Historical context of Oilers poor start to 2023-24 season

Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers Assistant Coach Paul Coffey looks on from the bench against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers Assistant Coach Paul Coffey looks on from the bench against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

A look back through Edmonton Oilers history to see exactly how bad their start to the 2023-24 campaign is and the potential outcome at season’s end.

At the risk of sounding uncouth, the Edmonton Oilers stink right now. Nothing is going right for a team which has no confidence, resulting in repeatedly struggling to complete even the most basic of tasks.

The mental fragility of the Oilers is such, that they crumble at the first sign of even a smidgen of adversity. This team is, quite simply, broke.

The list of issues is highlighted by a look at the Oilers’ statistical rankings compared to the rest of the NHL as of Friday morning. They are dead last in team save percentage and tied second-last in goals against average, despite facing the eighth-fewest shot attempts per contest.

Want more? (A rhetorical question, as we’re going to share more statistics regardless.) The Oilers have the fifth-most penalty minutes, the eighth-worst penalty kill unit and are just 21st in face-off win percentage.

We could continue, but we think the point has been made now. Actually, on the subject of points, the Oilers have the third-fewest in the NHL, and are already 10 points out of a playoff spot with not even a quarter of their regular season completed.

Historical comparison

This brings us to the main reason for this article, which is how the Oilers’ record stacks up historically. We know that 5-12-1 through 18 games is appalling, but exactly how appalling?

N.B. The Oilers first started playing in 1972-73, in the WHA. However, we are only going to look at their time in the NHL, which began in 1979-80.

It’s the most tenuous of moral victories, but this is not the worst start the Oilers have ever had to a season. Here are the comparables to the 2023-24 campaign through 18 games:

  • 1979-80: 3-11-4 = 10 pts
  • 1990-91: 5-11-2 = 12 pts
  • 1993-94: 3-14-1 = 7 pts
  • 2010-11: 4-10-4 = 12 pts
  • 2013-14: 4-12-2 = 10 pts
  • 2015-16: 6-12-0 = 12 pts
  • 2023-24: 5-12-1 = 11 pts

Aside from 1993-94 being the worst start to a season in Oilers history through 18 games, it’s also worth noting the 1979-80 campaign, which was their first in the NHL. Despite the poor start, they still recovered to make the playoffs, albeit this was back when 16 of the 21 teams qualified.

It was a similar qualification setup in the 1990-91 campaign, which was the only other time when the Oilers made the playoffs from the seasons listed. On the four occasions since,they failed to qualify, which must make fans nervous about this season.

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Over the course of a full season

Along these lines, what are the worst records the Oilers have had in their NHL franchise history? For this we only considered full seasons, i.e we left out the two lockout and one COVID-shorted campaigns:

1979-80: 28-39-13 = 69 pts

1992-93: 26-50-8 = 60 pts

1993-94: 25-45-14 = 64 pts

1995-96: 30-44-8 = 68 pts

2009-10: 27-47-8 = 62 pts

2010-11: 25-45-12 = 62 pts

2013-14: 29-44-9 = 67 pts

2014-15: 24-44-14 = 62 pts

Unsurprisingly the Oilers did not have much success with the playoffs, only qualifying in the aforementioned 1979-80 season. In terms of this season’s 5-12-1 start, it currently projects to be their worst ever record since they joined the NHL.

With 11 points through 18 games, this would be just 50 over the course of 82 games, which would easily set a new mark for fewest ever points in a full season. This gives you some idea of just how bad the Oilers have been so far, shockingly so given the talent at their disposal.

Looking ahead

As things stand, the Oilers will need 50 points in their final 64 regular season games, to surpass the 60 points recorded by the 1992-93 team. (Although there is the qualifier that 92-93 squad played 84 regular season games.) This equates to taking 39 percent of the final 128 available points.

Certainly, the talent on the roster gives some hope to Oilers fans. However, it makes you realise how ridiculously low the bar is, when we’re simply talking about avoiding their worst points record in a full season.

Next. McDavid still favourite for Hart Trophy. dark

Overall, we appreciate there remains the narrative that it’s still (relatively) early in the season and that this is a team more than capable of hitting a hot patch and returning to relevance. (Think last season’s 15-0-1 record to finish the regular season with essentially the same roster.)  However, from a historical perspective, the Oilers are unlikely to make the playoffs this season.