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Rogers Place, which is likely the nicest rink in the NHL, after moving lock, stock and Gretzky statue out of aging and outdated Rexall Place.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
- 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.
RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE