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 Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#101 Throttlehead
October 26 2013, 09:42PM
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The elephant in the room is goaltending, it is flat out terrible, Eakins won't say anything because it would take the minuscule amount of confidence that these goalies have and kill it. If we don't get a goalie and soon, we will be in and remain in the bottom 5. What has changed in coaching to where the PP and PK have sunk to the worst in the league? I assume we are trying to teach the young and the restless how to PK, I am not sure why its these guys. If its not the GM, not the coach, we have 3 1rst over all drafts, what is it exactly? The POHO is the same, the assistants, and whats with the goalie coach. I'm done whining :)

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#102 Greg
October 26 2013, 10:15PM
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I swear if the oilers finish in the basement again, the league will be forced to implement a new rule limiting the amount of years a team will be included in the draft lottery.

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#103 Alsker
October 26 2013, 10:19PM
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bwar wrote:

TRADE EVERYONE. The only logical solution.

Now there's a idea, no wait, an entire fansite devoted to that 1 idea!!!

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#104 Andrew
October 26 2013, 10:28PM
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spliff wrote:

Katz must be an ultra-competitive person, who is a admitted Oiler fan. Therefore, I'm sure this constant losing is bothering him as well. I can't believe that he enjoys investing so much money and time into a perpetually losing organization. There will come a time (I pray) when the chickens will come home to roost for KLost and pals.

As I see it Mr. Katz only provable competitive edge is collecting "He" of the 6 and accumulating the most overall #1 draft picks in 10 yrs. Now we're talking some serious competition.

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#105 **
October 26 2013, 10:33PM
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"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."

In other words, just another Oilers season.

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#106 Walter Sobchak
October 26 2013, 10:51PM
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@Oilanderp wrote:

The only problem with this season is if you thought the Oilers had a good chance at making the post-season. I did not, and so am not that upset. I am actually starting to enjoy watching this team again though. You can see their improvement from the past few years. I see progress. I like it. I would suggest to stop overanalyzing the team and step back and enjoy the progress...we're finally coming out of the desert.

^ Hear in lies one of the major problems with

Oilers fans……Apathy & Hope.

The” just one more year” “Next year they will be better”

So, not that I don't agree with you, I never had them pegged as a playoff team but, I never had them pegged as a playoff team because of their roster!! You’re looking at it from a tilted view!

The roster, choice of players & coaching is the responsibility of the management, the responsibility of the management is to make this team competitive.

I think it’s our responsibility to voice our displeasure at the way this team has been run, 8 years out of the playoffs is unacceptable in any sport. It’s unacceptable out of those eight years to burn off 4 years of contracts of arguable two of the team’s best players.

It’s baffling how they can fire 5 coaches and yet, not find any responsibility within themselves.

Logic would dictate that major whole sale changes should be made.

I will reference Chicago and the firing of Tallon after he won a cup, mistakes should never be tolerated, yet the clowns up stairs continue to make the same ones and is the sole reason the Oilers are looking at yet another year out of the playoffs.

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#107 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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#108 Walter Sobchak
October 26 2013, 11:20PM
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Zamboni Driver wrote:

First time I'm going to be critical of the coach (though I don't know WTF our 'system' is in our own zone)...

How he handled the goalie switch was a joke.

Pull him or don't. And after a temper tantrum from your career backup - some guy whose name we will all forget next year - you PUT HIM BACK IN THE GAME?

What he should have done was send him on a one way to the ECHL...

Likely where he belongs, sure.

FYI.

He had no time out's left, he pulled the goalie to give his team a time out then he put him back in.

He mentions it in his post game on the Edmonton Oilers main site.

http://video.oilers.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=4&id=468870&navid=DL|EDM|home

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#109 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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#110 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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#111 Rdubb
October 27 2013, 07:32AM
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WHAT IN THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO OUR SPECIAL TEAMS? The past few seasons they were in the top half & even as good as the top 5. So with that kind of "production" out of the special teams, why has Eakins decided to "switch" things up? There were far more serious problems that those two areas, wasn't there? I know I have said this before, but watching the PK last night made me mad, and down-right PISSED...I don't want to name players here...while on the PK, the PHX point man had the puck, and both forwards moved over to the side of the ice where the puck was, pretty easy pass to the opposite defenseman, puck moved down low (or shot), and a few seconds later, GOAL. And this happened on almost every single PK, maybe PHX didn't always score, but both forwards converting on the d-man with the puck, he makes a simple pass over, and now it is basically a 4 on 2. I don't know it that is this stupid "swarm" defense, because if it is, Eakins better change it FAST. Just Watch the Oilers PK today, you'll see the same dumb ass thing happening over and over. I am not an NHL coach and never will be, but if I can this being a stupid play, I am sure coaches like Suter, Tippit and whomever else can see this too, and easily break down the Oil system. Eakins has his fingers in to many things, let the guys who ran the PK and PP go back and do it the way they have for the past 3 yrs and get the PK & PP back on tract & we'll stop losing these games we should be winning.

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#112 just plain bad
October 27 2013, 09:52AM
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eskimos 3-14 fc eddies 2-6-4 oilers 3-8-1

8 wins of a possible 41

Tell me again,city of what?

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#113 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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