It is, once again, time to get serious about the Edmonton Oilers.
The Most Frustrating of All Teams in the History of Time on Any Plane of Existence dropped Wednesday’s game to the St. Louis Blues, beat the Stars Monday, got deluged by the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday. That’s the week that was ahead of the matchup that is against the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night and the matchup that will be against the Habs a day later.
The Oilers are third in the Pacific Division, two points out of the top spot split by the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights as of press time.
Edmonton’s not sunk. They could still make the playoffs this year and put all of the nastiness of the last several years behind them…
Then there is, of course, reality.
Despite losing just once in their first eight games, the Oilers have now lost six of their last eight and are gliding into gravy break looking like a team in desperate need of a gravy break.
This was a team that surprised us, a club that rode a wave of early success to pose as a contender.
But now we find Edmonton sitting a hair above the Calgary Flames and fissures are showing like wear and tear on a mall Santa. They’ve seen their shooting percentage take a dip to 7.1 percent over the last 29 games, a far cry from the 10.6 percent accomplishment earlier on.
Depth continues to be THE issue. Edmonton’s done nothing to address it. The sit-and-wait approach hasn’t produced secondary scoring out of nothing, with the club still relying on Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid to do everything up front. Were it not for those two and goalie Mikko Koskinen, it’s not hard to imagine where the Oilers would be in the standings.
Defensively, ‘tis confusion.
Ethan Bear has been powering the D, coming awfully close to topping 20 minutes a night at age 22 while the highest-paid Oilers defenders are averaging under 19 minutes.
Without a doubt, Edmonton is one of those bubble teams. With the holiday roster freeze upon us, the Oilers aren’t doing much of anything. General manager Ken Holland isn’t going to blow up the system with next-to-nothing for cap room. This is a holding pattern.
On the horizon are deals for Zack Kassian and Darnell Nurse. The trend for Edmonton seems to be overpaying, so all eyes will be on Holland.
But what else? The Oilers are stuck where they are, which is hardly news but is symptomatic of the level of sheer acceptance it takes to be a fan of this disappointing team. What you see, literally, is what you get. There are surprises, but things level off eventually.
There is always next year.
This time, that cliché has significance. The Oilers have a whopping 11 contracts expiring this time summer, which’ll free up some $24 million in cap space or more. And that may finally give Holland and Co. the opportunity to restructure this hurting franchise in their image.
Photo credit: NHL.com