The Oilers are 4-13-2 (10 points) in their first 19 games, and they are on pace for 43 points. The Oilers will not finish with 43 points. They will improve, but can they improve enough to give you hope that next season will be different?
Here’s a quick look at the five worst 20-game starts in Oilers history and where those teams finished.
1993/1994: 3-14-3 (9 pts). They finished 25-45-14 with 64 points and 3rd last in the NHL.
1979/1980: 3-12-5 (11pts). They finished 28-39-11. They finished 6th last, but made the playoffs in the 21-team league.
1990/1991: 5-13-2 (12 pts). They finished 37-37-6 with 80 points and 3rd in the Smyth division.
2010/2011: 5-11-4 (14 pts). They finished 25-45-12 with 62 points and last in the NHL.
1997/1998: 5-10-5 (15 pts). They finished 35-37-10 with 80 points and 7th in the west and beat Colorado in 1st round.
It is very unlikely that the Oilers will finish at or above .500, and we all know the playoffs are a pipe dream. An Oiler victory vs. Dallas on Wednesday ties them for the 3rd worst start in franchise history, so there is no sugar coating this start; it has been horrible.
Oilersnation is fed up. You are sick of losing and I don’t think fans were ever this upset at any point during the 2010-2012 seasons.
This year was supposed to be different, mainly because the Oilers management and coaches said it would be. Craig MacTavish has made some solid moves; however, he erred by stating he’d make "Bold" moves. Signing Boyd Gordon, Andrew Ference, Jesse Joensuu, Wil Acton, Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov, Jason LaBarbera and Ryan Hamilton weren’t bold. Acquiring David Perron was a solid move, but likely didn’t resonate as bold within the fan base.
Dallas Eakins termed his defence the "swarm," and by giving it a name it led fans to believe it was new and innovative. Other teams have used it before, most call it a pressure defence, but after years of watching porous defence the fans were jacked up believing the "swarm" would shut down the opposition.
That hasn’t happened.
Once again the Oilers are near the bottom in goals against, dead last in fact, having surrendered a woeful 75 goals in 19 games. The fans have a right to be annoyed, frustrated and down right angry.
The Oilers have to stop selling hope or improvement during the off-season. It hasn’t worked for five years, and the morale within Oilersnation is at an all-time low.
- It is interesting what we want to hear. When MacTavish said he’d make bold moves, he also clearly addressed that his young players would need to work harder, yet all the focus after the press conference was on bold moves. The GM didn’t hammer home the point about the young players, or repeat himself, but it was the first time anyone within the organization made a clear challenge/statement towards the younger players.
Ideally, the Oilers wouldn’t have this many young players trying to learn the NHL game at the same time. They’d have the luxury of protecting them with proven veterans, but the Oilers didn’t build their team that way. The kids will need to learn the hard way, and it has shown to be a difficult learning curve. Right now MacTavish and company can only hope that all the tough lessons will pay off in the future. Sadly, there is no guarantee that will happen.
- I chuckled when I was called an Oiler apologist because I am not demanding Eakins get fired. Firing the coach after 19 games would be a dumb move. Plain and simple. Losing franchises continue to make change, thus having no continuity. Winning organizations, in any sport, have continuity. Eakins isn’t perfect, and he has a lot to learn at the NHL level, but just like the Oilers made a commitment to the young players, they have committed to Eakins. He needs more than 19 games to judge whether he’s a good coach or not.
In the last seven games the Oilers special teams have improved dramatically. The PP is clicking at 31.5% (6 for 19), while the PK is at 91.3% killing off 21 of 23. So we’ve seen improvement in those areas, but their overall defence still needs a lot of work. Firing Eakins and hiring someone else at this point would be a desperate and ill-advised move.
Watch the highlights, do you honestly believe that Eakins would coach his players not to cover the guy in front of the net, or that he’d instruct them to leave Kruger wide open in front of the net, and send both D-men to the man on the boards. The players are making some horrible defensive decisions.
All the best coaching candidates are currently working, so who would you replace him with? Firing the coach might make fans feel better because someone paid the price, but it would only mask the real issue. The team isn’t good enough. The mixture isn’t right.
Firing the head coach would tell the players they aren’t the issue, again, and it would give another excuse to management. MacTavish didn’t build this team, but he’s in charge or trying to make it competitive. He’ll need some time, but firing the coach will only delay the process.
Furthermore, firing a coach based on 19 games with bad goaltending would illustrate desperation and a lack of leadership. Unfortunately, the woes of the Oilers are much bigger than one man.
- Ilya Bryzgalov will not start for OKC tonight. He won’t play in Edmonton tomorrow, and i dont think wr see him until Tuesday night next week vs. the Blue Jackets.
- My biggest concern with the Ladislav Smid trade was MacTavish’s comments that, "we have lots of depth at that position." They have a lot of potential depth, but none of it is proven. This organization needs to realize you won’t win on potential. They can’t expect Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse to come into Edmonton next year and solidify their backend. No NHL team’s blueline is built around four young D-men will less than 350 combined NHL games, and that’s what Jeff Petry, J.Schultz, Klefbom and Nurse would be next season.
- Tough break, no pun intended, for Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos broke his tibia yesterday. I spoke to a doctor who done surgery on tibia’s and he said it is virtually impossible that Stamkos could be ready for the Sochi Olympics in three months. The only way he said it was possible would be if Stamkos required no pins or screw to repair the bone, which is unlikely. Brutal news for Stamkos.
- Stamkos has scored 27% of the Lightning’s goals, and they are 0-3 in games that Stamkos or Marty St.Louis don’t score a point. Ben Bishop will need to play even better for the Bolts to stay in the playoff hunt. This is the first time Stamkos will miss a game due to an injury. He was a healthy scratch three times as a rookie.
- Sidney Crosby only has one goal and six points in his last nine games. That is a major slump for Crosby.
- Igor Larionov’s comments about Nail Yakupov only added fuel to a horrendous 19-game stretch. Larionov stated, "We’re willing to make a move. Any team. That happens and that’s part of life." First off, Yakupov has no say if the Oilers wanted to trade him, so being open to a move was an interesting choice of words from Larionov. I read that as he’ll likely ask the Oilers to trade his client.
The Oilers don’t need any more distractions, and Larionov didn’t doing his client any favours by mentioning he’s unhappy. Yakupov will be peppered with questions today, and the kid shouldn’t be subjected to that. That is on Larionov. If you have an issue, call MacTavish and deal with it quietly. Rookie mistake by Larionov.
- Larionov’s comments will make for great water-cooler discussions and debate on the Nation, but I caution people to avoid tales of bad leadership or anything like that. Larionov wants his client to get more icetime, there was no mention of off-ice issues, so let’s try to avoid turning TMZ-like and fabricating tales of discord within the dressing room.
- I’m looking to recognize some of the great amateur coaches in our city. Do you know a coach, team sport or individual sport, who goes above and beyond to makes sports really enjoyable for your son or daughter. If you do, please email me a short paragraph stating all they do for their team. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and they could be named our Elite Sportswear Coach of the Week. I know there are many great volunteer coaches, so don’t be shy to send me an email.
- Be sure to vote for our pal Jason Strudwick in Battle of the Blades. If Struds wins the Inner City Children’s Program will receive $50,000. That is huge for them and could allow them to open up another school to house 50 kids who need help. Take a moment and vote HERE and vote TODAY. It is an easy "Good deed of the day."