Sometimes it’s hard to raise an issue with a team that’s 8-3-1 to start the year, even if that team’s the Edmonton Oilers. But finding fault in even the best of things is the general rule of the Internet, so it’s time we talk about this.
Sunday afternoon, the Pacific Division leaders were emphatically worked over by the Florida Panthers. The final score was 6-2 and it’s hard to say Edmonton looked at any point like the team sitting with a remarkable record right now.
In fact, they looked downright awful.
And now we know what’s probably going to be the theme of this year, which is that the Oilers aren’t much of a team without their stars. When Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, James Neal (!), and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fail to show, the wins don’t come.
You could argue most NHL teams are nothing without their stars. Many winning teams are what they are because they have a few stellar players, but winning teams are also able to find things like secondary scoring. That’s how they remain winning teams when the chips are down. They get it done.
This year’s model of the Oilers may be much improved, but are they a winning team yet? For real?
Case in point: on Sunday, seven of the dressed forwards have yet to score.
Against the Panthers, Edmonton managed goals from Neal and Draisaitl. Against the Washington Capitals a game prior, Oiler goals came from McDavid and Draisaitl with defenceman Darnell Nurse scoring his second of the year. In the two games prior to the Capitals game, Edmonton failed to find the net at all.
Is this becoming a trend? Should we be worried that the bottom six forwards aren’t getting it done?
Every team has the right to lay an egg every so often, but the Oilers have laid three in four games. Sure, we could look back on all this as “no big deal” when Edmonton spills into the playoffs and burns through the first two rounds.
But it’s also possible this stretch – just six goals in the last four games and just one from someone not named Draisaitl, McDavid or Neal – could set the tone for the whole season.
“We’ve got to find something down there to create some opportunities, and I really feel that once they get on the board, get going, everyone will loosen up a little bit,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “When you’re chasing the game, it’s harder for them. They haven’t contributed as much as they’d want, and I think a lot of those guys are feeling that pressure.”
There are bright spots galore, including the overall record of course, but there are troubling trends. Here’s one more: through a dozen games, Edmonton’s held the lead for 188:30. They’ve been behind for 195:38. That is not sustainable.
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