The Edmonton Oilers were Stanley Cup favorites this season after their heartbreaking game seven loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the 2017 playoffs. Led by their star forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid this team was supposed to propel to the top of the NHL. Key words in there being “supposed to”.
The Oilers have been irrelevant since their 2006 Stanley Cup Final appearance which ended in a game seven victory for the Carolina Hurricanes. However, last season looked like a changing of the tides as the Oilers looked to be poised for greatness in the future thanks to superstars like McDavid, Draisaitl, Talbot, Nugent-Hopkins and Nurse. Instead, this season could be the biggest disappointment since 2006 and the Oilers aren’t even close to game seven in the Finals.
The Edmonton Oilers are 47 games into their season. They sit five games below .500 and are 10 points out of a wild card spot. They seem to be making no real progress towards getting into the playoffs but at least they are stumbling a little less now than they were at the beginning of the season.
In their first 10 games, they earned a record of 3-6-1. In their last 10 games, dating up to Jan. 22, they have gone 4-5-1 but they are currently on a three-game win streak. However, win streak or not, their play right now is not going to cut it if they want to compete in late April.
Many people are beginning to question whether or not this team is just simply destined for disappointment and it doesn’t matter how much star power they can fit into one lineup. It is clear to see that the Edmonton Oilers own the biggest downfall of the season.
This isn’t just a matter of being cursed by the “Hockey Gods” or being unlucky to the point of failure. There clearly has to be something wrong with the Oilers in order for a collapse of this magnitude to occur.
Their offense has been average but in order for that averageness to go without punishment, their defense muse be stellar. It hasn’t been anything near stellar. The Oilers have a goal differential of -18 through 47 games and although this isn’t the worst in the league, it has to quickly improve if they want a shot at the playoffs.
The Oilers defense as a whole has a plus minus rating of 2 through 47 games which doesn’t necessarily explain the Oilers lack of success but considering their offense hasn’t been firing as it should be, it certainly isn’t helping the cause.
In terms of a home ice advantage, it certainly hasn’t been present for the Oilers as they continue into the second half of the season. The Oilers are 10-12-1 at home. Rogers Place is supposed to be considered one of the most difficult arenas to succeed in considering the place is packed full of orange clad Oilers fans who will stop at nothing to cheer on their team in the loudest way possible.
The sheer pressure that this arena exudes is often too much for teams that visit as it is shaped like a coliseum and provides a capacity of 18,347 Oilers fans. The intimidation factor plays a huge role in victories at home for the Oilers. It is a big surprise that teams have been fairing as well as they have in this building considering its monstrous characteristics that can compete with any other arena in North America. Not only is it the arena that is intimidating to visitors but the Edmonton faithful add to that with their unwavering spirit that creates the booming atmosphere every night.
However, the arena and its nightly habitants are not to blame for any holes in this franchise. Injuries aren’t helping the team either. Edmonton’s 3rd place point getter, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, is now out of the lineup for the next 5-6 weeks with cracked ribs. Now their already average offense is missing a key piece and this only hurts their chances of both immediate and long-term success.
The Oilers already healthy players aren’t getting it done either. You could make an exception for Connor McDavid who has accumulated 53 points in 47 games but he is McDavid. Of course, he’s not the problem here. At least not on the point sheet.
Some would say it is unacceptable that McDavid, being the leader of this team, has let them sink this low. The reigning NHL MVP is on a team that looks no better than the 2012 Edmonton Oilers. As a leader, some could say he is to blame slightly. However, his stats would show that he is still working as hard as possible on the ice.
Presently, it’s not looking good for the Oilers. The price of a wild card spot is usually 94 points and the Oilers currently have 45 points with 35 games remaining in the season. This means they can get a maximum of 70 points the rest of the way which puts them at 115 points. This of course is if they were to go 35-0-0 the rest of the year.
In order to reach that 94-point plateau, the Oilers would need accumulate somewhere around 25 to 30 wins in the next 35 games. There are also the variables of overtime losses which give them one point as opposed to two and the fact that their own success in the standings depends heavily on the performance of other teams in the Pacific division and the Western Conference. Looking at this it just doesn’t look like the post season will be visiting Edmonton this year.
Basically, the Oilers have to be the best team in the NHL by a long shot throughout the rest of the season and so far, they show no signs of turning this boat around before it goes over the waterfall.
This has been one of the worst seasons for the Oilers in a long time considering the promise they had coming into this year. It’s one thing to fail when you are expected to but it’s another thing to fail when people all across the league see you as an elite team. There are so many questions to be asked when it comes to how this team can become successful once again.
Do the Oilers make changes to their line up? Is the problem in the coaching staff? Is the front office to blame? Is there too much orange on their jerseys? There are a million things to blame for their failures but this truly was a surprise that has left a lot of hockey fans in and outside of Edmonton baffled.
The worst part about all of this is that if this problem is going to persist with this team, they could be looking at long term issues that will stunt their growth for a long time. Currently the Oilers have 21 million bucks tied up in just two players. Those players being their two best players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
However, those contracts aren’t the contracts to be worried about. It’s the 6 million dollars per year until 2023 and the 4 million dollars per year to Chris Russell until 2021. These contracts are taking up a lot of room on their salary cap and this could very possibly end up hurting them in the future. If that cap space is taken up, it will be difficult to sign any future talent which means that the Oilers are stuck with this roster more or less.
If it turns out that this roster isn’t working out for the Oilers and it’s difficult to move any players around due to contract situations, it’s difficult to see a scenario where the Oilers are on a train towards long term success rather than mediocrity.
In the NHL, crazy things have happened. It is not impossible that the Oilers can once again shock the hockey world but this time in a positive way. It is going to take a lot of work to get out of this hole that they have dug but if they can pull it off, that would be very exciting to see.