Big Losses to Bad Teams

On Saturday night, the Oilers got walloped by the Calgary Flames. Losing by a touchdown to a team as bad as Calgary has prompted yet another round of questions about the direction of the Oilers franchise. Just how much should we read into the defeat?

In two words: not much.

Memory Lane

There have been 28 games this year in which a team scored seven-or-more goals in a win, and the Oilers have been involved in three of them. That perhaps isn’t surprising; Edmonton’s not a very good team. What is a little surprising is that the Oilers have won two of the three.

Back in November, Edmonton played what was perhaps their best game of the year, routing Columbus by a 7-0 score. Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno summed the game up for the losing side:

That was disgusting. We knew what kind of team they are and we played right into their hands. It is on everybody in this room. It is embarrassing. We handed them goals and gave them power plays and opportunities. It was really tough to be a part of this. I hope we have hit rock bottom here and understand that we are not a team that can play like this. It just didn’t seem like we had that push-back, that answer. We gave them an easy night. They were able to skate around and do whatever they wanted. It’s the wrong way to play. It was 7-0. It’s obviously the wrong way to play.

With the loss, Columbus fell to 7-11-3, just one point ahead of the Florida Panthers for 15th in the Eastern Conference. They overcame that tough start (and that brutal loss) to climb into the dogfight for a playoff spot in the East; as of today Columbus sits just two points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot there with a pair of games in hand.

Less than a month later, the Oilers did it again, humiliating Colorado in an 8-2 blowout. Rather than quote the losing side (though the NHL.com write-up is worth reading just for Patrick Roy’s quote on the game) let’s look at what Taylor Hall said then:

I haven’t been in this league long, but I’ve been in it enough to know that anything can happen on any night against any team. You have to be ready for the opportunity. You just have to come out and play your game. Sometimes you’re going to get eight, and some nights you’re going to get zero. And [Thursday] was a great night.

Anything Can Happen

Taylor Hall

Realistically, an 8-1 loss to Calgary doesn’t mean anything more than an 8-2 win over Colorado; both games are worth exactly the same amount in the standings and should contribute exactly the same amount to any evaluation of the team.

The difference between Edmonton and Colorado (or Anaheim, a team that lost 7-2 to Calgary just 10 days before the latest Battle of Alberta) is that Avs fans and Ducks fans can look at the NHL standings page and not worry about being stuck in the NHL basement. These rough moments don’t prompt the kind of terrified navel-gazing that they do in Edmonton. The Oilers aren’t a very good team, and when the blowouts happen it’s all too easy to do the sackcloth and ashes routine.

But these games shouldn’t dramatically alter the preexisting beliefs of fans or (especially) those of management because the truth is that sometimes they happen. Does Kevin Lowe need to go? Should Craig MacTavish or Dallas Eakins follow him out the door? Maybe, but if so only because of the longer pattern of events, not because of a bad loss to the Flames.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    So, Teams win cups with the first 3 lines. Predominantly scoring and good +/- ratings come from the top 2 lines. If your top 2 lines win, you generally win.

    Winning is not provide by line 4. A third line is important, but not line 4.

    So the argument that Hendrix, Gordon, Symth, etc as great role players does not wash.

    Our first 2 lines do not have the talent that other teams do. This, unfortunately, will only be recognized once there is a leadership change. This is everyone in management and coaching right now. This team needs a “management blowout”. Don’t blame the players, they did not pick Edmonton, there were picked by Edmonton.

    So, until there is a change of all the old Oilers players, the losing will continue.

    I am not renewing my tickets this year. Nor will I buy tickets again until Lowe et al are gone. I have had 14 years of this and it is not a good investment!

  • Serious Gord

    still nothing from this team?? no response whatsoever?? you got your star player and coach fighting, fans throwing jerseys, national media mocking you and you just sit there? same assistant coaches, same POHO, same old same old. just sitting there waiting to move into your new building. pathetic

  • Serious Gord

    This is just another example of a Edmonton Media member buying into the BS that is the oilers and the train wreck they are. Lowetide is worse listen to him you would think playoffs are still attainable. This team is that laughing stock of the league period nothing improves till Lowe is fired, if you question any of this watch one episode of Oil Change who is the puppet master there ??

    • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

      I think Willis is just trying to make the point that the organization shouldn’t fire everybody because they got blown out in one game. Even good teams get blown out and this loss realistically doesn’t mean any more than any of the 37 other losses this year.

      I think what he’s saying is that if they’re going to fire anybody, it should be because the Oilers are still awful (i.e. lost 38 of 72 games this year) after 4 “official” years of rebuilding.

      • Serious Gord

        Mr. Willis is arguing the catastrophic loss is an isolated incident and thus should be treated and discounted as such.

        But it isn’t is it?

        It is just one low point – the lowest point so far – in a scene from a greek tragedy being played out on the ice and in the offices of the oilers. It is just part of a much bigger whole. And thus it should not be treated in isolation, therefore it SHOULD precipitate much larger response and action than we have seen this season.

        The fans and the media largely (MR willis and a very few others excepted) have weighed in heavily on it and have called for action. The oilers management have yet to come out of the bunker for their final act…

        • Mo Playoffs Mo Problems

          I don’t think he’s arguing it should be treated as an isolated incident, I think he’s arguing that there isn’t much point in catastrophizing one game.

          As painful as it was, I think it’s really just another straw on the proverbial camel’s back. That being said, if I was Katz I’d: fire the people with the long track record of failure (Lowe, Buchberger, Smith), leave the POHO position vacant, give MacT more time to enact his vision for the team, and hope MacT can find competent associate coaches to support and/or replace Eakins if the team continues to under-perform.

          These are changes that can and probably should be made in the off-season. I don’t think heads necessarily have to roll in the streets immediately after a blow out loss. What does the team have to gain right now by making immediate changes?

    • Serious Gord

      Interesting point. While we have seen him snap at the players on video and a little behind the bench. This water incident caused him to go into a rage that had never been seen publicly – at least since he has been oilers coach.

      And this was in the midst of the worst at-home performance against the flames in franchise history. Remarkable.

      I think coaches like torts, or carlyle, or sutter, or even babcock would have gone bananas at the team for HOW THEY WERE PLAYING. I could see anyone of them so preoccupied with the travesty happening on the ice to not even notice the water spray.

      Is Eakins really as narcissistic as that outburst, and hair style, and suits, and fitness-freak habits would seem to indicate? Is he that much more absorbed about himself than he is about the team?

      With no evidence to the contrary the answer to both is “yes”

  • Rick Stroppel

    Yak has an ankle fracture and won’t skate until later in the week according the Oilers twitter. Fasth is not concussed but Brossoit will dress as backup anyway.