I have a bad feeling about this

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.

  • LinkfromHyrule

    The team seems to lack structure, and it hard to understand what the team personality is. In the next ten games, what will Eakins and the other coaches do differently?

    Would it make sense to bring in a seasoned coach as a consultant? What is
    Marc Crawford doing?

    • Alsker

      Personality?? This has been the question since 06. Who/what are we? Hard nosed,hard working group?No. Skilled,smart,offensive,puck control team? No. Who are we, what are we, does anyone in this organization have a clue what type of team we are attempting to build? Hard to coach a team/install a system when tour group of players don’t fit any existing example. I truly feel sorry for Eakins as its impossible to put into practice a system that at best showcases less than half of your teams abilities. If this doesn’t slap upper-management in the face soon than another season after this one is lost already!!!

  • YFC Prez

    Nice to see not much has changed around these parts you guys still suck.

    Shocking since in the off season it was mentioned on many occasions this group is a dynasty in the making.

    Your franchise is a a complete joke I hope you guys show something im getting tired of you guus celebrating high draft picks.

  • Jay Gray

    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 .

  • LinkfromHyrule

    One thing nobody seems to be talking about is the amount of silly penalties the oilers are taking. This is making our horrid penalty kill look much worse. We are 29th in minor penalties taken this year. We simply cannot continue taking this many penalties. Arco’s high stick as well as ference’s hook were just bad penalties.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Good thing we have the following saviours to right the ship:

    Scott Howson – never did anything for Columbus but crash and burn them, but will save the Oil somehow

    Buchberger – has been here for 3 coaches and has shown he’s useless

    Smith – has done just a wonderful job with our defence year to year

    MacT: couldn’t get hired as a NHL coach anywhere, so Oilers gave him a well deserved GM Job, where he signed Labarbra to assist the Goalie (Dubnyk) he had doubts about. Oh and he signed a rookie coach thinking the guy was Bourdeau

    Klowe – has accepted and encouraged all of the above

    And the Jury is waiting for Eakins… Spent more time discussing doughnuts , diets, shape, and his swarm tactics….that have lead us to the basement of the NHL.

  • Jay Gray

    I wonder if the Oil rushed the young guys a bit too much. The team has been awful for so long and now it seems all of those high picks are not going to turn out. Not every high pick will become a star and it looks to be true here. The GM have to make some moves!

    • TayLordBalls

      “All these high picks arent going to turn out.”

      Hall was 9th in league scoring last year, Nuge is over pt per game pace, and Yak is coming of a rookie year where he lead rookies in goals and points.

      And they are all under the age of 22….

      “All these high picks arent going to turn out.”……

      *FACEPALM*