There isn’t much love between Leafs fans and Oilers fans, however, both groups share one common bond: both have endured a decade of despair. The Oilers and Leafs have only made the playoffs once in the past ten years. The Oilers made it in 2006, but haven’t been close since, while the Leafs missed the dance for the first seven years, made it in 2013 only to suffer a painful game seven loss to the Bruins, and are now starting another streak of two seasons without the postseason.
No fan base in Canada has suffered more than those who cheer for the Leafs and Oilers since the beginning of the 2005/2006 season, and only fans in Florida can relate to your struggles.
All three cities have experienced the playoffs only once in the past decade, and they’ve all seen significantly more losses than wins.
Here are the bottom five teams in total points during the past decade:
TEAM W L OT PTS
26th: Toronto 344 – 333 – 97 785
27th: Florida 326 – 328 – 118 770
28th: NYI 336 – 346 – 93 765
29th: CBJ 335 – 351 – 86 756
30th: Edm 302 – 378 – 93 697
The Islanders will be in the post season for the third time this year, while even the lowly Blue Jackets have made it twice, 2009 and 2014.
Florida has played in front of half empty buildings often during their run of futility, but Leafs and Oilers’ fans continue to support their team by paying big dollars to watch their teams lose. You can make the argument no fans in the country are as loyal, or as vocal, as Oilers and Leafs fans.
The Leafs have acquired most of their best players via trade: Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Jonathan Bernier, James Van Riemsdyk, while the Oilers have drafted theirs: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and Nail Yakupov.
Neither organization has seen much success.
Edmonton fired Dallas Eakins after 31 games due to a 7-19-5 record. Craig MacTavish stepped in for five games and went 0-3-2, before handing the reigns to Todd Nelson. Nelson is 11-17-5 in 33 games, an improvement over MacEakins, but the team still isn’t close to being a playoff contender, and as I stated for the past five years, constantly hoping a new coach will fix things is the wrong approach.
A coach can make a positive impact, no doubt — Nelson’s approach on the PP has been obvious, and he’s bean able to get more out of Nail Yakupov and others — but a coach doesn’t win or lose battles. He doesn’t make split second decisions all over the ice. The players do, and if you don’t have enough players committed to winning in the dirty areas of the ice, you likely won’t win.
The Leafs also changed coaches mid-season, but it had the opposite impact that Nelson has had on the Oilers.
Randy Carlyle’s Leafs were in a playoff spot 40 games into the season, 21-16-3, but management felt the coach’s system and style wasn’t conducive to winning so he was fired on January 6th.
Peter Horachek was named interim head coach, but since he took over the Leafs have plummeted down the standings. They Leafs are 6-21-3 since Carlyle was fired.
Outscored opponents: 127 -121 (3.17 GF/game and 3.03 GA/game)
Outshot by opponents: 1373-1196 (34.3 SA/game and 29.9 SF/game)
PP: 29 on 144 (20.1%)
PK: 24 of 135 (82.2%)
Outscored 56-98 (3.26 GA/game and 1.86 GF/game)
Outshot: 940-849 (31.3 SA/game and 28.3 SA/game)
PP: 13 on 101 (12.8%)
PK: 18 on 89 (79.7%)
The Leafs have been brutal since Carlyle left. Their PP and PK are worse, they are barely scoring, but their SF/SA ratio has improved. Their effort without Carlyle has been extremely low many nights, and that has to be a concern for management.
It seems clear that Carlyle’s disciplinarian approach kept the team in line, but since his departure they’ve slid down the eastern conference standings. The Leafs best players look like they have mailed it in too often, while many of the Oilers players have played more inspired with their new coach.
The negative for Edmonton is that despite the better effort, they still aren’t winning often enough. Nelson stated he feels his team had made strides, but they need to play more consistent for longer stretches if they want to win.
- The Oilers PP has been on fire lately. They are 23 of 92 (25%) since Nelson took over, and are on a ridiculous run in their last five games, 9 of 21 (42.8%). I asked Eberle what has been the difference on the PP.
“I don’t think there has been many tweaks. I think part of it has been familiarity, because you gain momentum when you play with the same guys all the time. We have had to change some guys out, due to injuries, but Todd has kept both units together for the most part.
“I think at the start of the year we were so worried about Corsi numbers and shots per powerplay per minute, and it got to the point we were just shooting to shoot the puck. Now we are just going out there and trying our best to score whether it is one shot in two minutes and we put the puck in the net or we get ten shots and finally get a goal. Obviously you have to shoot the puck to score, but I don’t think you want to be in a situation where you are shooting it just for the sake of shooting. You need net front traffic and make sure you battle to get the rebound back.”
It sounds like the focus under Eakins was making sure they got a lot of shots, especially early in powerplays, or at least his delivery of the importance of shots was what the players heard. The Oilers aren’t shooting less with Nelson actually, but according to Eberle the message is different.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Lerfs and Oilers have been so bad for so long, the last time the two teams faced off in a season where both teams made the playoffs, Eric Brewer led the Oilers in ice time. March 10, 2003, to be exact.
Here’s the box score from that game, if you’re curious. The Lerfs won 3-2, with goals from Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle and Alexander Mogilny.
Tonight’s game will have a marginal impact on the chance that some ping-pong balls will come up with one team over another. That’s about it. Other than that, it’s the closest thing the NHL has to relegation.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Leafs are brutal right now. They are 1-15-2 in their 18 road games since Carlyle was fired. Nelson talked about how flat his team was in Toronto last month, and I expect a much better effort from the Oilers tonight. They end their seven-game losing streak with a 5-3 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers score two PP goals.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lander becomes the 8th Oiler to have a multi-goal game this season joining Pouliot (3), Eberle (3), RNH (2, one hat trick), Yakupov, Hendricks, Arcobello and Hall.
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