive point differential closer to that of the Senators, Capitals and Rangers.
Dallas is far and away the most improved team in the NHL.
None of the above was written with the idea that the Oilers are going to make a push to be ranked in the Super 16 at any point this season, let alone go for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, they are three points out of a playoff position with more than a third of the season complete, so maybe it's not all that far-fetched of an idea, especially with McDavid likely to return at some point this season.
DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, the focus will be more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings. If two teams are close, the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail?
All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night. Don't ignore the scattered links to good stories either:
1. Dallas Stars (21-5-2)
Last week: No. 1
Good: They arguably play the most exciting games of any team in the League this season.
Not so good: Occasionally, the excitement stems from the Stars giving up big leads, something they've done twice this month already. They blew a three-goal lead against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 1 and a four-goal lead against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
2. Washington Capitals (19-5-2)
Last week: No. 3
Good: Goalie Braden Holtby entered play Thursday on a streak of five consecutive games without allowing more than two goals.
Not so good: Nothing. They're better than the League average in every major statistical category (wins, points, goals per game, goals-against per game, shots per game, shots-against per game, power play, penalty kill, save percentage, faceoffs).
3. Los Angeles Kings (18-8-1)
Last week: No. 4
Good: They've won five games in a row and are 6-0-1 in their past seven.
Not so good: They've done well with a home-heavy schedule; a real test started Tuesday, the first of a stretch of 10 of 11 games on the road.
4. Montreal Canadiens (19-7-3)
Last week: No. 2
Good: They're still doing a good job of limiting shots against them and creating scoring chances.
Not so good: Entering Thursday, they had lost three in a row and had five goals in those games despite outshooting the three opponents by a combined 106-71.
P.K. Subban continues to set the trends and generally be a must-see attraction.
5. Chicago Blackhawks (15-9-4)
Last week: No. 7
Good: Patrick Kane. Still.
Not so good: Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews do so many things well, but neither has scored on a consistent basis this season, and that should be alarming.
"The Great One" on a great streak.
6. St. Louis Blues (16-8-4)
Last week: No. 6
Good: They entered play Thursday as one of four teams with a plus-.500 record in games when they allowed the first goal (8-6-2).
Not so good: They were one of 10 teams that allowed the first goal in at least 16 games.
7. New York Islanders (16-8-5)
Last week: No. 7
Good: They're 6-0-2, with three wins in the shootout, since losing back-to-back games to Montreal (Nov. 20 and 22).
Not so good: Captain John Tavares has two goals and one assist during the 6-0-2 stretch.
8. New York Rangers (18-8-3)
Last week: No. 5
Good: They have played with better structure recently and have outshot their past three opponents by a combined 89-67.
Not so good: They lost two of those three games 2-1.
Here's NHL.com correspondent Kevin Woodley on a mellowed Henrik Lundqvist.
9. Minnesota Wild (14-7-5)
Last week: No. 10
Good: They've gone four straight games without allowing more than one goal in regulation after giving up at least three in five of their previous six games.
Not so good: Goalie Devan Dubnyk will miss at least two more games because of a groin injury.
Here is why Dubnyk won't play this weekend.
10. Ottawa Senators (15-8-5)
Last week: No. 12
Good: They're not getting burned despite allowing a League-high 33.8 shots on goal per game entering Thursday. They were 13-5-3 in games when they were outshot.
Not so good: It's questionable how long they can sustain positive results with a subpar shot differential per game (minus-5.7 entering Thursday). Of the 10 teams to finish a season with a minus-5.0 shot differential per game in the past five seasons, only one made the playoffs (Toronto Maple Leafs, 2012-13).
11. Boston Bruins (15-9-3)
Last week: No. 13
Good: Forward Brad Marchand is almost halfway toward matching his point total from last season in less than one-third of the games. He has 20 points in 25 games; he had 42 points in 77 games last season.
Not so good: Forward Jimmy Hayes' struggles reached the point where he was a healthy scratch twice in the past week.
12. Detroit Red Wings (15-8-5)
Last week: No. 15
Good: Entering Thursday, they had scored the first goal in a League-high 19 games.
Not so good: They had a lead after the first period in eight games, evidence that holding a lead has been a challenge.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins (15-10-2)
Last week: No. 9
Good: Sidney Crosby is creeping his way toward a point-per-game pace with 10 points in the past nine games, giving him 19 points in 27 games.
Not so good: It's been a tough week for the Penguins with the news that forward Pascal Dupuis won't play again because of a medical condition related to blood clots, and president and CEO David Morehouse had heart valve repair and bypass surgery. Here's hoping for better days ahead for Dupuis and Morehouse.
Why the Penguins will miss Dupuis.
14. Nashville Predators (14-9-5)
Last week: No. 11
Good: Defenseman Roman Josi entered the game Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks with seven points during a five-game point streak. His 21 points led the Predators.
Not so good: First-line center Mike Ribeiro had seven points in his previous 13 games, and his 15 points were fifth on Nashville.
It's not a Predators story, per se, but we'll give it a plug anyway.
15. New Jersey Devils (14-10-4)
Last week: NR
Good: Goalie Cory Schneider has allowed two goals or fewer in 14 of his past 16 starts after giving up three or more in four of his first seven starts.
Not so good: It could be a short stay in the Super 16 because of injuries to top-two centers Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique. Zajac will not play Friday or Sunday because of an upper-body injury; he was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Henrique is out Friday and possibly Sunday because of a lower-body injury.
16. Tampa Bay Lightning (13-12-3)
Last week: No. 16
Good: Forward Ondrej Palat returned to the lineup Thursday after missing 12 games because of an ankle injury.
Not so good: Entering Thursday, the Lightning were tied for 27th with 13 goals in the first period; they were seventh with 73 goals in the first period last season.
OUT: San Jose Sharks