It’s hard to imagine a sadder NHL team in the 2014-2015 season than the Edmonton Oilers. Sure, the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes are also in the running for the league’s basement. The Sabres are 22-48-8, while the Coyotes sit with a 23-47-8 record. The Oilers, meanwhile, boast a 23-42-13 record.
The issue with the Oilers is how spectacularly they manage to lose. On Thursday night, they were blown out of the water by a final score of 8-2 when they faced off against the Los Angeles Kings. And on the previous night, Edmonton lost to the Anaheim Ducks 5-1. At this point, it’s a small miracle that the Oilers aren’t dead last in the National Hockey League.
They’ve allowed an average of 3.35 goals against per game, good for last in the NHL. The Sabres have allowed 3.30 goals against per game, while the Coyotes have allowed an average of 3.26 goals against per game.
Edmonton’s penalty kill is also terrible (77.4 percent), but not as bad as Philly’s or Buffalo’s. The Oilers are right in the middle of the pack on the power play and in terms of shots against, however, but one of the major issues is that they can’t seem to hold a lead. In fact, when Edmonton scores first they only win 48 percent of the time. Only the Coyotes are worse when scoring first.
When the Oilers are scored on first, it’s over. They’ve only won 17 percent of those games, with only the Sabres proving worse when scored on first.
Unlike the Chicago Blackhawks, who are essentially lights-out if they lead after one period, the Oilers are the absolute worst in the NHL when leading after one. And unlike those pesky Blackhawks, who are perfect when leading after two periods, the Oilers will only win 67 percent of games when they lead after two frames.
What emerges when crunching the numbers is a team in distress and a team without confidence. They don’t win when they should and they can’t lock up a game when they have the advantage. All the hustle in the world adds up to nothing when they can’t hold on.
“I don’t really have words, except that it’s embarrassing and unacceptable. I think that was definitely one of the hardest games I’ve had to go through as a player. It seemed like nothing went right,” Jordan Eberle said after Thursday night’s loss. “We couldn’t make a check, we couldn’t make a save and help our goalie out with a block and it just kept piling on.”
And that’s pretty much how it goes. When you’re losing, it’s hard not to lose again. It’s hard to avoid the pile-up.
The Oilers have the star players and have had the advantage of drafting well for quite some time. What makes them the worst team in the NHL, despite the story the stats tell, is that they simply should be better than this. Look at the roster. Look at the skill, for crying out loud. This is a good hockey team if you look at the players. But something’s wrong in Edmonton, both with the team and with the culture.
Something has to change if this team is to pull out of the tailspin that’s haunted them since 2006. There’s been a lot of ground covered since the Oilers showed up unexpectedly in the Stanley Cup Final, but they haven’t been back since. They haven’t even been back in the playoffs since. And that’s just bloody sad.