I have a bad feeling about this

Jonathan Willis
October 26 2013 05:33PM

The Edmonton Oilers had a pretty decent game. Really they did. Scout's honour. 

They lost anyway, and that's getting to be an ugly trend.

The Loss To Phoenix

Dallas Eakins said basically the same thing after the game.

Eakins avoided placing blame on goaltender Jason LaBarbera, instead saying that the Oilers need to get better at blocking those point shots. While that may be true, and it's certainly true that some of those outside shots were deflected, LaBarbera allowed four of five goals from far outside the scoring chances area.

And, just to add injury to insult, Tyler Pitlick scored his first NHL goal but then left the game on crutches after taking an awkward hipcheck. 

A one-goal loss to Phoenix isn't a huge deal, but the trouble is that the hole the Oilers are in gets deeper by the day.

The Problems

  • Over the last five seasons (including pro-rating Minnesota's 2012-13 pace) the eight place team in the Western Conference has averaged between 94 and 95 points. That means the Oilers need to record something like 88 points over their final 70 games - which assuming an average rate of overtime losses works out to a 40-22-8 record the rest of the way. Even if you believe (as I do) that the Oilers are significantly better than the record to date, that's a lot of ground to make up.
  • The goaltending has been flat-out bad. Devan Dubnyk seems to have rediscovered his form of the last few seasons, but Jason LaBarbera has yet to have a good game for Edmonton. At age 33 he's a little young to be losing it, so there's got to be at least a decent chance he bounces back but it's been ugly so far. I do think the Oilers move to add a goalie at some point but for right now the most important thing is Dubnyk playing as well as his long-term track record says he should.
  • The injuries up front are getting silly. As Bob Stauffer tweeted after the game, Pitlick is the ninth forward on an NHL contract to be out. He joins Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth, Jesse Joensuu, Ryan Hamilton, Steve MacIntyre, Ryan Martindale and Curtis Hamilton. If I had to guess I'd say Linus Omark is the next call-up; remarkably the Oilers will still have two plausible call-ups on the farm (Anton Lander and Andrew Miller) if they make that choice.
  • The penalty kill is a major concern, too. No team in the NHL is as likely to allow an opposition shot attempt 4-on-5 as the Oilers. It's not just a case of the goalies needing to stop more shots (though that has been a factor); it's a case where the entire unit just hasn't been good enough. I can't help wondering if the decision to work in a bunch of skill guys into the rotation is part of the problem here; the Oilers are leaning pretty heavily on inexperienced personnel. 
  • I'm less worried about the power play. A year ago, the Oilers scored on 16.9 percent of the shots they took (while not really generating a lot of shots); this year shot generation is up but the Oilers are clicking at just a 6.6 percent rate (meaning that any shot last year was more than twice as likely to be a goal as any shot this year).

Add a deep hole early in the year to a bunch of injuries to bad goaltending to struggling special teams and the Oilers chances of coming away with a playoff berth this season look pretty grim. Some of it will self-correct (the power play and possibly the goaltending), some of it needs help from the coaches (the penalty kill) and some of it (the injuries and the early hole) just needs to be overcome.

Put it all together and this looks like a season on its way to going pear-shaped, despite the team as a whole being significantly better than it was a year ago.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#101 madjam
October 26 2013, 06:06PM
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Well it could be worse , if our goalies had not stole 3 wins and a tie for us . Offense isn't a big problem either . Defence sucks despite number of shots blocked . and swarm system (the culprit defensively) is killing us defensively . It does not work defensively for our personnel make up . You cannot expect our club to average over 4 goals a game just yet . but they have to adopt another system defensively or trade for a couple of defenceman that are adapt at that system .

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#102 Rama Lama
October 26 2013, 07:36PM
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The Oilers are on the verge of something big. Yea a little adversity goes a long way.........the best is yet to come.

POSITIVES:

We are the best conditioned team in the NHL. We have a coach that does NOT need systems in order to succeed. The Oilers has some of the best trainers in the NHL. The Oilers no longer serve donuts to the media......JW has lost weight as a result. Katz is starting to wonder if 6 rings is wee-todd-did! We will be able to get another top five pick this year!!!........yipee! The best is yet to come! THe NYI are starting to look real good!

See the glass is not half empty.

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#103 madjam
October 26 2013, 11:04PM
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bwar wrote:

TRADE EVERYONE. The only logical solution.

We basically did that , and ushered in the so called rebuild . Got basically nothing for them and we are still reeling in cellar ever since .

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#104 pkam
October 26 2013, 11:19PM
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Dustin Terpstra wrote:

What rookie is getting 6mill a year max?

You know Acrobello is making 600K. I think max w needs a pair of glasses, he seems to accidentally count one more zero.

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#105 Zamboni Driver
October 26 2013, 11:22PM
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@Walter Sobchak

Well, I would say that's maybe a bit of revisionist history on his part. They went to a TV commercial.

Anyway...doesn't change the fact that if I'm the coach and my useless backup goalie freaks out after I make a decision, I certainly do not reward him.

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#106 OilTime
October 26 2013, 05:40PM
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Lander is scratched tonight, is he hurt or getting the call up?

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#107 james_dean
October 26 2013, 07:04PM
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I wonder what odds of eakins switching goalies before the shootout this year

the old morrison conklin tactic.

Seemed grim in some parts of the 05 06 season

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#108 Alsker
October 26 2013, 08:41PM
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@Rod from Viking

Well you found 1 good thing about being 50 I didn't, and yes that is 1 one more than found total...lol

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#109 Russ99
October 26 2013, 10:00PM
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DSF wrote:

Yep.

1) Above average goaltending

2) Legit top pairing D.

3) Centre depth

Who could have imagined that would work?

😳

4. Shutdown defensive line(s)

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#110 madjam
October 26 2013, 11:29PM
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How can you can the coach when the GM canned Kreuger for him ? Obviously MacT. will not . Likewise , how would Lowe can MacT. ? If one goes they both go , but that's unlikely , and so we are stuck with both bad results or not .

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#111 Jack meoff
November 03 2013, 01:23PM
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@james_dean

Hey Kevin , thought you new how to win? lol

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#113 Walter Sobchak
October 26 2013, 11:30PM
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Zamboni Driver wrote:

Well, I would say that's maybe a bit of revisionist history on his part. They went to a TV commercial.

Anyway...doesn't change the fact that if I'm the coach and my useless backup goalie freaks out after I make a decision, I certainly do not reward him.

agreed, just giving you the reason.

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