Don’t know how many of you know this, but we have 2 NHL teams in Alberta. Well…I use the term “NHL” loosely, but they are technically in that league. Both are very young. Both are in great situations moving forward and look like they’ll be among the league powerhouses within 2 or 3 seasons. But both are currently going in very opposite directions.
I’ll start with the Flames since I just got done watching their game against Ottawa. Now, I didn’t watch it closely. It does look as though the Flames carried the play outshooting the Sens 38-23. So that’s a big positive for them. But damn, ONCE AGAIN, and I’m going to sound like a broken record, the Flames seemed to catch a lot of breaks. Kris Russell made it 3-2 Flames on as bad of a goal as you’ll see, and they tied it on a PP that they simply had zero business having.
This team isn’t good right now. But that’s not my beef. My beef is with seemingly everyone in the media refusing to acknowledge that last season was an aberration. Even most Flames fans would admit they got a large majority of the bounces, and while I’m not a fan of the analytics community (I’ll touch on that in a bit), I do fully believe analytics are a vital tool to use when looking at a teams performance. They were awful analytically last season. Yet when seemingly ANYONE in the media is asked about the Flames this season, they all seem to think they are going to get it together and be alright.
Hey, I said the Flames would make the playoffs. But I also said that I didn’t love any of the Flames, Canucks or Sharks in the Pacific and that whoever ended up in the 3rd spot would be a reflection of poor depth in the division.
Nobody in the media wants to look at last year logically. Career years from 9 players and that isn’t including guys like Monahan and Gaudreau who are obviously still too early in their careers to call it a career year, or Jonas Hiller who matched a career low G.A.A. 9 guys! And they barely snuck in! We’re serious here that we expected another season like that and expected this team to make the playoffs?!
Some in the media were asking the question before the season if the Flames were ready to contend! Like give your FREAKING heads a shake! And I know how this looks. Oiler fan ripping on the Flames, and I’m about to praise the Oilers so I know that isn’t a good look. It’s one I look to avoid. But I’m just being honest about it from as objective of a view as I can. And it isn’t taking any pleasure in the Flames struggles, it is mostly to do with (as most of my pieces are) the media as a whole being so ridiculous.
And why is it always the hockey media?! As a huge fan of the 4 major sports, the hockey media far and away knows their sport the least. Maybe I’m just too close to it. But when you hear guys talking about how players who are only 1 dimensional snipers are among the best players in the league….like you never hear about how Chris Davis is among the best players in baseball, yet he led the majors in home runs. You never hear about how Carmelo Anthony is among the elite in the NBA, yet he’s one of the best scorers. Julio Jones isn’t going to be top 15 or so in MVP voting, yet he’s a touchdown machine. The reason is that the media in those sports understand that the impact these players have is limited. Yet the NHL media sees someone putting pucks in the net and apparently nothing else matters. Just because it’s the most difficult thing to do in the sport, doesn’t mean it’s the only thing a player needs to do.
As for the team up the highway, they are only 1 point better in the standings. And I by no means am going to suggest they are about to take off. But Jonathan Willis wrote a piece yesterday that really bothered me.
It basically talked about how the Oilers are no better than what they’ve been, and in some cases they worse this season than any of the last 5 through 10 games. Willis is a big time analytics guy. I love these guys. Willis isn’t bad, but most of them have this belief that nothing else in the game matters, you can simply read what the analytics tell you and that is all you need to go off of. As I said before, I’m a BIG fan of analytics! But I can’t stand the “analytics community”. And this article was a big reason why.
You see, all Willis did was take the Oilers analytic numbers on the season and say “they’re just as bad if not worse than normal”. Yet in the article, there was something conveniently left out. What was the strength of schedule over the Oilers first 10 games in those other seasons? I couldn’t find this in his piece, likely because it would dispel the piece. Pretty conveniently for him that this information was left out.
Had he done this….
2010-11, 7 of their first 10 games were against teams that hadn’t made the playoffs the season previous, and missed that season as well. 3-5-2 over that stretch, which easily could have been the start this season as well against a MUCH tougher schedule.
2011-12, 6-2-2 start. 4 of the 10 opponents didn’t make the playoffs that season, 4 of the 10 missed the previous season. And most Oiler fans will recall that they were getting even better goaltending to start that season than this. I want to say Nik Khabibulin’s Sv% was around .960 at one point!
2013, 4 wins in their first 10, only 1 of which was in regulation. 4 of the 10 games were against teams that missed the playoffs that season, 3 of those 4 had also missed the season prior.
2013-14, 7 of the first 10 were against teams that missed the playoffs. In fairness, only 2 of those teams missed the 2013 playoffs, but the record was 1-6-1 in the first 8 before winning in Ottawa and Montreal (Eastern conference teams, and we all know it to be the weaker conference).
2014-15, won 4 of their first 10. All 4 at home and against Eastern conference teams. 7 of the 10 games against teams who hadn’t made the playoffs the previous season, but in fairness only the Coyotes and Hurricanes were the real weak spots on the schedule.
Now finally we look at this years first 10 games. St.Louis x 2, Nashville, Dallas, Calgary, Vancouver, Detroit, Washington, LA, and Minnesota (is it awesome or humiliating that I knew that off the top of my head?) 2 of those teams missed the playoffs last year, and those 2 now lead their divisions (and while the Kings didn’t make the playoffs LAST year, I think we all know what they have done in 2 of the last 4 seasons). To this point, Calgary is the only weak spot on that list. Only 2 teams out of the East, 1 of which is a serious threat to win the Cup.
This year is FAR AND AWAY the toughest schedule through the first 10 games that this team has faced. And they have been in every game. Even the Washington game, the Caps pulled away in the end but the Oilers were hanging in there for the majority of the game. They haven’t been GREAT, but watch the f***ing games! They are a much better squad. Better positionally, grittier, much improved team speed, and more balanced. They SHOULD be at least 4-5-1 if not 5-5, but they are only 3-7. If you watch them play you can simply see they are a much better team. But leave it to a die hard analytics fan to attempt to discount that with his numbers.
The Oilers next 4 games…all at home. 3 against Eastern conference teams and Saturday against the struggling Flames. I BET their analytics are better in those games, just a hunch. If they aren’t, fine. Jonathan Willis piece holds a lot more weight. But let’s try to be better at our job, shall we? I’m sure Jonathan is smarter than that, and likely just did it for clicks which is disgusting in it’s own right, but if I noticed this convenient omission then I’m certain most others did too.
Both of these teams, the Flames and the Oilers, are on the right track to be powerhouse teams. Not just good, powerhouses. The top teams in the West. I would put the Avs in that category, but it is starting to appear that they are spinning their wheels just as bad as the Oilers have been (speaking of them, where is the NHL media now talking about how much winning helped their development?) It is ironic. The first part of this was ripping the media for standing by the Flames, the second part of this was ripping Jonathan Willis and analytics people for ripping the Oilers.
Maybe I just don’t like anyone?!
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