30th Is Attainable

average life goals

I don’t want to get too many hopes up (?) but the Oilers are
absolutely capable of dethroning the Buffalo Sabres for the title of “Worst
Team In The NHL” in the final stretch of the season.

Now I know everybody has already crowned Buffalo the worst
team in modern history, but I still think there’s a combination of events that
can absolutely conspire to put the Edmonton Oilers into guaranteed McEichel
territory.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN?

There are already eight points between Edmonton and Arizona so the
real competition for suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked is really between
Craig MacTavish’s Oilers and Tim Murray’s Sabres.

The Oilers, as I write this piece, are just two points ahead of
the Sabres with 37 points to their 35. Buffalo has one fewer game which means
the advantage is theirs in terms of remaining opportunities to accidentally win
games, but this Oiler team has been mismanaged and out-coached all year and they
aren’t about to let a little thing like more opportunities to win games get in
the way of a good tanking.

The first thing they need to do is ditch their best player.
And, as luck (Karma?) would have it, Taylor Hall has already left this road
trip to return back to Edmonton. The Oilers without Hall lack a creative
offensive weapon. Even in this poor season (by his standards) he is the engine
that drives the Oilers. The Oilers rushed him or allowed him to rush himself
back into the lineup before he was actually healthy, and they were instantly
repaid with a worse injury.

Combine that with their hottest player (Pouliot) also going
down and you get a recipe for disaster. Pouliot was riding an unsustainably
high shooting percentage of 20% to help inch the Nelson Oilers towards
respectability but he was nonetheless getting the job done. He plays a very
North-South game and has the reputation of being a great possession player. He’s
fast and forechecks very well.

Since both Hall and Pouliot went down the Oilers have lost
the elements of their top 2 lines that bring the most speed and as such have
looked painfully slow. Being dominated by the Penguins is one thing. Being
dominated by the Leafs is another altogether. That team that laid an egg
against a tired Leafs club is a 30th placed hockey team.

The second thing that needs to happen for the Oilers to
catch and surpass the Sabres as the worst team in the NHL is that Jeff Petry
needs to be traded for middling picks. Somebody is going to get a perfectly
serviceable second pairing defender who has been forced to be a first
pairing defender for the past two seasons for almost nothing. The Oilers,
meanwhile, will be forced to watch Andrew Ference with the bar lights turned on
for the rest of the year.

Ference will likely be the one to flip to the right side
while Aulie takes a spot with Fayne. Nelson will no longer be able to shelter
the Klefbom/Schultz pairing as he has either. It will most likely be the case
that the Oilers’ defensive depth chart will look like this post-Trade Deadline:

Klefbom Schultz

Marincin Ference

Aulie Fayne

(Davidson/Hunt)

MacTavish thinks the Klefbom/Schultz combo is the first
pair already (for…reasons), but when Petry is gone they likely will be due to a
major usage change. That’s going to be a treat.

The last thing that needs to happen is that Oiler
goaltending just has to stay the same. Fasth has been mostly good since Nelson
took over but he’s still a wreck every three games or so. Scrivens still hasn’t
actually recovered, either. Fasth might end up traded, however unlikely that
seems, which means there’s a pretty good chance that Scrivens and his .894 save
percentage could start 15 or 16 of the last 20 games.

It’s a scary proposition but entirely plausible.

WHAT STANDS IN THEIR WAY?

The Sabres will fight tooth and nail to be the worst team
this year. They are already the worst ever possession team in the history of
the Advanced Stats Era. Their 37% Corsi For is 6.6 points lower than the second
worse possession team in the league and Toronto’s 42.9% from last year was the
lowest ever previously recorded.

They are historically bad at preventing and generating shots,
shot attempts, and chances. At even strength the Sabres create just 21.8 shots/60 and give up 34.0 shots/60. They are, effectively, hopeless.

Except for in net.

While their skaters are doing their absolute best job to
hang their goalies high and dry this year, the goalies have given Buffalo their
fair chance to be in the games they play.

For goalies it isn’t particularly praiseworthy to be over
.900 and under .910, however in relation to the poor job the Buffalo skaters
are doing, the goalies are knocking it out of the park. That’s still just faint
praise, but the Oilers can only dream about having goalies with save
percentages in the .900’s, so there’s that.

The Sabres have the inside track and the ability (or lack
thereof) to keep 30th place, but the Oilers are still capable of
catching them. It can still happen.

It’s a simple fact that the Oilers have the fewest wins in
the NHL with just 14. As such they also have the most losses even if they
picked up a bunch of loser points along the way. Craig MacTavish just has to
keep up the stellar job he’s done so far and dead last can be Edmonton’s once
again.

He must be so proud.

  • Just a Fan

    This is the last Matt Henderson article I read. Didn’t your mother teach you that “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all”. Enough of this dribble.

    • Darth Oiler

      Henderson,

      I believe you missed a vital point in the Oilers favor.

      They have experience at losing. Now, normally that doesn’t mean you get better at losing, but when being losers has been part of your identity for either as long as you’ve been a pro (Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Yakupov, Schultz, Petry) or at least as long as you’ve been an Oiler (basically everyone else on the roster), it grows into you. It becomes part of you. You are no longer a loser because you’ve lost a lot of games, you lose a lot of games because you are a loser.

      For any sport, confidence is key, and the Oilers have none. They’re fragile, brittle, sensitive. Unable to keep a lead, because they expect things to go wrong. Unable to come back, because losers don’t win. Eberle even said so in his last post-game interview – they just kind of stand around and expect things to go wrong.

      Buffalo? Don’t make me laugh. They’ve had bad years, but nothing like this broken shell of a team. The *Thrashers* weren’t this bad of a franchise, and they were the worst in NHL history until now.

    • Harry2

      Quick! Go buy half a dozen jerseys and renew your season tickets for the next 20 years you miserable sheep.

      Its your fault and fans like you that tgis racket is able to continue

  • Lofty

    I think if the Sabres were in the Western Conference they’d finish 30th for sure. They are slightly worse then the Oilers. I mean 10 shots on goal TOTAL last night?!

    The big thing is what happens with trades. It sounds like Buffalo is going to try and get worse by trading some of their players for futures. Oilers are going to have to do the same if they want to stay in this race.

    My prediction is that they tie but Oilers finish 30th by virtue of less REG wins. And then lose the Lottery. So Eichel it is. 🙂

  • vetinari

    Every year it gets harder and harder to be an Oiler fan. It’s like watching an upside down, inebriated turtle trying to right itself. I know that this won’t end well but how long is this going to last before the turtle either dies, someone helps it or it rights itself? Ten years? Eleven?

  • BobbyCanuck

    They are already the worst ever possession team in the history of the Advanced Stats Era

    When did this era start? Just wondering

    Trade my pre-season goat Eberle, for Kane out of Winnipeg. Guarenteed to end up in last place.

    Just think, we could have a first line composed entirely of players with bum shoulders, ya can’t buy that kind of marketing

  • ThatButthurtOilersFan

    Sadly, the longer this train wreck rolls on, the more I want McDavid. Is he the answer? no. But despite incompetent management and a terrible drafting and development system, maybe, just maybe, he can be the catalyst to a team that wants to win, and a management group that wants to ice a winning team.

    • Joy S. Lee

      Just watched the special on Connor McDavid. The kid really is impressive, and not just as a player. I totally get why he’s the only true choice for #1 – and I really like Eichel – and yes I hope the Oil snag him, it might be the last hope for this franchise, because with this kid at the forefront, he’s going to take whatever team he’s on and elevate it. Because that’s who he is.

      He is the answer. Whoever remains will follow this young man who knows what he’s doing, which is being the best he can be in all ways. Really great article citing Erie’s GM, Sherrie Bassin is here: http://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/2012/09/26/mcdavid-a-special-player-bassin

      In the TV special, Bassin almost teared up feeling bad for the kid when he hurt his hand, over breaking all the records he was going to break, and possibly not going the World Jrs. Maybe he won’t get the records, but we know how the WJHC went.

      He’s got something the Oilers desperately need. Who knows, it might be his genuine nature, talent, and desire to win, all of which need to be topped up in Edmonton.

      So, yes, this kid could change everything. But whether he’s coming here remains to be seen. If he does, all the bitching and complaining will stop, that’s one huge benefit that I suspect Katz is all in for. I guess we’ll see just how far the Oil are willing to go, but there’s still that lottery. Nevertheless, and I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M SAYING THIS, NOT AGAIN, BUT THIS TIME… everyone is right to assume that Eichel is a great fallback plan… if we can edge out the Sabres for 30th. (Egads, I said it. But I can’t help but think about what Gretzky meant to this town, and, well, I’m getting all misty and stuff. This will be the last time: I want McDavid to be an Oiler. Damn the rest of ’em.)

  • Gordie Wayne

    You didn’t even mention the remaining schedule of both teams.

    If you look closely at the remaining games of each team and who they play, it is going to come down to the wire. The Sabres play way more beatable teams than the Oilers do – it’s not even close.

    As much as the Sabres suck, their schedule is a lot easier than the Oilers schedule.

    Sabres have 12 games left against playoff teams and Oilers have 14. But Oilers play LA 3 times and MIN 2 times and they are both on the bubble and will be pushing hard for points and I would be surprised if Oilers get more than 1 win out of those 5.

    McEichel here we come!

    • Darth Oiler

      Too bad it’s only one more against Calgary. Of the many things the Flames do well, schooling the Oilers every time they play has to be at the top of the list.

      Big game tonight, GFG!

      • Joy S. Lee

        The subject of this article is the sweepstakes. As I just said, I hope we get the Canadian kid. Staying on topic, I suspect you might get chills seeing an Oiler 97 McDavid jersey across the faceoff dot on opening night 2015-16. I know I would.

        (And that’s about all I have left to hang my hat on, thanks very much, because what you said has to be true. Lol.)

  • Darth Oiler

    DEFINITION OF INSANITY

    Last season, in the last 30 games, the Oilers went 13-14-3. I expect them to do about the same this season, triggering this chain of events:

    (1) Oilers catch Arizona, finish 3rd last. Also pick third in draft.

    (2) Select Noah Hanifin, discover in training camp that he needs 1-2 seasons in AHL before he can compete in the NHL.

    (3) Oilers crap the bed at the beginning of next season, decide that Nelson is not “the answer”.

    (4) Around this time next year people start to say “man that Auston Matthews kid looks good, might as well tank it and get him”.

    And the circle goes around and around…

  • Darth Oiler

    Don’t forget the return of $4 million dollar man Nikita Nikitin! That and some more time trying to figure out that Brad Hunt isn’t good enough for the NHL and playing Schultz (aka “More-Expensive-Brad-Hunt (with a worse shot)”) 25 minutes a night should be enough to put us right over the top. Or is it the bottom? Whatever.

  • Darth Oiler

    I still watch every single minute of every game, then watch Eichel and McDavid highlights to ease the pain of losing (Im 100% serious).

    I don’t know about you guys, but am I the only one who is really nervous that we won’t be able to lock up one of those guys? I honest to god worry about this everyday. I just hope all this pain and hurting won’t be for nothing.

  • Just imagine if Mac T had brought in two experienced centres, a real goalie, and a top puck moving defenceman………where would we be now?

    The real trick is understanding your team make-up and then addressing the situation exactly like NYI did bringing in Leddy and Boychuck. We are not that far away from being a playoff team and most fans know this. In spite of our record, we have not been blown out as in years past. Our new players are gaining more experience, and our youth down on the farm are making a case for themselves.

    The real question is does Mac T see what the fans see……..or is he so blinded by his past decisions, acquisitions, and current roster, that he cannot change course quickly.

    All I know is we need a bold GM……..MacT are you listening? We want bold…….what ever that is!

    • Joy S. Lee

      Sure, but not at the cost of McDavid. Not at this point and time, not a chance. We’ve paid way too much hell not to take our best shot at this, what with where we are and all, again. But this time, the top guy isn’t just a top guy. Might as well play this disgusting string out, now. We are where we are, and there’s a lot of climbing left to do. The generational talent will help. I’ll even start watching more regularly again.

  • Jordan88

    To compare how badly mismanged this team is to say the average white collar person working is like this.

    I start at 9 show up at 10. Watch youtube videos, eat free food that isnt free and then blame the companys poor performance on the rest of the slackers in the office.

  • Spoils

    i thought we MIGHT make the playoffs this year, but LAST PLACE!

    I would rather be an LA than a Pittsburgh – so to me getting a McDavid – is less valuable than getting real MGT.

    Katz needs to put together an offer for a new MGT leader. Someone who can remodel the organization from top to bottom. Someone who has won AS A MANAGER…

    McDavid/Eichel, Hall, Eberle, Nuge, Draisaitl, Yakupov, Pouliot, Nurse, Klefbom, Schultz, Petry…

    there are certainly some good looking assets, I just don’t trust the Oilers to do anything with them.

    DEAR Mr KATZ, PLEASE GIVE THE KEYS TO BABCOCK (or someone like that).

  • John Chambers

    I don’t know why, but I get the sense the draft lottery is fixed and Phoenix will be picking first regardless where they finish to save the franchise.

  • Deported to Ottawa

    The Oilers are the number 1 reason to stop watching hockey. ?

    Everyday I read the blogs searching for a glimmer of hope. A trade, firing, hiring, something. Everyday it’s just more losing.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

  • AJ88

    Henderson,
    Honestly, I am not sure what the point of your article is. Anybody that can be so negative towards a professional sports team (or any topic of interest) should really move onto something else. Do you really think “tanking” is the most viable option for the Oilers and do you think any respectable organization/players would even consider it? Supporting losing(tanking) is for losers, interesting culture you support…

      • AJ88

        Wow, the Oilers “deserve to be shamed into submission”! Again, I do not see your point unless you think the Oiler organization look to your blog for advice on how to improve the team. Myself, I think the Oilers are showing some improvement since Nelson has been brought into the fold and I would rather see a winning culture be developed than worry about being #1 in the draft. This team needs to build confidence and an identity before any one player can take them to the promised land.