On many levels, preaching patience and telling people to step away from the ledge in the first days of the NHL season until they have the benefit of a longer look makes all the sense in the world. That’s exactly what Jonathan Willis wrote in his A Big Tall Glass of Calmdown Juice piece yesterday.
Here in Oil Country, the land of Fooled You Again, however, that’s a pretty tough sell for fans of the Edmonton Oilers – I say understandably so after eight seasons out of the playoffs, a stretch in which the team has been selling hope and progress without providing results as a payoff.
Fans were in an ugly mood after just two games, losses to the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, and a 6-1 waxing at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center Tuesday has done nothing but stoke the discontent as the Oilers stagger into the desert to face the Arizona Coyotes.
It’ll be a full-on frenzy of frustration – all of four games into an 82-game season – if the Oilers get drubbed in the Valley of the Sun tonight. That’s to be expected when you remove calm and reason from the equation, as if both hadn’t hopped a bus south long ago.
NOT GETTING IT
- From where I sit, the frustration fans are venting about isn’t just a product of that the Oilers are losing games, it’s about why they’re losing games and the decisions that contribute to those losses along the way – many of which have been questioned for months, not just weeks or days. In other words, a whole bunch of “we saw this coming.”
- Lack of depth in the middle. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out of the line-up, the Oilers faced the Kings with Mark Arcobello, rookie Leon Draisaitl, Boyd Gordon and Will Acton as their pivots. That’s a mismatch no matter which way you slice it and one fans have been questioning the entire off-season. What were the options last night?
- The decision by coach Dallas Eakins to scratch Jeff Petry against the Kings. Petry, for all the criticism he gets, remains one of the Oilers best couple of defensemen. Whether you feel the need to get Darnell Nurse into the line-up or not, healthy scratching Petry against the defending Stanley Cup champions made no sense.
- Edmonton has been dismal in its own end. The fact the team has allowed 15 regulation time goals through three games is as much the result of breakdowns, blown coverages and turnovers by the D-men as it is sieve-like play by Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens. Who thought the GAA so far this season would be worse than a year ago, when Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera couldn’t stop a beach ball?
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Oilers could well win tonight against the Coyotes to salvage something from the trip, but the overriding sentiment seems to be that if that happens it’ll be in spite of, not because of, the decisions that are being made and the way Eakins has deployed his personnel.
I find it difficult to disagree with that – I’m not a huge Petry fan but his forced sit-down in Los Angeles stands out for me – because, again, it’s not the record that troubles me with 79 games remaining, it’s the decisions that have gone into the first three games.
Winless is bad. Clueless is worse.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.