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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

No Sniff

The Edmonton Oilers were far from flawless last season in making the playoffs for the first time in a decade with 103 points, but when they screwed up, as even the best teams invariably do, or lapsed in one aspect of the game, they had enough scoring and enough Cam Talbot to smooth over many of the blemishes.

If the penalty killing floundered, Art Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl or somebody else would take the edge off with an offensive outburst. When the Oilers struggled to score at even strength, as they often did, the power play would heat up. Then, there was always Talbot to clean up any mess.

Ten games into this season, the Oilers can’t find the back of the net with a compass and a flashlight. After a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals Saturday that has just about everybody’s hair on fire, the Oilers have done a 3-6-1 face plant instead of bolting out of the gates 7-2-1 like they did a year ago. While it’s still early, but not that early, as Todd McLellan emphasized in his post-game availability Saturday, there’s a problem.

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While Talbot has steadied himself somewhat after a shaky stretch, far too many Oiler players are channeling Doug Friedman when it comes to contributing to the attack, be it at even-strength or with the man-advantage. There are way too many passengers for the top-end of the attack – McDavid and Draisaitl — to carry, so you get what we have here. Angst.

STRUGGLING MIGHTILY

Oct 4, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman (68) celebrates a second period goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

“There’s nothing early about this, let’s not kid ourselves,” said McLellan after watching the Caps win going away with five straight goals. “We’re an eighth into the season. There are a lot of points that have gone by and you never get them back. It’s tough falling behind in a game, it’s also tough falling behind in a season. We have a lot, a lot, of work ahead of us. We have to play better than we have, it’s as simple as that. We don’t have enough players playing at their capabilities to consistently win.”

McLellan understates. The Oilers rank dead-last with 22 goals-for after 10 games. While they’re ninth in the league with 377 shots, they are 30th in shooting percentage at 5.8 (they were 11th at 9.5 last season). The power play is 30th in goals (four) and percentage (12.12). The Oilers are 27th in even-strength goals with 18. When you can’t score on the power play or at even-strength and your PK is ranked 30th in percentage, you have issues.

McDavid, who has 5-6-11 (including an opening-night hat-trick), Draisaitl (1-6-7 in six games) and Patrick Maroon (4-4-8) haven’t been enough to drag along a ham-handed group of forwards that hasn’t been remotely close to being good enough. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic have had their moments, but aside from them, whew, somebody open a window.

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Ryan Strome, Zack Kassian, Jussi Jokinen, Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Khaira, Drake Caggiula and Mark Letestu have combined for a total of 3-4-7. Letestu has two goals and Strome has one. None from the other five. Slepyshev, Khaira and Caggiula don’t have a single point. I don’t think anybody is expecting this group to carry the attack, but you’d expect something more than bupkis, no? You know, maybe something going in off a skate or a backside along the way. Nada. While I’m at it, paging Oscar Klefbom . . .

“Last year, early in the season, we were able to outscore our mistakes,” said Matt Benning. “This year, we are having a little bit of trouble scoring. We just need to keep defending hard and get pucks and bodies at the net. We need to get some greasy goals and it will shift the tides and we can go from there.”

THE WAY I SEE IT

I’ve said and written that I generally like to take 20 games before passing judgment on any roster – good or bad – but if McLellan is alarmed at what he’s seen through 10 games, that’s good enough for me.  Besides, points now are just as important as points in March. The Oilers are piddling away far too many of them because they haven’t been scoring enough to give themselves a chance.

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My guess is general manager Peter Chiarelli has been working the phones for a while now. If I might be so bold, perhaps Chiarelli should consider spending some of the salary he dumped sending Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Strome on a forward who has an actual clue around the blue paint. With every game that goes by it’s becoming more obvious that there’s not enough of those guys on the roster right now.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  



  • Heschultzhescores

    The game is about special teams now. 30th in PP, horrible in penalty killing, mediocre goaltending, average 5 on 5. Instead of Rock solid defence, we have porous rock defence. Mcdavid in on 50% of the goals, you can’t ask any more of him. We have way too many guys who think they’re playing hard but it’s only in their minds and not on the ice. The solution? Guys need to look in the mirror and decide to play or be sent to the minors for rehab.

  • There are too many problems with this roster as currently constructed. It’s painfully evident that speed is the new ‘grit’ and the oil are just getting left in the dust. We were quick to applaud Chiarelli last year, but he’s made some brutal trades that were deemed as ‘good for the team’, but when you basically lose every major one for one trade, I don’t see how he thinks this team can move forward.
    No point in going back in time now, Chiarelli just needs to start winning trades, getting more speed, and quit making moves based on ‘potential’. Reinhart, Strome and Larsson all required significant assets out, more specifically speed and goal scoring (if we assume the Oil would have nabbed Barzal).
    Imo Chiarelli lost all of those trades, and they weren’t bottom of the roster moves by any means. Don’t even get me started on the Lucic signing.
    It’s not all doom and gloom I think the oil lie somewhere between where they are now and a 103 point team, but it’ll be an step uphill climb to make the dance this year after such a brutal start.

  • Jordan88

    If someone can’t come in and right this ship then we are gonna be a lottery team again. I am not off the band wagon just stating the obvious.

    McDavid can’t do it all, Draisaitil needs to drive his own line.

    Pittsburgh had the same issue we had Crosby Malkin Staal
    McDavid Draisaitl Nugent-Hopkins.

    In fact this team reminds me so much of the 2008-2009 penguins its not even funny.

  • jdh10899

    The only issue is the holes that chia has created, aren’t easy to solve. These were created by overpaying in trades, making just god awful trades, or trading for cap space when we didn’t need it. Everyone said this wingers are easy to replace, now we have to wait and see who Chia overpays for to bring one or two of these scoring wingers. The struggles on this season fall mainly in Chia, and no one else. Expecting internal growth will cover up the dumb mistakes he made is stupidity.

    • Petrolero

      How soon ppl forget about the real holes this team used to have. No goalie no first line center no top pairing d men. But according to you right wing is the most important position. Idiot

      • Sure he filled some holes – the Talbot trade was a steal, great move by chia. But filling a hole on 1st line centre was not of his doing, and I’d argue the ‘top pairing defence’ is still a question mark. Klefbom was drafted and we traded away an elite scorer for Larsson. I’m not completely against the trade but I would argue that by filling that ‘hole’ on d he created a much larger one (goals still need to be scored) that has yet to be filled. And I think anyone actually watching the games would agree that Lucic is not a suitable replacement for Hall, ‘in the room’ qualities not withstanding

  • Serious Gord

    the first ten games now make the next ten absolutely critical. At a bare minimum they need to earn 10 points in the next ten. And how many of those will be without sekera? Certainly all of them will be without him playing at peak form.

    And when will we see some criticism levelled at TMC?

    (Still have yet to see a cogent argument for why RNH can’t play with McD)

        • Neddd

          @MrBung

          Exactly who or what are you agreeing with? No-one in the prior posts commented on the players/roster not being good enough, that was your comment and yours alone….

          Your posts are boring and repetitive (probably reflects your personality very well).

    • Slipknot 8

      Because Draisaitl isn’t as good defensively as Hopkins and would get crushed going against other teams top line centres & I also believe that the Oilers think Draisaitls offence is better than Hopkins even though Draisaitls been zoomed by McDavid and Hall.

  • camdog

    “Ryan Strome, Zack Kassian, Jussi Jokinen, Anton Slepyshev, Jujhar Khaira, Drake Caggiula and Mark Letestu have combined for a total of 3-4-7. Letestu has two goals and Strome has one. None from the other five. Slepyshev, Khaira and Caggiula don’t have a single point, but you’d expect something more than bupkis, no?”

    Letestu and Strome’s goals are powerplay markers, so not a sniff at even strength. I was expecting this group to struggle with production (too slow), but not this bad. I was also expecting this group to struggle to kill penalties going into the season. Going into this season with those depth forwards reminded me of Mact going into the season with Belov and Grebeshkov and hoping they would be successful.

  • Cauliflower McPugg

    That pinch by Sexybomb with 30 second left in the first was egregious and unnecessary… it was Mark Andre Bergeron 8.0 levels of WTF.

    Post game interview of OVI8, that goal at the end of the first was huge for our confidence.

    I’m sure it was big stud. Im sure it was.

    • Slipknot 8

      The pinch was fine but there are about 4 other things that had to happen with that play.
      You want your defensemen to be aggressive like that but he needs to take the man on that play not the puck.
      At the same time Lucic and Strome have to come back hard to cover, this obviously never happened given it was a 4-1.
      The second line is getting burned a lot like that lately.

  • Oilers are showing their true colors, what you see is what they are.

    After all the off season hype, a yearly occurrence in Edmonton, OBVIOUS shortcomings are exposed. I know what they are and so do you. Unfortunately, the fix may come too late, if at all, with too many holes to fill. The only thing Oilers are gonna win like this, is the draft lottery, and that can’t happen again. The league can’t allow it.

    Also, I watched the Caps game last night and Talbot made some key saves early to keep the Oilers in it. I wouldn’t blame him for all your woes.

  • Reinman

    Chia won’t be able to rectify this, he seems to get run over in every major trade he pulls the trigger on. That Reinhart/Davidson thing was the worst handling of talent I have seen in a long time. What did we end up with for a 16th, and 31st, and a good prospect? Not hard to get a Larsson for Hall ( though I don’t mind this trade). Signing Lucic was a joke. Jokinen also dumb move. The game is getting faster and faster, and we are signing guys who are described as ” not the greatest skater”. It makes no sense. So after trading away a lot of speed, at pennies on the dollar, we wonder why our roster is all of a sudden thin. I mean if PoolParty would have been ready for top 6 duty, that would have bailed chia out to a large extent, but the Lucic Deal is the real killer. 6 million a year for a guy who should not be in the top 6 in my opinion, is what is going to make us trade away RNH. And I think we are seeing what RNH is going to be for the next 6 or 7 years. A fantastic 2 way center. If he had a bit more help om that second line I could see him at 60 points a year, while taking on the shutdown role on the other teams top lines. But at least we have Lucic locked in. What a joke.

  • MrBung

    Chia is an overrated GM in today’s NHL. He wrecked Boston. Some guys adapt to changes and some don’t. Chia has not. Oilers current predicament is reflective of that. The team is back to lottery status.

    • jultz=2cups!??

      Lol. So winning a cup is now considered “ruining a team” on oilersnation? The players aren’t producing. It’s plain and simple. Klefbom is struggling and missing Sekara is a huge hole. Everyone here on oilersnation was crying for eberle to be traded for a cheaper winger. You guys got your wish and now you’re all changing your tune and crying that pc ruined the team. Classic oilersnation flip floppiness. Hahaha

      • Seriously Bored

        It is almost as if you assume everyone on oilersnation who is not you has the same opinion, which for some odd reason is always the opposite of yours (cause yours is always right). Also you only seem to show up when things are down which also fits your “Oilers suck” narrative.

      • Slipknot 8

        Actually, the poster is not far off….
        PC crippled Boston by trading away almost all Boston’s first and second round picks chasing “the Cup” they got to a point where the prospects were nill, further to that he traded most of the top end elite talent for roll players ( see Wheeler – Seguin – Boychuck ) just to name a couple.
        He signed ageing roll players to long term contracts and took Boston to the max in Cap space and roster spots, Boston got big, slow and out of the major trades for the elite talent I think only a couple of the players actually remain in the NHL. Once PC was fired, Boston had to dump Lucic, Hamilton and buyout a few players to complete major overhaul of the team, roster and prospects….
        Does this sound familiar?
        PC has had some success in Edmonton but most of his major trades he’s lost out right…

    • Neddd

      @MrBung

      Your posts are boring and repetitive. Do you actually have any hobbies or interests other than this Edm Oilers obsession of yours. I bet you’re a real blast at parties: MrBung – “and then the Oilers won the lottery again for the fourth time and chose Connor McDavid and that’s not fair…”, Party Guest – “ummm, are you able to talk about anything else other than the Edm Oilers? Actually never mind, I just remembered that I need to go to the bathroom”. Unfortunately I bet this sounds very familiar to you…..

        • Neddd

          @MrBung

          Ofcourse I do, I’m just calling you boring, repetitive, and predictable.

          Also btw, GM’s get fired all of the time, professional sports is a cut throat business, the fact that Chiarelli left Boston means nothing. You’re obviously desperately trying to defend your position that “the Oilers suck, and are terrible, and blah blah blah”. Picking a team apart when they’re losing is an easy thing to do.

          Perhaps this isn’t their year, oh well, no big deal. Progress is not always made in a straight line. The team still has a very strong foundation of youth and skill to continue to grow from so there is no reason to fear a relapse back into the dark period of the past 10 yrs.

          Its just that you’re act is quite pathetic because I believe that you actually think that readers take you seriously.

    • jultz=2cups!??

      And here we go with blaming Mact. Lololol. Classic oilersnation! For the record, I think the oilers will bust out of this slump soon and are still a lock to make the playoffs. There’s no way Vancouver and Vegas keep playing as well as they are. This division is still up for grabs. No doom and gloom here!

    • Jordan88

      Reinhart was a solid grab for that pick, hind sight is always 20/20 however Edmonton at the time needed defensive prospects in a big way and a #4 pick left shooting d man was a solid and wise choice. Not all trades will work out. Also, having him here ensured we didnt have to expose anyone of value to Vegas.

  • morsecode89

    One of the most concerning things about this team is their lack of finish. They are leading the league in 5v5 close shot attempts, but they can’t seem to finish anything around the net.

    Chiarelli gave a lot of Oiler fans what they wanted. This is a big, gritty, puck possession hockey team… But the team has been rightfully called slow by their rivals, and after years of having too many quick and small ‘skilled wingers’, they find themselves needing to play a 2017 late first draft pick beside the NHL’s reigning scoring champion.

    You look at the list of names this Oiler team has traded away under Chiarelli and most were players the team and fans seemed happy to be rid of. The problem is, virtually all of those traded players are out performing the current bottom 6 on our team individually. And many of the higher paid players we traded – you know their names – are out performing the players in our top 6 who have the same paycheck size.

    The Oilers aren’t going to win many hockey games if they can’t score. And I don’t know where they expect the offense to come from on the wings in the future. Puljujarvi has 3 assists in 7 AHL games and Yamamoto should probably be back in Spokane. And all of a sudden, our 2018 1st round draft pick looks like it could be a top 10 pick in this years draft.

    Anyone remember when we were cup favorites?

  • Rebuilds30

    Staanley Cup winning teams Mostly have 2 scoring lines, a to defensive pair, one a puck moving defenser and a stay at home, clear the crease man, and a solid goalie..Question how many of these do the Oilers currently have??

    • Big Nuggets

      I hate this crap. There is no secret line-up formula to win the cup. After whichever team wins a cup everyone switches the formula to whatever that team had. Its predictable. You need good hockey players, team chemistry, a good coach and a good goalie. The formula is be better than the other teams, and have more luck. So far thr Oilers have lacked Chemistry, consistently good goaltending, perhaps lack a good coach, and we are maybe lacking on enough good players. but it is tricky to decifer a lack of chemistry with a lack of good players. When a team has no Chemistry most players look bad, those same players may look good once the team pulls together. I still think the Oilers are mainly lacking chemistry. but adding a good player may also be wise.

  • madjam

    The internal progression Chia and Todd expected of many Oilers has not played out this season as yet , and may indeed not turn out . If it does not we will be far out of the playoffs this season . Khaira , Slepyshev , Kassian , Cagguila , Pakarinen , Puljujarvi , Benning , Klefbom , and noticeable busts in Strome and Jokinen . That is a lot of team playing regressively this season .

  • KMA

    Peter the pumpkin eater needs to start by giving his head a shake and then start shaking up this suspect group with a few trades. The challenge is there are 30 other GMs out there looking for speedy wingers who can score.

  • tkfisher

    Based on our GMs trade history the past 18 months I’d rather he not pick up the phone. You can’t win them all is true, but you also can’t keep bleeding out via trade. Hall, Eberle, and Reinhart were all a big loss of value. Although I like Larson, the constant overpays are bleeding this team dry.

  • tkfisher

    I don’t have much faith in the GM to identify problems or fix this team via trade. A blogger radio host by the name of lowtide predicted back in the summertime that we would have a terrible PK. If a part time blogger can form that argument with facts based on last years shot suppression and it somehow shocks the team after a dozen games, there is a problem with the people running the team.

    • camdog

      Pouliot was one of this teams best penalty killers last season. His role on the team has not been replaced. When I say that guys like Pitlick and Pouliot have not been replaced in the line up, some posters like to belittle my comment, because said players aren’t anything special. Thing is they were role players, that excelled at their role. The Sekera injury doesn’t help things in this respect, but reality is there were many that were worried about this penalty kill going into the season.