After back-to-back losses to the 30th place Arizona Coyotes, many are wondering just who the Edmonton Oilers are.
It stings losing consecutive games to the worst team in the NHL. The Oilers didn’t play awful, but they simply weren’t good enough. They are also the team who dominated the western conference leading Chicago Blackhawks last Monday.
I think last week is an accurate depiction of who they are right now.
They can play with the top teams, their offence can win them a game like they did in Colorado, and they can still be frustrated by a less-skilled Arizona team.
The Oilers aren’t experienced enough to win all the games they “should win.” In reality, no team ever wins all of those games, and last season only 12 NHL teams won 42+ games. The only other team to win more than half their games was Boston, who won 42 and missed the playoffs.
Does that excuse the Oilers from their weekend performances? Of course not, but as Oilersnation transforms back into a playoff-bound fanbase we should remind you, there will still be games where the Oilers infuriate you.
The Oilers out shot the Coyotes 42-23, including 12-3 on the powerplay, but they couldn’t score.
According to Naturalstattrick.com, the Oilers had 26 scoring chances to the Coyotes’ 18, and they had 16 High Danger scoring chances while Arizona had 10. They either shot from really close or from the perimeter, but they didn’t have many mid-range chances. The Oilers didn’t play terribly, but they didn’t finish. And they had one major defensive miscue that cost them — Jordan Eberle simply has to make a better read on the Coyotes second goal.
It makes sports more enjoyable to be emotionally involved, and for many Oilers fans it is the first time you are actually excited to watch games. It can be fun, but at times, still very frustrating.
You likely have higher expectations now, which is great. You should. The Oilers are a more competitive team, but before you throw your remote control or call a player garbage or demand he be traded for a bag of pucks, remember that very few teams win more than 55% of their games (45 wins out of 82).
The Oilers will still make mistakes. There will be games where they don’t play as well as the opposition, and there will be the odd game where they outplay the opposition and lose.
This is what cheering for a competitive team feels like. You finally have expectations and wou are emotionally involved. But try to avoid being the fan who overreacts to every bad play.
Get annoyed, get fired up, enjoy the wins, loathe the losses, but remind yourself now and again that 42 wins would be a MONUMENTAL accomplishment for this team. They aren’t a top dog yet, butt thankfully they aren’t a gutter dog anymore, either. I see them more of a middle-of-the-road dog.
***I dislike cats, so I went with the dog moniker.
- I understand everyone will appreciate players in different ways, but I’m perplexed by the amount of vitriol spewed at Jordan Eberle. Yes, Eberle is a not a defensive stalwart. This is not new, but the minute he makes a bad play he is automatically deemed soft, will-never-win, does nothing, etc.
It seems his offensive prowess, which has been proven over a five-year span and without McDavid, means nothing. Help me understand why you think this way, but if you want to trade Eberle you need someone to replace him with. And please don’t say Jesse Puljujarvi.
He is a rookie. He has played 214 EV minutes this year, 91 with Leon Draisaitl, 75 with Connor McDavid and 35 with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and he has zero goals. Let me make this clear, I am not picking on Puljujarvi. I like him a lot, and I like his future potential even more, but he is not ready to be a top-line RW today. That is perfectly okay, as very few 18 year olds are. I suspect he will be in the future, but the biggest mistake many organizations make is thrusting a player into a role before they are ready to handle it. They can keep him there, because McDavid is so dominant he will create chances, but Puljujarvi is not yet a top-line player.
If you want Eberle moved, that is fine, but it makes more sense to trade him when you have someone capable of replacing him, and the Oilers don’t right now. Could they trade for a RW? Possibly, but there aren’t many on the market who produce how he does in the offensive zone.
From the start of the 2011/2012 season, Eberle has scored the sixth most points among right-wingers. Patrick Kane (383), Phil Kessel (355), Blake Wheeler (329), Corey Perry (313) and Jakub Voracek (312) have more than Eberle’s 305.
It is foolish to just discount his offensive totals. Does he have warts in his game? You betcha, but he’s a pretty prolific scoring winger. You can’t just critique the things he does bad, without taking into the account what he does well. I guess you can, but it isn’t overly intelligent to do in my eyes.
It is very fair to rip him for his missed assignment on the winning goal last night. He needs to make a better read and we should expect him to in his 7th NHL season. His defensive short-comings will only improve if he decides to. He needs to be better there. No arguing that, but it doesn’t magically eliminate the good parts of his game.
What is also surprising to me to me is ripping him when he doesn’t score on a every good scoring chance. It is almost like people don’t realize Eberle (and the majority of players) doesn’t score on 86% of his shots. He has 1,096 shots in his career and has 152 goals, good for a 13.9SH%. He is a bit under that this season, with seven goals on 69 shots.
In his first six season he averaged 2.4 shots per game. This year he is averaging 3.0. Shooting more will automatically lower his SH%, but he should end up with more goals. He likely should have one or two more goals this season, that is a fair argument, but I can’t understand the pure hatred I’ve seen from some fans regarding Eberle.
He is not a garbage player, and before you say the Oilers can’t win with him, wouldn’t it be wise to see how he performs in the playoffs? His track record at the WJC and World Championships have shown he can score in big moments. I’d want to see him in the postseason before I make claims he can’t produce in the playoffs.
- The suggestion Eberle should sit in the pressbox for a game or two also confuses me. You will bench your 2nd leading scorer to send a message? Okay, but you are then diminishing your chances of producing points, which help win games. I fully agree for being annoyed with his play on game winning goal, but I wouldn’t sit a player for it. I’d rip him and expect more or simply tell him he won’t see the ice in the final five minutes of a tie game. Eberle has four goals and nine points in his last ten games. He hasn’t been in a major slump, he’s just missed a few really good scoring chances.
If you bench him who will you play on the 2nd line RW? Pitlick has been the most productive recently, with three goals and points in ten games, but he is still a big drop off offensively. Many other forwards are in a scoring funk:
Kassian has no points in 14 games.
Pouliot has no points in his last 13 games
Letestu has one point in his last ten games.
RNH has one goal and three points in ten games.
Maroon has two goals and four points in ten games. Decent, but no goals in eight games.
Slepyshev has two goals and four points in his last ten games, which is solid for how much he plays.
- I would put both Tyler Pitlick and Anton Slepyshev back in the lineup. I could see Caggiula and one of Hendricks/Kassian coming out, and even though Kassian hasn’t scored I’ve liked how he has played. He created some good chances last game. Pouliot is an option as he is obviously struggling.
- Line combinations could depend on how McLellan runs his top line. Will he leave Leon Draisailt on McDavid’s wing, or put him back at centre? I’m guessing he’ll put Puljujarvi back with #97 to start the game, but I could argue giving Pitlick a shot there.
- Pitlick has six goals. He has been more productive than Puljujarvi. I would actually play Eberle with Draisaitl and Puljujarvi with Nugent-Hopkins. Nuge is not producing at EV, so I’d put Puljujarvi with him, as both are responsible without the puck, and you could have Pouliot on the left wing if you want him in the lineup. You could play Slepyshev on his off-wing as well. Many have done it.
I’d put Draisaitl with Eberle and take advantage of last change to put them in offensive situations. Eberle has proven he can produce, and Draisaitl is a better offensive player than RNH. I’d also be curious to see a Patrick Maroon/Draisaitl/Eberle combination. Maroon hasn’t produced as much since being away from Draisaitl. RNH is playing against top lines, so I’d have them as a quasi checking role and use Draisaitl’s line in more offensive situations.
It would mean switching up the right wingers, but after two losses a few tweaks to the lineup wouldn’t be a major surprise.
- Would you re-insert Pitlick and Slepyshev? Who would come out? Would you switch the lines?
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