Betting On The Oilers To Make History: How They Turned Around Their Season With 16-Game Win Streak

The National Hockey League season is slowing down to a snail’s pace for the next week or so, as teams get an opportunity to get some rest amid the All-Star festivities going on in Toronto this weekend. For most teams, this is a welcome break, where players can recover from injury, get some rest, and get fired up for the second half of the season. But for one, it arguably couldn’t come at a worse time, as it allows for one of the hottest streaks in NHL history to potentially cool down.

I’m, of course, talking about the Edmonton Oilers, who are currently on a 16-game winning streak. Let’s take a quick look at how they got here, and where this could be headed.

The Streak

12/21 @ NJ6-3 W12/31 @ ANA7-2 W1/11 @ DET3-2 OTW1/20 @ CGY3-1 W
12/22 @ NYR4-3 W1/2 vs. PHI5-2 W1/13 @ MTL2-1 OTW1/23 vs. CBJ4-1 W
12/28 @ SJ5-0 W1/6 vs. OTT3-1 W1/16 vs. TOR4-2 OTW1/25 vs. CHI3-0 W
12/30 @ LAK3-2 SOW1/9 @ CHI2-1 W1/18 vs. SEA4-2 OTW1/27 vs. NSH4-1 W

Edmonton’s wild ride began a little bit before Christmas, following a previous lengthy win streak just before it. The roots of this really go back to after former head coach Jay Woodcroft was fired in early November, with the team sitting at 3-9-1 to start the season. Following a brief adjustment period with new coach Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers went on an eight-game win streak between November 24th and December 12th, moving them back to above the .500 mark within 13 games of the change.

A three-game skid against Tampa, Florida, and the Islanders felt like a huge disruption, however, and one that could end the feel-good hopes of a rally before they truly got going. They haven’t looked back since, though, beginning their run with a 6-3 win over the Devils and never looking back.

Some have dismissed the streak to an extent due to the Strength of Schedule, specifically pointing to the amount of lower-end opponents on this list. Currently, only the Rangers sit in the top 10 of the NHL standings. At the same time, Los Angeles and Philadelphia were in much better standing when they faced them, and teams like New Jersey and Toronto are felt by many, including the sportsbooks, to be better than their results thus far. The run also features two back-to-backs and an extended road trip. Not to mention, it’s 16 games in a row. Even if you’re the favourite in every matchup, the NHL is a tighter league than most of the major sports leagues in terms of the gap between Davids and Goliaths, and it’s still 16 games in a row. Even if you’re sitting at an 80% chance of victory every night, the odds of you doing it that many times consecutively sit at fewer than 3%.

Their current run sits tied with the 2016/17 Columbus Blue Jackets, who went on a similar tear between November 29th, 2016, and January 3rd, 2017, before being shut out 5-0 by the Washington Capitals. One more win would match the 1992/93 Pittsburgh Penguins, who went on a 17-game tear between March 9th and April 10th, which ended on a tie in the last game of the regular season.

Edmonton Oilers to extend win streak to 18 games (NHL Specials)

YES +125
NO -155

Getting There

While there were mixed feelings about Woodcroft’s dismissal just before this run began to really form its roots – he had his share of win-laden runs with the team in the past and underlying numbers suggested some awful luck – sometimes a sacrificial lamb is required to shake up the dynamic of a group.

The Oilers haven’t shifted a ton systemically since they made their change. There have been some minor tweaks in their forecheck and defensive zone coverage, but most of the rest remains the same. The personnel hasn’t changed a ton, and the minute distribution isn’t dramatically different. But a new person to answer to can often reset a team’s mindset, and a dividing line can help leave a slump behind a group.

MetricPre-StreakThe Streak
Attempts For Per 6065.0 (4th)63.9 (11th)
Attempts Against Per 6051.6 (4th)50.4 (4th)
Attempt Share55.7% (4th)55.9% (3rd)
Expected Goals For Per 603.3 (1st)3.2 (1st)
Expected Goals Against Per 602.4 (10th)2.4 (15th)
Expected Goal Share57.7% (2nd)57.3 (2nd)
5v5 Shooting Percentage7.4% (29th)10.2% (6th)
5v5 Save Percentage0.896 (31st)0.939 (3rd)
Power Play Percentage27.3% (4th)26.2% (7th)
PK Percentage78.3% (21st)93.6% (1st)

It’s fascinating to see how little of a difference there is in terms of shot and shot quality metrics between the Oilers that were losing and the Oilers that were winning. The biggest jumps we see here are in their ability to finish and stop pucks. Adding an extra 3% to their sticks and 4% to their goalies’ limbs has made all the difference in the world in terms of results. Even the penalty kill, which has seen a massive leap in efficiency, hasn’t changed much in terms of how many unblocked attempts or expected goals they concede, but they’re getting .952 goaltending when down a man rather than .838 goaltending.

Perhaps Knoblauch and assistant coach Paul Coffey’s tweaks were what made the difference here, giving better looks to Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard in their own end and giving better looks to their plays in their own, but it seems most likely to be a combination of randomness coming back around and the confidence reset that came with the change. After all, these are all players who have had hot tuns under Woodcroft as well.

Skinner’s performance, in particular, a .950 run over 12 starts which has erased any concerns about his 11-9-1, .884 SV% performance in his first 22 games, appears to be the biggest difference maker in this streak. Pickard, who mastered the “uplifting and useful backup” role to win an AHL championship in 2018, seems to be doing similar at the next level with four helpful relief starts on this run, including a shutout on the 25th against Chicago.

Production throughout the lineup has also helped. Connor McDavid, who is having one of his best defensive seasons of his career, shied away from his typically torrid offensive pace to kick the year off but has produced nine goals and 17 assists over the 16-game ride. Leon Draisaitl is right behind him with 23 points. Zach Hyman, who at 31 is likely to set a career high in goals for the third year in a row, has already produced 30 before the All-Star break and has 12 tallies in this run, including a hat trick against Ottawa.

Warren Foegele, who has never eclipsed 30 points, has 15 in his last 16. Evan Bouchard has technically seen his production go down a bit due to a slump over his last five games, but on the whole, is continuing through an explosive breakout season. A lot of good things are happening here at once.

Edmonton Oilers to win 2023/24 Stanley Cup


Moving Forward

It goes without saying that the most important thing, at least to those on the outside looking in, is whether or not the Oilers can close this streak out and become the new cream of the crop. They’ll be taking on the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights for the tie, and the struggling Anaheim Ducks for sole possession of the record. The Oilers beat Vegas in their prequel-win streak on November 28th, and have blown out the Ducks twice, once in each streak, winning 8-2 against them in Game 2 of the eight-game run, and 7-2 against them in Game 5 of this one.

Our very own Andy MacNeil goes through a deep dive into how to bet those next few games from an implied odds perspective if that interests you.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, the run has afforded the Oilers a second chance at the big pre-season expectations set on them. Despite being dead men walking going into American Thanksgiving, often used as an early barometer for which teams will make the playoffs, the Oilers now have the shortest odds on bet365 to win the Stanley Cup this year (+700). Once the individual player markets open back up, I would expect to see the likes of McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, Bouchard, and Skinner getting some love, with Knoblauch likely in the Jack Adams mix.

This run also changes the dynamic for the team in terms of bolstering the lineup. While they may have scaled back their hopes of spending towards a championship in the coming weeks, their interest in further improvement has no doubt resumed, as shown with the signing of Corey Perry last week. A more serious look will likely come after the streak eventually ends, as you don’t want to disrupt a team that’s been doing this well, but I have no doubt we’ll see them in conversations come the trade deadline.

Is it premature to say the Oilers are back? I think realistically, it’s fine to treat them as a contending threat once more. This streak is obviously on the extreme of good fortune, but it follows a similar one in the opposite direction. The journey can often come in widely different bunches and what matters the most here is that the combination of the sort lines up pretty nicely with what most figured would be the case at the start. Edmonton will one day lose again – maybe next week, maybe in a couple more – but whatever the case, they’re a group to take seriously again.