A WELL-WORN WELCOME MAT

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The Edmonton Oilers have a brand new arena in Rogers Place, which is likely the nicest rink in the NHL, after moving lock, stock and Gretzky statue out of aging and outdated Rexall Place. Shiny. Flashy. It’s a sharp-looking joint if ever there was one.

What the Oilers don’t have 19 games into their first season at their swank new downtown arena is the kind of record that’s going help them make the playoffs after 10 years on the outside looking in. While the 2016-17 version of the Oilers is better overall than anything we’ve seen in recent seasons, it’s the same old, same old when it comes to taking care of business at home.

The Oilers are 9-8-2 at home this season after a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks Tuesday. Add that record to their previous five seasons at the old rink on Gretzky Drive and the Oilers have been gracious hosts, indeed. All told, the Oilers have won just 86 of their last 207 games on home ice. Talk about throwing out the welcome mat.

Their ongoing mediocrity at home this year, to say the least, is a real head-scratcher given how much better this team is than previous editions. It also, if recent history means anything at all, makes them a statistical longshot to break their decade-long slump out of the post-season.

YOU CAN’T DO THAT

Having just written at the halfway mark of the schedule that I believe the Oilers are going to make the playoffs, it’s worth noting that if they do it’s going to be in spite of their home record, not because of it if something doesn’t change drastically the rest of the way. The numbers say so.

Taking a look at the five seasons previous to this one, just two teams managed to grab the 80 available playoff spots over that stretch (five seasons times 16 playoff teams each season) with a sub-.500 point percentage at home. San Jose did it last season with an 18-20-3 record and the New York Islanders did it in the 48-game 2012-13 season with a 10-11-3 record. That’s it. That’s all.

The Oilers at home the previous five seasons:

2015-16 – 19-20-2 (40 points)

2014-15 – 15-23-3 (33 points)

2013-14 – 16-22-3 (35 points)

2012-13 – 9-11-4   (22 points)

2011-12 – 18-17-6 (42 points)

With all the turnover in players and coaches, this is a completely different team than five years ago, let alone 10 years ago, yet the common thread is that lousy home record. Some of those teams were going to be truly awful whether they had the last change and a crowd cheering them on or not, but this one? 

The Oilers have six more home games and just three on the road in January. This is the month when they should be solidifying the playoff spot they hold right now, not frittering it away by coughing up points in front of the hometown faithful. Teams that don’t win at home don’t get a chance for a do-over in the playoffs.

WHILE I’M AT IT

SoapBox

  • I’ve crapped on Benoit Pouliot more than once this season because I lean more heavily on my eyes than advanced stats and I haven’t liked what I’ve seen one bit, but I thought he played maybe his best game this season against the Sharks last night. Pouliot picked up an assist on Drake Caggiula’s 1-1 goal.

  • Cam Talbot has had better nights (five goals on 28 shots) and he owned being outdone by Martin Jones in the San Jose net. While I’m not necessarily putting Talbot’s performance down to fatigue, the sooner the Oilers get Laurent Brossoit up from Bakersfield and Jonas Gustavsson gone now that he’s cleared waivers, the better.

  • I haven’t heard anything official, but I imagine the Oilers will be putting together a video montage to mark the return of Taylor Hall when the New Jersey Devils come calling on Thursday. The organization has always been classy that way.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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  • Sean17

    Sorry it’s my fault. I have a six game mini pack. They have lost all 3 games so far. It’s me. My bad. I can’t have nice things. Next game is against Florida on Wednesday. Sorry in advanced.

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare this team to team’s from the “death valley” years. Of course those teams had terrible home records, they were terrible teams.

    I think if one were to look at a history of new arenas you will find that teams often do not have impressive home records in the first year. So I’m not really shocked by the Oil’s struggles on home ice.

    Oil have a bad habit of easing into games vs better teams (San Jose twice, recent game in Columbus last game in St L). They usually come out of the funk and start competing (not the CBJ game however) and salvage some points.

    After the first 10 minutes (in which the Oil were lucky not to be down 3-0) they were the better team. Natural stat trick had the Oil with 20 high quality scoring chances!

    Goaltending ended up the difference, like the Boston game in reverse.

    No team yet has answer to the Maroon-McD-Ld line. .

    • I don’t think it’s fair to compare this team to team’s from the “death valley” years. Of course those teams had terrible home records, they were terrible teams.

      “With all the turnover in players and coaches, this is a completely different team than five years ago, let alone 10 years ago, yet the common thread is that lousy home record. Some of those teams were going to be truly awful whether they had the last change and a crowd cheering them on or not, but this one?”

      I think that’s what I said.

  • The ice in the new barn is horrible, It really is a shame given the digs that house it. Pathetic even.

    I agree on Pou, he does appear to be getting a clue out there, his play on the road trip was better by eye as well. The fancy stats guys will point to his numbers in the brief stints he has had with 97, they are actually quite good (in a limited sample size).

    The benefit of such intel is that, should they choose to shine Pou up for a trip outta town that option exists. The real McDavid effect is an asset that the organization can utilize for nefarious things like fancy stats padding for line mates.

    • Silver Streak

      Extreme fast Ice could and should (must) be our ” Oiler advantage “…..use it to attract and retain quick fast and skilled players, OA who are tired of playing in southern USA swamps…..we do not have that right yet…..Im wondering if the American architect design crew simply copied their old cooling systems in place in their past buildings…..would be interesting to know whats below the concrete slab….likethe new home of the Islanders where they find after checking out their new home….PLASTIC cooling pipes were used ….not stainless steel…..resulting in slush for ice.

    • offside

      Who told you the ice is horrible? I think early in the year it was but I’ve heard nothing but positive things about it lately. I got to skate on it before Christmas and I thought it was great, better than Rexall was last year when I skated there. I spoke to Steve Hamilton about it he said the team felt it was probably the best ice in the WHL. They had no complaints at all.
      I’ve also noticed in the stands that the temperature in general is A LOT cooler than it was early in the season.
      Regardless, both teams play on the same ice surface.

  • Aitch

    As much as I respect Talbot for taking the blame, I think the reality is that the Sharks made the most of their chances while the Oilers failed to do the same.

    Goal 1 – rebound. Talbot made the first save, but Boedker had tripped his mark (Sekara) leading to him getting most of an empty net to shoot at.

    Goal 2 – basically a screened power play goal (Maroon wasn’t yet back in the play.) Would’ve been nice to have that one hit him, but it didn’t look like Talbot ever saw it as it passed through some legs.

    Goal 3 – Talbot might have overplayed the pass, but it was bad luck that had the Sharks player lose the puck only to go right to Boedker for another empty net shot.

    Goal 4 – That tip probably found the one hole in Talbot on that side of the net. Once again, you’d like to see that hit him, but on a tight deflection, he did what he could.

    Goal 5 – Do I need to mention how lucky Couture was to have the rebound hit his shin pad and go five-hole.

    Just an unfortunate night for Talbot. That’s two games in a row that the Oilers played well, but didn’t get a point out of the game. The difference will come if they can stop the bleeding now rather than letting it turn into a lengthy slide.

  • Sean17

    But what about the fan experience of Roger’s Place? How will I ever capture that at home? I guess I could pay $20 to park in the driveway. Give the wife a $11 for a beer. Maybe have her shuffle awkwardly in front of me every 15 minutes. Sit way too close next to me on the couch. Possibly elbow her in the boob when I attempt to clap and finally have her kick my beer over. Sound about right? Oh wait, I will get her to yell “Shoot” occasionally for no reason. I will give it a try and let you know.

  • Connor McFly

    Chiarelli and Mclellan seem to be oil and water in how to win big games. The Oil are a sick and disfunctional management and coaching mix. (J.P) is now in Bako. Notwithstanding they have won more games this year they still can’t show up and at least play well. Getting outscored happens but getting your ass kicked in front of the home crowd is should never happen. Letestu and Hendo were the oppsite of leadership.

    I can easily name 10 players who should not be here next year.

  • S cottV

    I really think the Oilers are still too one dimensional, toward how they approach the art of war.

    At home the tendency is even more so to up tempo it, rely on rush and apply a 2 1 2 deep forecheck. It’s all too predictable.

    The Sens needed a win at home the other night. All they cared about was 2 pts and it didn’t matter about entertainment value.

    There is rarely an attempt to vary the forecheck, change up the pace, cap the risk on offence, focus on physicality, lay back looking for odd man counter attacks, showing more patience than your opponent. Etc. Systems you can apply to mix it up for games or parts of games, to be less predictable with more tools in the bag to get the job – 2pts, done.

    We have recently started to mix some cycling and o zone possession into our game, but is still not sufficiently developed.

    You have the Sharks coming into town and guess what – they are better. A typical game plan and chances are we lose.

    Maybe we respect that more and pull a Sens for the 2 pts.

    McDavid would make one helluva good counter striker in a well executed trap formation. Most trap turnovers are odd man counter strike rushes.

  • Will

    Is anyone else concerned that the home woes have a little bit to do with the ice? More than once at the games I’ve gone to it looks like the puck starts really bouncing around all over the damn place, degrading the night into broken and scrambly hockey. Now obviously both teams have the same disadvantage, but I am beginning to think the Oilers struggle with their own ice.

    • camdog

      If you are trying to play an up game like ScottV’s talking about then the ice would be problematic. I don’t think we need to Ottawa it up though, I’m sure their fans are sick and tired of Boucher by now…

      • Will

        Hhhmmm, not sure I follow here. I think what you’re saying is that the ice is no big deal, and maybe that fans who site that as the reason for home losses are not paying attention?

        Fair points if so I suppose.

        • camdog

          No, I was agreeing with you and ScottV, just wasn’t clear. Tough to play fast hockey on bad ice.

          The Oilers do try and move the puck quick at home, when the puck is bouncing, the other team is more able to capitalize. If they were to slow it down a bit it might help them out a bit. But we don’t need to go all Boucher here. I’m sure the Oilers are working on the ice, it’ll come around.

          • S cottV

            Yes – true. The worse the ice, the more you consider mucking tactics like the trap. Increases the chances for creating turnovers and odd man advantage counter strikes.

            I’m not advocating for a trap reliant hockey club, but we outta be able to do it every now and again.

            You have to do it from time to time – just to develop enough expertise at it, for when you really need to apply it and make it work.

            Bad trapping is useless.

            Good trapping at the right times or situations, might just grab a few extra points throughout the season.

  • dsanchez1973

    Echoing other’s comments, I have been very mystified that none of the MSM has asked about the ice. I grudgingly accepted that in Rexall, everything was old and it wasn’t worth fixing before moving, but I expected the ice in Rogers to be top quality, and it clearly isn’t.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Are there Three 6 million dollar players doing less in the league than ours? Is there a single 6 million dollar player producing less than ours? Honest question. We need guys who play with intensity, if they don’t get that every game is important from here on, then they need to be gone.

  • Serious Gord

    Re: Rogers being the “… nicest rink in the NHL”

    I think that very much depends on what ticket level you at seated in. I suspect a great many of the upper level ticket holders would disagree and that it is very debatable whether the new arena is better than rexall was at that price point. I personally like staples and Amalie better – especially Amalie.

  • @Hallsy4

    Thanks for the article Brother. Time for a Trade to shake things up, this is right where a team like the Oilers could get complacent. Make some noise Pete.