Oilers On The Highway To The Danger Zone

Oilers lose

Revvin’ up your engine, listen to her howlin’ roar. That’s what it was supposed to be like this October. With an early season schedule that had a number of home dates and weaker teams on it, the Edmonton Oilers were poised to jump out of the gate and rev up the engine early, getting a cushion in the standings before the grind really began.

That five game stretch is now over, and the Oilers finished it 1-4-0. That’s not a typo, the Oilers went 1-4-0 in the “easy” portion of October and haven’t led a game since the early stages of game two, nearly a week and a half ago. In no way, shape or form has the start of this season been pretty for this club. The Oilers aren’t even in games right now, they are getting put away in the first period by lesser teams.

The work ethic has been there the last two games against Ottawa and Carolina, but it really didn’t matter in the end. Why? Because the team has continued to make stupid mistakes that lead to goals against. They aren’t getting any saves right now from either goalie and that is a HUGE issue, but it can’t all be pinned on the guys in net. Bottom line, this team is playing stupid hockey and is handing their opponent goals. It’s a dangerous recipe.

Not even five minutes into their game last night, the Oilers were down 2-0. Sure, Laurent Brossoit didn’t give them a save, but they didn’t exactly help the netminder out. They surrendered a two-on-one twenty seconds into the game that resulted in a goal, then proceeded to take bad penalties before giving up another goal. It was over before it began for the second game in a row.

Sure, the Oilers showed signs of life late in the game and ended up with 51 shots on goal, but the result was never in question and Carolina was never truly threatened in this contest. The Oilers used score effects to, once again, put lipstick on a pig of an effort.

Now the Oilers have dug themselves a hole. They are 1-4-0 and go on the road to face the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins before returning home to battle the Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals. This is a brutal stretch for any club, and now Edmonton really doesn’t have any breathing room. It’s an impossible spot.

What Is Wrong With This Team?:

I’ve seen a lot of talk about how the Oilers underlying stats look really good. Sure, they have a great Corsi and a great expected goals percentage, but I think that is very misleading. The Oilers have been playing from behind, and early, in almost every game this season. It’s not a surprise that a team chasing the game is firing shots on goal as the other team goes into a shell.

Some people are saying that those stats mean eventually things will correct themselves and the Oilers will right the ship and waltz into the playoffs. Personally, I think that is an optimistic outlook that isn’t taking all of the facts into consideration. The Oilers aren’t playing good hockey until they are down by multiple goals, when it really doesn’t matter. This team, when on an even field with other teams, has looked horrible and has been routinely outplayed.

They make stupid mistakes, plain and simple. Bad turnovers, poor decisions when it comes to pinching in the offensive zone, too many passes in the offensive end when they should be shooting and on and on it goes. The Oilers aren’t being lazy right now, they are being careless and dumb and it is costing them games.

On top of that, there are some fatal flaws on this roster. The club has absolutely no scoring or speed on the wings. Kailer Yamamoto, a rookie straight out of the WHL with no professional experience, has far and away been the best winger on the club this season. That’s a huge problem.

Ryan Strome played well in the third period last night, but he’s been a complete non-factor in every other game. Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon and Jussi Jokinen have been slow and full of mistakes early on, and between the three of them there has been next to no offense provided. Zack Kassian and Jujhar Khaira aren’t even playing physical right now, while Anton Slepyshev hasn’t been noticeable in the games that he has played.

I said it all summer and I’ll say it again, depth is a massive issue on this team. The Oilers gave away their best secondary scorer and now they are paying for it. This team has truly been a one line team this season and is getting nothing from their depth guys. It is sinking this team. Those depth issues are sinking the defense too, where Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson look nothing like the stellar duo from last season.

Eric Gryba has not looked deserving of a full-time NHL job, while Kris Russell has looked lost without Andrej Sekera by his side.

In the end, though, the Oilers are simply making too many poor decisions, aren’t getting any saves and just aren’t scoring goals. It’s a recipe for failure and it has the season in a bad spot just five games in.

Final Thoughts:

Every team will go through a bad stretch during the course of the season, that’s the NHL. You aren’t going to go 82-0 and there will be ups and downs, it is the reality of the business. That said, a tough start to the year can set a tone and can set you too far behind the pack.

To be honest, there really is no doubt in my mind that the Oilers will figure this out. Cam Talbot is too good to play the way he has, and this team might be playing stupid, but they aren’t a stupid group of guys. They are gonna figure these issues out and play the smart style they did all of last year, in the preseason and in the opener. Also, those shots on goal and scoring chances? They are gonna start going into the net.

My issue? By the time all of that happens, it could be too late. The NHL has a ton of parity and it is incredibly tough to make up ground in this league. The Oilers are only 4 points out of a playoff spot right now, but if they don’t fix things soon that gap is going to grow to ten before we realize it. At a certain point, the hole becomes too big to dig out of.

The Oilers are better than 1-4-0, I think all of us can at least agree on that. I think most of us also agree their play will turn around and the wins will soon start to come. The problem? That turnaround coming too late.

This three game road trip might not seem like much this early in the year, but it’s a damn big one. Failure to produce points, and soon, will result in this team falling out of the playoff race and missing it all together. Simply put, that is unacceptable.

The Oilers are about to take us ridin’ into the danger zone.

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