Season one of being a Stanley Cup contender could, for all intents and purposes, effectively be over by this time next week. The Oilers, at 4-8-1, sit seven points behind the playoff cutline and in all likelihood will find themselves nine points back by the time they take to the ice on Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
The Oilers will play four times this week, all on the road, and failure to win at least two of them will likely put the team’s playoff dreams out of reach. The club opens tomorrow night in Brooklyn, then battles New Jersey on Thursday, the Rangers on Saturday and Washington on Sunday. Both Saturday and Sunday’s matchups will be afternoon games, so prepare for those drubbings at the hands of the Rangers and Capitals.
It’s sad, really, that we are having this conversation in early November. Many people, myself included, bought into the Oilers being a Stanley Cup contender this year. The team busted out for 103 points a year ago and made it to the second round of the playoffs, a few bounces away from a berth in Conference Final. This year the club has been slow, inconsistent and pretty uninterested. Forget the Cup, the Oilers will be lucky to make the playoffs at this point.
What Went Wrong?:
Before the five game home stand that wrapped up yesterday began, many were saying that the Oilers needed to go 3-2-0 in order to stay afloat. The club ended up going 2-3-0 and didn’t even give the crowd the common courtesy of showing up for the fifth and final game, an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.
Edmonton simply didn’t show up in that last game. Their best players looked like their worst players, and the goals against looked more like a blooper reel of mistakes from America’s Funniest Videos. In their losses to Pittsburgh and Washington, the Oilers surrendered late goals and folded like cheap suits when there was adversity facing them.
A year ago, Washington and Pittsburgh’s goals late in periods wouldn’t have meant much. This year? They were both death sentences that cost the Oilers at least a pair of points, likely more. At this point of the year, with Edmonton so far back, that’s unacceptable.
The three losses on the home stand put Edmonton’s large scale problems under a microscope. The team simply is not as mentally strong as those on the outside want to think. No, trading Taylor Hall didn’t magically make the locker room stronger, because some of the same issues from years past seem to be at work this year.
The club is playing afraid to make a mistake, not with confidence or trying to make a play. They seem to expect bad things to happen and simply are not working hard enough to make good things happen on the ice. When the going gets tough, this team simply folds. Last year, they got going when things got tough. It’s a complete 180 this year.
But Wait….There’s More!:
The Oilers are fragile right now, and all of the things I just touched on combine to give us a team playing conservative hockey and afraid to lose. You’ll never win in the NHL playing that way. They are an extremely weak group at this time.
That isn’t it, however. The Edmonton Oilers have a severe lack of talent on their roster and I believe it is the main reason as to why they are losing games and in the position where they currently are. General Manager Peter Chiarelli has wasted away talent and now, after two plus years on the job, he is feeling the impact of continual trade losses.
Sure, the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson deal made sense because it balanced the roster. I get that move and while I think it was terrible value, I understand why Chiarelli did it. It fit his plan, and Larsson was a strong piece for the Oilers last season. That said, that trade should have been a rare deal where you bleed talent out to fix a hole. Chiarelli has made a habit out of that.
This past summer he dealt Jordan Eberle, his third leading scorer a year ago, for a player in Ryan Strome that he apparently is already ready to ship out of town. Say what you will about Benoit Pouliot, but to no surprise to me he’s bounced back in Buffalo. The Oilers replaced him with Jussi Jokinen, who looks like he no longer belongs in the NHL.
Andrej Sekera is on the IR and was never replaced by the GM, while David Desharnais was allowed to walk and has played quite well for the Rangers while Edmonton’s bottom six has been one of the worst in the entire NHL. Those are just some of the talent bleeding moves that the general manager committed, and they are a big reason for Edmonton’s failure.
Wrap Up Thoughts:
I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again; it is absolutely amazing that we are in this position right now. The fact we are talking about Edmonton’s season being on the line in early November is both a huge stunner and a complete indictment of the job that management has done.
The Oilers have serious problems. On the ice they lack confidence, can’t handle adversity and commit poor mistake after poor mistake. Off the ice, their GM blatantly made the team worse this off-season and somehow created a lack of talent on a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the way.
Edmonton needs a winning streak and they need it right now. Failure to do so will have us talking Rasmus Dahlin by December 1st, not trade deadline purchases and playoff opponents like we all thought.
Something has to change, whether it is a trade or a firing, it has to happen. This team is a shell of itself a year ago and there is ample blame to go around for it.