Numbers don't lie: Oilers' stats show just how grim their start has been

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

It’s unclear who said that first, but the phrase was made popular by Mark Twain.

The American writer also famously said: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

The latter quote is not printed on the wall of the Edmonton Oilers locker room.

But it well could be.

Off to a miserable start with three wins in their first 10 games, the Oilers can’t think about getting ahead until they can at least get started.

As for the statistics part, well, therein lies the truth about just how bad this team has been throughout October.

Coach Todd McLellan knows that hockey seasons aren’t subject to the calendar.

“It’s not that simple, just to say, ‘Hey, it’s a new month,’ and it gets refreshed,” McLellan said after Tuesday’s practice. “You carry the past with you, a little bit. You feel the pressure, and you’ve got to go out and perform. You can’t just turn the calendar and leave it behind.”

Three home games this week

The Oilers face three crucial home games this week against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings.

With straight three wins, a tall order for any team in today’s NHL, the 3-6-1 Oilers could hit the road next week with a .500 record, and perhaps begin to make liars out of their critics.

Three losses would shake Oilers Nation to its foundation.

After practice, Oilers captain Connor McDavid was asked if the players have reason to believe they’ve finally found a way to turn their season around.

“No one has lost any faith in here,” he said. “We’ve got skill in this room. We showed it last year. We’ve just got to find it and get going together. Some days, one line’s going or another line’s going, and another one’s not. And that can be frustrating for sure. But we’re a really good team when everyone is going.”

For the moment, then, let’s ignore the lies and the damned lies and look at the statistics over the first month of the season.

They are, on Halloween or any other day, grim.

The Oilers sit dead last in total goals and in goals per game. The team has scored 22 times in its first 10 games, an average of 2.2 per night.

Only five players  — captain Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Letestu and defenceman Adam Larsson — have scored more than once.  

On the other side of the ledger, they are ninth in goals against, giving up an average of 3.3 per game. It doesn’t take a degree in advanced calculus to know that two minus three is not a positive sign

The powerplay is tied for second-worst, at 12.1 per cent. Only Columbus has done worse with a man advantage.

The Oilers penalty kill is second-worst in the league, at 70.3 per cent.

The team is generating 37.7 shots per game, just below the league leading pace of the Montreal Canadiens. But the shooting percentage is a paltry 5.8, about four points below the league average.

New lines, new pairs, new powerplay

Given all of that, coach Todd McLellan threw the whole mess into the blender this week and came up with a new concoction.

The forward lines now look like this:

  • Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl
  • Milan Lucic-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Kailer Yamamoto
  • Iiro Pakarinen-Mark Letestu-Zack Kassian
  • Drake Caggiula-Ryan Strome-Anton Slepyshev

Darnell Nurse will move up to the top defensive pair with Adam Larsson, and Oscar Klefbom will shift down to play with Matt Benning.

Nurse, who has played very well over the last few games, said the team understands it has to play with more urgency.

“We’ve got to put the past behind us and move forward,” he said. “Each and every night needs to be just as important as if we were fighting for a playoff spot at the end of the year. We have to play with that kind of intensity, night in and night out.”

New powerplay units — with McDavid and Draisaitl split up — are expected to be rolled out Wednesday against Pittsburgh.

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