The Edmonton Oilers again dealt themselves a bad hand, finishing 2018-2019 with a 35-38-9 record. That put them seventh in the Pacific Division and 14th in the Western Conference with 79 points – eight ahead of the basement-dwelling Los Angeles Kings.
Playoff contention was, of course, not on the table for the second straight season. They were officially eliminated April 1 of 2019 and never really held the keys to their own destiny.
In terms of goal-scoring, the Oilers sat in the middle of the pack with 232. They allowed 274 goals against, which put them second from the bottom of the Western Conference. Only the Blackhawks allowed more goals against, despite also scoring more goals.
The Oilers had four players with over 20 goals, including Alex Chiasson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl. The latter cracked 50 goals, doubling his goal production from last year. His 105 points were also a career high.
McDavid scored 41 goals and tallied a team-leading 116 points, also a career high.
Even with at least two imposing offensive talents, Edmonton continued to sink. Head coach Todd McLellan was fired in November and replaced by Ken Hitchcock, who seemed to rally the troops for a time before they settled back into old patterns.
A realistic look at the Oilers tell us that examining what went wrong is simply more of the same. Edmonton misses the playoffs more than they make the playoffs and Chiarelli’s moves made big waves, with the club essentially existing in a constant state of disorder.
Goaltending left a lot to be desired. Cam Talbot was traded to the Flyers in February. His 2018-2019 season with the Oilers left him with 10 wins in 29 starts and a 3.36 goals against average. For what it’s worth, his numbers didn’t improve in those four games with Philly. He’s now a Flame.
Mikko Koskinen did the lion’s share of the work in goal for Edmonton. He won 25 games in 51 starts, posting a 2.93 goals against average with a .906 save percentage.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that the Oilers did generate some success on the ice. Edmonton was fourth overall in hits in 2018-2019 and their power play percentage was a commendable 21.2 – good for ninth overall. They also finished seventh overall with 10 shorthanded goals.
What went wrong for the Oilers is, at this point, rather clear.
The team should be better than this, but they just…aren’t. It’s possible that Holland can generate the kind of stability and willpower that it takes to win. It’s possible he puts together a winning roster, something with some supportive wings for the team’s potent centres and something with more defensively minded players.
But there are still more questions than answers. Was the signing of Mike Smith, former Flame, a smart move or a desperate one? What can the Oilers do with Jesse Puljujarvi? Will head coach Dave Tippett be able to do the job? And how can they tilt that goal differential to something positive for a change?
Edmonton can answer some of those questions in 2019-2020, but for now the post-mortem of 2018-2019 reveals the same basic theme of the past several seasons: the Oilers just aren’t good enough.
(Lead photo credit: NHL.com)