The Oilers offence has become the butt of every joke.
“They couldn’t score in a brothel,” seems accurate.
“They couldn’t run a bath,” is fitting.
“Their offence is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle,” is stingily true.
Despite only scoring eight goals in four road games, the Oilers managed to go 2-1-1 on the trip, and outside of a grotesquely inept offence, the rest of their game was quite good.
But they need a cure for their struggling offence.
The Oilers are on pace to score 183 goals. To put that in perspective, the fewest goals they scored during the Decade of Darkness was 191 in 2011, 192 in 2007, and 193 in 2015.
In 2009/2010, when they finished 30th in the NHL, they scored 206 goals. Was that team more offensively talented than this group? Here is the lineup.
Player GP G A PTS
Penner 82 32 31 63
Gagner 68 15 26 41
Brule 65 17 20 37
Horcoff 77 13 23 36
O’Sullivan 73 11 23 34
Visnovsky 57 10 22 32 (traded to Anaheim)
Potulny 64 15 17 32
Gilbert 82 5 26 31
Cogliano 82 10 18 28
Nilsson 60 11 16 27
Hemsky 22 7 15 22
Comrie 43 13 8 21
Grebeshkov 47 6 13 19 (traded to Nashville)
Moreau 76 9 9 18
Pouliot 35 7 7 14
Souray 37 4 9 13
Stortini 77 4 9 13
Whitney 19 3 8 11 (acquired from ANA)
Jacques 49 4 7 11
Smid 51 1 8 9
Pisani 40 4 4 8
Staios 40 0 7 7 (traded to Calgary)
Johnson 19 3 4 7 (acquired from CGY)
Stone 27 0 6 6
Strudwick 72 0 6 6
Chorney 42 0 3 3
Reddox 9 0 2 2
McDonald 2 1 0 1
Jones 8 1 0 1 (waiver claim)
Ales Hemsky, their most offensively talented player, only played 22 games. Mike Comrie played 43. They weren’t blessed with an abundance of pure offensive players, but they found ways to score.
They scored 206 goals on 2,331 shots. They had a team SH% of 8.9%. And no, the bottom six wasn’t playing with a centre as gifted as Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They were 28th overall in SF, but still found ways to tickle the twine.
Sixteen different players had at least one powerplay goal. Injuries were a major reason they had so many different PP combinations, but different players, who weren’t powerplay specialists, found ways to score.
This group was 17.5% on the PP. They had 52 goals in 301 chances.
GET GRITTY, PAY THE PRICE
The 2017/2018 Oilers have not been gritty enough around the net. Jujhar Khaira’s rebound goal last night was the first “in the paint” goal from the bottom six ALL effing year! That is inexcusable, and to me, adding a top-six right winger won’t solve that problem. It needs to be solved from within.
The Oilers offence is a paper champion right now.
They are third in the NHL in shots per game at 35.8.
Here are some more 5×5 stats for their offence.
They are outshooting the opposition 480-417, but they’ve been outscored 30-26.
They have out-chanced their opponents 454-361, but been outscored 25-23
In”High Danger” scoring chances they lead 179-139, but have been outscored 14-13.
But — and this is a massive but — they are last in goals scored with 38. They are last in goals per game at 2.23.
Their power play is 24th at 14.9%. They have one powerplay goal in their last five games. Their best players get all the PP time and they can’t score consistently.
The Oilers team SH% is 6.3%, dead last in the NHL. Even if they were equal to the last place 2010 Oilers in SH% at 8.9, which would be 20th in the NHL now, they would have 16 more goals.
Imagine how much better their record would be with 16 more goals. I’m not asking them to suddenly finish every chance, but to just bear down on some and be 20th in the NHL with a 8.9SH%.
This should not be too much to ask for this group. Asking them to score at a rate equivalent to the 2010 Oilers isn’t asking a lot in my eyes.
WHAT TO FIX?
Let’s start with the power play, because the first unit is the same as the one who led the Oilers PP last year. You know, the one which clicked at 22.9%.
The Oilers need to pay the price more, bring some urgency and, for goodness sakes, adapt to what the penalty kill is doing.
I know it sounds cliche and simple, but I don’t buy that it’s just bad luck. The powerplay rarely looks dangerous, even when they don’t score. Connor McDavid is an incredible player, but he only has nine shots on the powerplay. He did score his first PP goal of the season versus the Rangers, so maybe that will get him shooting more, but he has the puck so much on the PP and teams are playing off him and not respecting his shot. He needs to start firing to keep them honest.
Just get the PP to be average (18.6% is 16th overall), and the Oilers will win more games. That isn’t very much. I’m not asking for them to suddenly become elite on the powerplay, just be close to the league average.
The other factor is they need to generate more powerplays. They Oilers are generating a lot of shots, which suggests they have the puck more, but it isn’t resulting in powerplays. I still see them taking the puck behind the net, rather than dipping a shoulder and driving to the goal, too often. They don’t force the defenders into more challenging defensive positions, and I haven’t seen many egregious missed infractions go against the Oilers. They need to do a better job 5×5 of drawing penalties.
And of course they need players like Zack Kassian, Jujhar Khaira, Ryan Strome, Drake Caggiula, Anton Slepyshev, Mark Letestu, Brad Malone and Jussi Jokinen to show a pulse offensively at 5×5. The injuries to Caggiula and Slepyshev do hurt the depth somewhat. I’d argue they have the most potential to produce, but they need to be in the lineup and they need to be more consistent.
Khaira looked great in the preseason but struggled early. Last night he was skating much better. His goal wasn’t pretty, but who cares? It went in and that should boost his confidence.
I don’t see a White Knight riding in to save the offence. One trade for a supposed scoring winger won’t solve the woes of the Oilers. This group needs to play smarter. Work harder. Be more desperate. Go to the tough areas, and when they are in a good shooting lane, pick a corner, rather than hitting the goalie square in the chest.
I really liked Jesse Puljujarvi’s game versus the Rangers. We know he has a good shot, but having a good shot and getting in position to use it are very different. He found open spots, and he didn’t hesitate to shoot. You hope that rubs off on guys like Slepyshev, Caggiula and Strome. They have decent shots, but they haven’t found the soft spots often enough. The onus is on the player to read the play, find the weak underbelly of the defence and then have a quick release. We saw that from Puljujarvi on Saturday and he, and many of his teammates, need to do more of it going forward.
The Oilers PK was actually pretty decent on trip killing off 11 of 13 for 84.%. The major gaffe was Oscar Klefbom’s decision to vacate the front of the net and slide up-ice leaving Rick Nash wide open for an easy redirection. Otherwise the PK was good. It is a good
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