Have you heard? The Oilers are four games into the season and they only have one win. They’re nearly at the bottom of the NHL’s standings, sitting in 30th place ahead of only the hapless Buffalo Sabres. I thought the Decade of Darkness was over?!
That brings us to this week’s what would you do Wednesday question. This one has a couple of layers because I think everyone here in Oil Country is ready to rant a little bit. Are you ready to hit the panic button? If so, what’s wrong? And how do you fix it? If not, walk those who panicking away from the edge.
After hammering the Calgary Flames on opening night two weeks ago, things have quickly turned from optimism and excitement to frustration and panic in Edmonton. The Oilers have dropped four games in a row and simply look like a shell of their former selves, nowhere near the team we saw take the Anaheim Ducks to seven games in the second round of the playoffs last spring.
Okay, so WWYDW part one: Should we be hitting the panic button?
On one hand, it’s only been five games. That’s a time sample size, and if this skid had happened in the middle of January, nobody would be worried about it. But on the other hand, it isn’t January. It’s October and the team has only played one good game so far through a fairly easy schedule to kick off the season.
The damning thing about these losses is how out of sorts the team has looked. Oddly enough, Edmonton at atop the league in shot attempt differential, which generally means that they’re outplaying their opponents. I mean, if you outshoot the other team, you’re probably going to win, right?
While the Oilers are generating a lot of shots, they haven’t been converting on them. The wingers simply haven’t been able to finish like we saw last year. Patrick Maroon, for example, was an excellent trigger man on Connor McDavid’s wing, but he hasn’t scored yet this season. Nobody has been able to fill in Jordan Eberle’s top right wing role yet, and while Eberle’s play left a bit to be desired at times, it’s hard to say who’s going to replace his 20 goals.
The bigger issue, though, is the blueline. We all knew the defence was going to struggle a little bit with Andrej Sekera out of action after injuring his ACL in the playoffs. But so far, the Oilers blueline has been a disaster. Poor pinches, weak defensive zone play, and bad decision making has made the blueline a weakness for the team so far this year so teams are able to capitalize on chances and quickly swing momentum in their favour.
Is it time to worry? 1-4 is an ugly start, of course, but it’s not like the points in the standings can’t be made up in the remaining 77 games. There seems to be the foundation of a successful team here, but Oilers had a lot of good fortune last season in terms of breakout performances and injury luck. Are they going to be able to pull things together?
Then there’s WWYDW part two: What does hitting the panic button entail?
How, exactly, do you drag a team out of a situation like this? If you’re one of the ones hitting the panic button, worried about the defence, the effort level, injuries, depth, goaltending, or all of the above, how do you solve the problem?
You can’t really rush Sekera back to remedy the blueline’s issues because if you do, there’s a chance you’re opening yourself up to longer-term issues. It’s obviously too early to pull the trigger on a trade and the players left in the free agent pool aren’t really worthwhile anyway.
Bag skates? New lines? Yelling and screaming? Benchings? Forcing all of the players to fly coach to Chicago in middle seats with no leg room? No Tinder accounts until the team reaches .500? Some Space Jam special performance elixir?
What say you, Oilersnation? What’s the issue? Is it major? How does it get fixed?
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