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The Progress Report: Looking Ahead

by Travis Knee / Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton’s 5-3 setback last night at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens raises a number of questions as to just what the main problems with this Oilers’ team really are.

With a chance to catch a struggling Canadiens team in the standings, at home, the Oilers failed to capitalize on an early 1-0 lead and ultimately failed to produce the effort level required to crawl out of 29th place in the NHL.

Although some progress has certainly been made this season, with 15 games remaining on the 2011-2012 schedule, now is a perfect time to look at just what hurt the Oilers this year and where progress needs to be made going forward.
The Oilers' powerplay is a league-best 22%

One thing that certainly jumps out at fans and analysts alike is the reality that the team with the league’s best powerplay is also the league’s second worst team. So just how does this happen? Well in the case of this year’s Oilers, there are a number of issues that have led them down this path.

Despite breakout seasons from Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, as well as the emergence of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers are 26th overall in five-on-five scoring. With a ratio of 0.87 in that category, the Oilers have failed to play well enough five-on-five to complement their talent on the powerplay.

Unfortunately the problems don’t stop there, as a number of other areas will need to be addressed if the Oilers are to turn things around next season.

First off, this year’s Oilers allow the fourth most goals-per-game at 2.97. This speaks to the team’s struggles defensively and is definitely something of concern for the offseason. Edmonton is also 29th in the league in shots–per-game while also allowing the eighth most shots against. This directly relates to the poor five-on-five play and the Oilers will need to find better balance throughout the lineup next season if they wish to improve those statistics.

The Oilers have also fallen on the penalty kill over the second half of the season. After starting really strong in this category, Edmonton now sits 18th overall while shorthanded with an 81.7% kill rate. Although not the most pressing issue facing the team, it still represents an area that could see some progress if this team is to contend in the near future.
5-on-5 play is one of many areas that the Oilers will need to see progress.

Edmonton also currently sits 24th in the league for team faceoff percentage at 48.5%. Given how important faceoffs are for controlling the puck and winning the time-of-possession battle, ranking higher in this area has to be a concern. Subsequently, puck possession leads to more shots on goal as well as less against, thus starting to bring together the picture of how this team got to where they are in the standings.

While all of these categories are important, one statistic that may tell the story better than any other, has been the Oilers play when getting the lead. Edmonton currently sits dead last in winning percentage when leading after the first period. The Oilers have an abysmal .529% when leading after one period of play. If we compare this to the league’s best team in this category, Boston, the Bruins currently have a .909% when leading after one. There is definitely a reason they are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and a team certain to contend again this year.

As is the case with most teams, there is always a mix of positives and negatives when it comes to an 82-game season. The key for the Oilers moving into next year will be to swing the pendulum of positive categories over that of the negative ones.

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