Soul II Soul likely wasn’t inspired by the Oilers when they wrote this song, but many of the lyrics would mirror the feelings in Oilersnation right now.
Back to life, back to reality
Back to life, back to reality
Back to life, back to the present time,
Back from a fantasy yeah
Back to life, back to the day we have
Let’s end this foolish game
Hear me out, don’t let me waste away
Make up your mind so I know where I stand
Last night’s 5-3 loss to the lowly Carolina Hurricanes was, "The most disappointing loss of the season. We weren’t emotionally invested from the beginning," according to head coach Tom Renney.
Renney was calm and poised but expressed that this loss really hurt him and the team. They know they played awful, and will be better on Friday v. Colorado (because they can’t be worse), but the Oilers are where I thought they would be this year: Out of the playoffs, but showing signs of improvement.
The Oilers are 4-9-1in their last 14 games after bursting out of the gate at 9-3-2.
In the first 14 games their goaltending was out-of-this-world, their defence was solid, their offence was timely and their special teams were exceptional. They scored 33 and only gave up 23 during that hot streak. They connected on 10 of 56 PP chances (17.8%) and only allowed 6 SH goals in 56 kills (89.2%)
In the last 14 games they’ve allowed 52 and scored 46, but 26 came in the four games they won.
Their PP has improved 12 of 56 (21.4%), despite going 0-for-10 in the last two games.
Their PK is falling apart though. They allowed 15 goals on 61 kills (75.4%).
The Oilers still received solid goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin in the last 14-game stretch, but they aren’t winning the 2-1, 2-0 games anymore. Their four wins came when they scored 5, 6, 6 and 9 goals. They gave up 3+ goals in 9 of the last 14 and only won one of those games.
If they win the special teams battle, then they normally win the game.
When they score more PP goals than opposition they are: 7-2-0
When both teams are even in PP and PK they are: 6-4-3
When the opposition scores more PP goals they are: 1-6-0
WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE?
The hardest part about the past month was that the Oilers first 14 games raised your expectations. They gave you a reason to believe they could win regularly and that maybe the rebuild was ahead of schedule, but that isn’t the case. It was a great start, and the Oilers will still excite you more this year than they have in the past five, but it’s back to reality for Oiler fans.
There are some positives if you look longterm.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is legit. He registered his 30th point last night and sits in 7th place in league scoring. It only took him 28 games to reach 30 points, which is the best start of any rookie in Oiler history. Jason Arnott needed 38 games, Dave Lumley 41, Jari Kurri 42 and David Oliver needed 47. The Nuge is good.
- Jordan Eberle has exceptional hands and his 29 points puts him 11th in the league. He’s a great finisher, underrated passer and he’ll excite Oiler fans often in the future.
- Taylor Hall had 18 points in 22 games and some felt he wasn’t clicking yet. He was on pace for 67 points before getting hurt, but it has been obvious in his absence how much his speed and skill are missed. He backs off defenders and creates lots of space, not to mention he’s pretty exciting. The offensive future looks great for Oiler fans.
- Ladislav Smid looks like a solid top-four D-man. He’s healthy and has started to add some offense to his game. He moves the puck quicker and more effectively, and most importantly he seems to have shed the inconsistency that plagued him the past few years.
- Tom Gilbert has proven he can be a bit physical and better in his own end. He and Smid have been a solid pair and even if they level off, and stay at this level, people would be happy to watch them play together for many more seasons.
- Ryan Jones has exceeded offensive expectations. His game hasn’t changed much, except he is scoring more and he’s been more physical. His game is simple; get pucks to the net. He battles hard and has turned into a really effective 3rd liner. He is a 15-20 goal guy, and in a great year maybe 24.
- Jeff Petry, Colten Teubert and Theo Peckham bring different elements, but they’ve shown that when they are on their game they can be effective. The key will be finding consistency.
- Ryan Smyth has exceeded everyone’s expectations. He will provide competition for Gagner and Paajarvi as they try to find their way in the NHL. Kids can learn from him on what it takes to compete every night in the NHL.
- Shawn Horcoff can protect Nugent-Hopkins from the tougher minutes for another year or so, before the kid is ready to take on every situation.
- With RNH, Eberle and Hall the Oilers will have an effective PP for the next few years. You can’t teach the patience and hockey sense of RNH and Eberle, while Hall’s shot will only become more of a weapon.
Of course there are some questions moving forward?
- What to do with Ales Hemsky. Will he rediscover his passion and fearlessness, and if so, how long and for how much do you sign him for?
- Where does Gagner fit in? Is he a top-six forward, what wing can he play? Does he have trade value if Steve Tambellini chooses to go that route?
- Ryan Whitney clearly isn’t 100% yet. Will he get back to that level and is he past his ankle issues? Realistically no one knows, so the Oilers will have to monitor him closely. They desperately miss his ability to move the puck up ice quickly and accurately. If Whitney can get back into game shape, he hasn’t played much in the past 12 months, and return to a level close to last season, he’ll be extremely valuable now that the Oilers have some legitimate offensive game breakers.
- Where is Devan Dubnyk at in his development? Is he mentally tough enough to become an everyday starter. It seems he has the skill-set, but can he find the consistency necessary to be a reliable starter?
- How will they develop Magnus Paajarvi. It is way too early to be writing him off, but they need to look at what is best for his development. When Hall returns they need to take a serious look at the big picture of Paajarvi’s career and decide if more minutes, more situations – EV, PP and PK – in the minors is better than playing 10-12 minutes a night in the NHL. I’d go with the former.
- Does this team have enough players who are willing to match the intensity, desire and battle level of their opposition on a nightly basis? We have yet to see it.
- Can Tambellini find guys who are willing to bring those attributes to Edmonton? Can they develop them in the minors?
I don’t think the Oilers are as bad as their last 14 games, and they aren’t as good as their first 14. I’d say their current overall record is an accurate portrayal of where they are as a team. I believe they have more arrows trending upwards, but they are at least a year away from having them show up on a nightly basis.
And can we please stop with the "Renney isn’t the right coach for this team," argument. How come when they were playing great no one gave him any credit, but now that the team has struggled suddenly the coach is telling them not to compete hard enough? He didn’t make the goalies suddenly become human again, nor did he tell his team to start giving up more goals.
Belanger on the PP is most people’s biggest beef, but the PP is fourth in the NHL and %-wise it has been better in the last 14 games with him on it. The PP should be the least of Oiler fan’s worries right now.
Reality has set in and unfortunately, for the Oilers and you, it isn’t that great right now, but better days are ahead.
HELP OTHERS AND FEEL GOOD
Yesterday we raised another $2,000 for Santas Anonymous. Big thanks to Darren for his generous bid and I hope you enjoy your party at On the Rocks, the Oilers/Habs game and your WJC jersey.
Today is our year round package courtesy of the Edmonton Eskimos, Boston Pizza and the Edmonton Rush.
The Edmonton Eskimos have donated FOUR lower bowl season tickets. Esks tickets make a great Christmas present, check them out here, and these four seats are an awesome donation.
Pizza for a year from Boston Pizza. Is there a better sports food than Pizza? Big thanks to BPs and be sure to check out their stocking stuffers.
The Edmonton Rush have also donated FOUR SILVER (lowerbowl) season tickets. They have great Xmas seat packages on right now, here, and all they finally have an offense that will compete in the NLL. Wanye loves going to their games, maybe you could take him with your for a game.
You can watch the Rush from January to May, the Esks from July to November and enjoy Pizza all year long.
To bid you can call 780.426.8326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Bidding starts at 2 p.m and ends at 5:45 MST with 100% of the money going to Santas Anonymous.
If you want to feel better about the Oilers, then bid and help out some families and kids who need the help. You’ll feel great. If you can’t bid on the entire package, you can drop off a toy HERE.
Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas.