A new debate has emerged among the Edmonton Oilers fanbase. The club, after a terrific 7-1-0 start to the season, is 1-3-1 in their last five games. Frustration is starting to set in, and fans are starting to reach a boiling point of sorts. Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, losers of eight straight coming into the night, had a lot of people irked. The Oilers have scored just two goals in their last four road games, and lost to some pretty poor teams.
Detroit might be the worst team in the NHL. They beat the Oilers 3-1. Minnesota had two wins on the season when they blanked Edmonton 3-0 last Tuesday night, while Winnipeg had lost three straight at home before they beat the Oilers 1-0 in a shootout.
The Chicago Blackhawks also held the Oilers to just a single goal, defeating them on October 14th. Again, that’s two goals in four road games. That’s horrid. It doesn’t help that the bottom six is the only one in the entire NHL that has yet to score a five-on-five goal.
Some blame the effort. After all, the Oilers have completely no-showed some first and second periods as of late.
Some blame the talent. There’s a reason the bottom six is the only one in the league without a five-on-five goal.
What is it? Let’s take a look.
Effort, It Isn’t Good Enough
Effort can only get you so far, let’s start off by saying that. Here’s the thing though, the Oilers did not match the intensity of the Blackhawks, Wild or Red Wings in those three road losses. You aren’t going to be on your game every night, it’s impossible over the course of a full 82 game season. That said, this is a trend that has me concerned.
Maybe I’m off base here, wouldn’t be the first time, but it sure seems like the Oilers waltzed into the United Center, Xcel Energy Center and Little Caesars Arena thinking they were going to win on talent alone those nights. Are the Blackhawks, Wild and Red Wings anything to write home about? Not at all. I’d be stunned if any of the three made the playoffs. You still need to show up to beat them.
The Oilers didn’t bring any kind of urgency to those three games until it was way too late. In Detroit, the Oilers completely dominated the third period. The problem? They were already down 2-0 and couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole.
Same problem in Minnesota. The Oilers looked fine in the final forty minutes, but does it really matter when you are already down 3-0? Most nights, no (Of course the Wild blew a 3-0 lead last night but that isn’t the point here).
The Oilers aren’t as good as other teams around the NHL. They have a terrific top line, a decent second line, competent goaltending and a defense that, when healthy, is good enough for playoffs. Their bottom six isn’t good, and the defense isn’t healthy right now, while players like Kris Russell handle jobs that are over their head.
The Oilers need their best effort every night to have a chance. Right now, they aren’t providing that. It’s costing them points.
Talent IS An Issue
So here’s the deal, Ken Holland’s off-season bets on the bottom six look real bad right now. He stole James Neal from the Calgary Flames, and to this point Mike Smith has been good sans the Panthers game. I’m going to give Holland the Archibald and Sheahan signings too. Sheahan has been good on the penalty kill and in the dot. Archibald the same on the PK and his speed is much needed in the lineup.
Other than that? This bottom six truly might be worse than the group assembled a season ago. They have 0 (Zero, Zorro, Zilch, Nada) five-on-five goals from their bottom six forwards. They are the only team in the league that can say that through 13 games. That’s really bad.
Joakim Nygard has the only goal from the bottom six, a four-on-four tally in the second game of the season. Since then? Nothing in eleven games. It’s killing this team.
As great as Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Neal have been, they cannot be expected to carry the offense all season long. It’s simply an unrealistic request. The Oilers need players down the lineup to contribute.
The pressure needs to be on guys like Jujhar Khaira and Alex Chiasson, who are being paid to deliver in secondary roles. Both have been non-existent to start the season. Chiasson in particular has been a massive disappointment.
There are options to quickly make the Oilers a faster and more skilled team. Kailer Yamamoto, Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody are all impact forwards at the AHL level with real NHL aspirations. All three of these players should be in Edmonton by the time 2020 rolls around.
As bad as the effort appears on some nights, the lack of talent is killing this Oilers team. Peter Chiarelli left the cupboard bare, and this is not an overnight task for Ken Holland. That said, Holland’s bottom six bets are not panning out early in the season and it is killing this team.
The lack of talent needs to be addressed. Whether that comes internally (Yamamoto, Benson, Marody, Josh Currie) or via trade remains to be seen.
The Oilers can’t keep going with this lack of talent on their roster. Something has got to give.
The effort could be (and really should be) better. The talent NEEDS to be better.