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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

What’s Wrong with the Oilers?

Two weeks in and things haven’t gone as planned for the Edmonton Oilers. While many pegged them as a Stanley Cup contender, they’ve stumbled after their shutout win against Calgary on opening night.

What’s concerning about the Oilers and how much should fans worry? Is this just a slow start or a result of a greater problem? Let’s take a look.

Their 1-3 Record

Concern Level: Medium

The Oilers are 1-3 and fans are starting to panic. The good news is it’s four games. A win against Carolina Tuesday and Chicago Thursday puts them back at .500 and everyone can breathe. The bad news is Carolina looks like an improved team with Scott Darling in net and a mobile defence, while Chicago is second in the league in goals scored.

Edmonton has seen their season disappear in October in recent years, so it’s understandable to see fans getting a bit nervous, but this time might be different. Despite their three losses, the Oilers are first in terms of 5-on-5 Corsi for% (shot attempts for/against) at 59.56% with a 4.03% shooting percentage. That’s not going to last. If the Oilers can continue to generate shots like they are then the goals and saves might follow, but that’s a fairly big if. Small sample sizes like this one mean it could just as easily go the other way.

Cam Talbot

Apr 12, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) makes a save during warmup against the San Jose Sharks in game one of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Concern Level: Low

Cam Talbot is the least of the Oilers’ worries. After shutting out the Flames in their first game, Talbot’s been pulled twice and now has a .896 save percentage on the year.

Talbot has been great since arriving in Edmonton, even with a small adjustment period to start, his last two seasons feature .917 and .919 save percentages. He’s better than this and will likely improve.

Even with Talbot’s struggles, Laurent Brossoit looked good in his two relief appearances against Vancouver and Ottawa and could be an option if Talbot doesn’t return to previous levels.

Secondary Scoring

May 7, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic (27) watches a shot from forward Leon Draisaitl (not pictured) get past Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (36) during the first period in game six of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Concern Level: High

Connor McDavid’s line is always a good bet to dominate. That’s never been the problem. It’s the scoring when McDavid is on the bench that’ll help transition the Oilers into true contenders, but where will those goals come from?

So far, the Oilers have two 5-on-5 goals without McDavid on the ice. If the Oilers plan to load up McDavid’s line with Leon Draisaitl, then it’s up to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, and Ryan Strome to provide secondary scoring. Darcy McLeod (a.k.a. Woodguy) had a nice thread on Twitter about this here. The Oilers will miss Jordan Eberle and his 50+ points, many of which were scored without McDavid, especially if Ryan Strome can’t be much more than a depth centre/winger and Milan Lucic can’t recover his 5-on-5 scoring.

A shallow right-wing means the Oilers will rely on McDavid even more this season. Splitting up McDavid and Draisaitl could give the Oilers a more balanced attack, something McLellan tried at times in Winnipeg and Vancouver, but couldn’t against Ottawa due to Draisaitl’s injury.

The Second Pairing

Apr 16, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing Melker Karlsson (68) stumbles trying to get the puck as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Kris Russell (4) watches in the third period of game three in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. The Oilers won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Concern Level: Flames Ownership Having to Privately Fund their Arena High

The Oilers were left with a giant hole when Andrej Sekera got hurt against Anaheim in last year’s playoffs. General manager Peter Chiarelli chose to re-sign Kris Russell and bet on young defenders Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse to hold the fort while Sekera recovers, and well, that hasn’t gone as planned.

The Russell-Benning struggled after opening night, and Russell probably isn’t suited to anchor the second pairing on his own. That leaves Nurse or Eric Gryba as options to elevate, but neither is optimal.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done in terms of acquisitions. Top four defencemen usually aren’t moved mid-season, and the only ones available now are the ones Vegas chose in the expansion draft but don’t want to waive. Edmonton needs more help than a Jon Merrill or Griffin Reinhart.

Edmonton could lean on Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson more and limit the ice time of the other pairings. Klefbom’s averaging a career-high 23:25 minutes a game, while Larsson’s only at 20:50. If Todd McLellan can push them to 23-25 minutes a game, that means fewer minutes for a shaky second pairing.

  • Jordan88

    Nothing is wrong everything is fine, Oilers are a team that is adjusting to the pace of the NHL season again. I am not concerned with goal or defence. (seriously if Pittsburgh can win a cup without Letang I think we can make the post season without Sekera for a few months.)

    I am really really concerned with the lack of depth on the wings. my top six for wingers are Maroon Lucic Draisaitil Kassian. Slepyshev could alternate between 2nd and 3rd RW if needed ( He was ranked 10th in his draft year among international skaters, he has skill.) I like Yamamoto but seriously once Draisaitil gets back send him down. He is a good kid let him get 18-19 minutes a night in the W and dominate. He clearly has the skill set and it won’t hurt him. He is not NHL ready.

    1-3-0 is nothing its a blip.

    • WillyWonka

      i love the “Oilers are a team that is adjusting to the pace of the NHL season again” comment.
      Isn’t that what they did in preseason? Aren’t other teams doing the same? theres lots of legitimate reasons (or excuses, depending on your take) the team is out of sync, but this inst one of them. this is funny

      • Jordan88

        NHL Pre season is never full pace, no pre season in any professional sport is. In the Oilers vs Utica Comets on sept 22nd was pretty relaxed almost beer league pace.

    • WillyWonka

      the next six games:
      – Carolina
      – Chicago
      – Philadelphia
      – -Pittsburgh
      – Dallas
      – Washington.
      if this team spends next two weeks ‘finding’ themselves, they could easily be 2-7-1 in two weeks

      • That's My Point

        PANIC HAS NOW SET IN, can’t see them winning a game this month, ………..large GULP!

        30th place currently, look on the bright side it’s a GOOD draft in 2018.

  • madjam

    Who put the breaks on ? After an impressive exhibition and first game , some one put the breaks on team ? Now they are getting worse by the game . Somethings askew , who turned the light bulb off ? Are they still a close knit group or is dissention creeping in ? We lost a lot of character people (Hendriks, Pouliot , Eberle) that played an important part in team bonding and team chemistry , and maybe rebuild is lax in that area this season .

    • TruthHurts98

      Thanks for the laugh! Aside from Hendricks, Poop and Ebs are not character guys lol. So glad they got rid of them and bloated contracts. Ebs is sucking it up in NY and on pace for at least -20 season. The Oilers have other problems, mostly work ethic and expecting Connor and Talbot to do it all. If they get back to hard work and not expecting easy wins, they will start winning again. It’s the shaky start from Talbot and not getting any lucky bounces that is hurting them as well. Hope Cam returns to form tonight!

  • madjam

    The intensity opposition teams are bringing into our games is far above last season . They are coming in as underdogs . whereas last season we were the underdogs , and thus we are getting out worked on many nights . We have become a measuring stick ( target on teams back) for many opposition teams , and thus will have very few easy games as a result . Mistakes and weaknesses will be magnified this season as a result .

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      For many teams, last year was the first chance they got to see McDavid at full speed and health. The Oilers played the end of last season like they needed to do to get into the playoffs with any chance of winning a round. That continued through the playoffs. The media jumped on the bandwagon thinking that this was the real Oilers.

      What happened in the off-season to improve that team? Mostly nothing. The team buying into the media hype maybe had them feeling they were elite and just had to show up to win. Game 1 was a poor showing by the Flames, but was not a cakewalk. That should have caused the team to take notice. Game two should have really sent that message. Game three same thing. Almost a week off, facing a team on the 2nd of a B2B on the road, and they put up a stinker.

      The only measuring stick is what the Oilers had become last year to where they are this season.

  • It’s all about effort. The Oilers did well last year because they skated, they crashed, they worked. Guys like Maroon and Kassian seemed to be over-performing because they worked their tails off. They crashed the net, they owned the boards. They beat the other team to loose pucks. They flew. Watching that game against the Sens, it looked like nobody even CARED that they were behind. There was no urgency. No passion. If they can find that spark (and it’s up to those guys with letters on the front of their sweaters to take ownership) then we’ll be fine. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a looooong season.

  • Clayton

    The problems are pretty simple…

    1. Talbot has been awful. Maybe last year was a career year with numbers he will never reach again…but there is no way that he will have a permanent drop off to the level he is playing at right now. Even average NHL goaltending puts this team in contention.

    2. Defense is embarassing. It will improve with Sekara, but even then this team still lacks two top 4 D-Men…depending how you look at it…either #1 #2 or #2 #4. Larsson is fine, but look at the contending teams and he wouldn’t be a top 2 guy yet somehow the Oil gave up a top 6 forward for him.

    3. Teams have adjusted to Connor McDavid…they have changed their approach to how they line up against him. Connor will adjust and the points will come…just a matter of if the adjustment comes before they dig too deep of a hole.

    4. GM keeps downtrading…Hall for Larsson? Eberle for Strome? Not that Strome and Larsson are bad pieces…but there were better pieces out there. Winning teams find a way to get a steal or two from free agency and trades…all the Oilers have found so far is a way to get robbed on trades.

    5. A LOT of Oilers had career years last year…is that the start of a trend or a one year wonder? The scary stat is player points with and without Connor…there are more than a few guys with connor-inflated point totals from last year.

    • Jordan88

      1: Talbot is a slow starter, always has been through his career since junior. Source = 10 min google search
      2: Larsson, Klefbom, Sekera, Nurse, boom top 4 you don’t need big names like Subban or Weber to get to the cup.
      3: You can’t adjust to speed, sorry, you think people saying he thinks and plays at another level is lip service? He’s and F1 car racing in NASCAR.
      4. Larsson is one hell of an upgrade over Hall, Strome is 4 games in and comes 3.5 million cheaper. if he gets 20 goals its a great trade. if he scores in the off season its a flat out win.
      5. McDavid, Talbot, Maroon, thats 3 pieces. hardly alot.

      This team is better than their record suggests. Oilers biggest problem and the one you never touched on?

      Right wing, lots of potential in the CHL and AHL but nothing at the NHL level it will come, if its 20-40 games or next season we will have some scoring depth, Puljujarvi is a player. Hard to play the game in North America when you can’t speak english fluently yet.

    • Reinman

      #4 Exactly. Dynasty’s, these days, are made on your drafting and player signings. Throwing away money on underperforming players is what costs you the cup. Not drafting well, and/or sacrificing your draft picks/prospects also plays a huge part. SIgning Chia and TMac cost us draft picks, Chia traded away our 16th and 31st for magic beans.

      The Russell Signing I think is ok now, but what about the last couple of years of that contract. Lucic is the big one for me. 6 million a year for a guy, who in my opinion, is struggling to be a top 6 winger, and that is not because we are really deep on LW. Sad thing is, I would say his best days are behind him, and he will decline from here at 6 million a year for the next 6 years? This contract will be the one to kill the Oilers chances of being a dominant team in this league over the next 6 years. How soon do you think a buyout will be discussed?

      If we had played this right we should be bringing in guys inflating their stats by playing them with Connor, and then trading them out of town and getting more than their value back.

      Can’t really complain about the Draisaitl deal, but we did overpay. Would have been better to sign him for less term at a lower salary. Chia lost that one for sure. Oh well, at least I think we have a good shot of making the playoffs every year, but I don’t think we will ever win the cup, as our overpays will stop us from icing a team that can win it all. At 6 million a year for Lucic, just look at all the other players in the league that would be doing a lot more for us at that price.

      • OTOF2

        It isn’t necessarily that he passed on deals ” that were handed to him on a silver platter”. This doesn’t happen. It’s the fact that he didn’t create the right trade that his team needed. That’s what good GM’s do. Get it?

        • Play Dirty

          Hey man – I didn’t make the claim that there were better deals out there. I trust that the guy that is the GM in the NHL knew the deals that he was able to make better than me. …even better than you.

  • Jordan88

    Man has anyone thought opposing teams go: Oh crap its the Oilers, we need to bring our A game?
    before Oilers were viewed as a stop gap and a chance to rest star players. I am not kidding I watched almost every game during the decade of darkness.

  • Big Nuggets

    Talbot has been bad, the Jets forwards got hot and Ottawa has a solid team game. As long as Talbot returns to form the skaters will find their game and get some wins. There are deficiencies on the team but not enough to panick over. It all hinges on Talbot in my opinion. He was huge for us last season.

  • GriffCity

    I’d like to say Brossoit played very well in relief against in his first appearance but looked average at best against the Sens last game. Suggesting LB as a replacement option for Talbot is a bad, bad idea.

  • btrain

    Granted we probably have a little PTSD from seasons past, but there is nothing worth panicking over just yet. Every team will go through these losing streaks at some point, if not several points, in a season. In the context of an 82 game season, its pretty minor to have a few 3 game slides. With that said, there are some obvious points of weakness on this roster. Goaltending, is properly identified above as not being a large concern. However, the RW depth and D is. Ryan Strome is not Jordan Eberle and never will be. Honestly, if I had to choose, I would hands down pick Kassian as being a more offensive threat than Strome in the NHL based on what I have watched so far. Realistically Strome probably falls into the 3rd line utility role, and this is an important position to fill but likely not what many are hoping for from this player. I guess we are finding out how expendable offense actually is. Perhaps next time we have a perennial 20goal scorer we wont be as quick to focus on their flaws and chase them out of town before anything resembling a safe bet replacement is put in place. As for D, the results are not there yet, but once the goaltending stabilizes a little, so will the D. Right now they need some saves to get their confidence back up as every small error is ending up in the back of the net. Fortunately I am least worried of all about Talbot and believe he is the key to leading this team out of this funk.

  • If you slow down McDavid, you really can’t stop him, the rest of the Oilers don’t have the talent to carry this team, other than Draisaitl. Edmonton’s defense is average at best as evident in the lack of support Talbot has received. If McDavid gets injured for a length of time this team will really struggle to make the playoffs.

  • Kaplan

    I’m a little concerned with how TM is handling Talbot. Two straight yanks, one of them justified but the other, I thought, unwarranted. And now, after a couple nights off, giving him the bench in favor of Brossoit? I’d have thought TM would’ve given Talbs another shot to make adjustments, especially now that the scrutiny has intensified. Something’s up in the dressing room.

  • MrBung

    Bottom line is that this team has more work to do. This roster has too many issues. Last season, they overachieved. They are going to go through a correction this season. And the unfortunate side-effect is that they will miss the playoffs this season.

  • ricardo2000

    Opponents have decided McD can be defended if they keep his line in the defensive end. So puck control in the D-zone is paramount; use speed to get back and control the boards; make good breakout passes; hit the tape with passes everywhere else.

  • Dean S

    We are in dire need of a consistent goaltender. Talbot has always been very inconsistant. Last year he overachieved with numbers that surprised everyone.
    The next six games:
    – Carolina
    – Chicago
    – Philadelphia
    – -Pittsburgh
    – Dallas
    – Washington.
    Please we need another NHL, don’t wait too long.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    I think a problem is the media. It’s like, one day it’s; “Cancel the season and hand the rings out in Edmonton ’cause what’s the point!!!” And the next it’s; “Expel Connor from the country and sitegn the papers for Seattle ’cause what’s the point!!!”

    There’s a middle ground, and that middle ground is called patience.

    I mean, this article is feeding the panic. Not, to slag it, it was informative, but if say, Russell has two good games and Connor is Connor for three, it’ll be a whole new world.

    Patience.

  • Oiler Al

    Need to play a transition game! Wont happen because the “D” cant get trhe puck up ice efficiently and quickly.Forwards are staning around waiting for a play. Not sure if its system or the players.

  • oilerjunkie

    Way too early to panic! Way, way too early, people! Sure, it’s a disappointing start, but it’s an 82-game schedule. We all know the Oilers are much better than 1-and-4, and it’ll start showing soon enough. Stay the course….