Mired in Vegas-sized expectations after being most sports books’ consensus favourite to take home the Stanley Cup in 2017-18, the Oilers haven’t just stumbled out of the gate, they’ve essentially fallen flat on their faces 20 games into the campaign.
Edmonton is, obviously, sitting far back from where it hoped to be at the quarter mark of the season. The club is holding on to the seventh spot in the Pacific Division while ranking 29th in goals for and 22nd in goals against. They also rank below the current NHL average in many major team statistical categories including wins, goals for, points percentage, goals against, save percentage, goal differential, shooting percentage and penalty kill.
Aside from the measurably noticeable drop-off in team performance as a whole, the fact that the Oilers have been so dismal at home — a place they were so dominant last season — is extra alarming.
The once-friendly confines of Rogers Place have been anything but so far, with the Oilers dropping seven of their 11 games at home for a .363 winning percentage. To put that in perspective, the team was one of the NHL’s best on home ice last season, going 25-12-4 at Rogers Place while posting a winning percentage of .610 — nearly double the victory clip of this year’s squad.
Here’s where the Oilers stand in several major team statistical (5v5) categories through 20 games, and where they finished the regular season at in 2016-17:
(All team statistics via Corsica)
The team has dropped significantly in every category except CF percentage through the quarter mark of this season. As a group, the club has clearly been underperforming, and as individuals, the Oilers key players have had some curious home and away splits 20 games in.
(All individual stats via Hockey-Reference)
From an offensive standpoint, the Oilers big guns up front of McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins and Draisaitl have still felt the most comfortable on home ice this season. All three have a higher (or very similar) shooting percentage, points per game and plus/minus at home versus on the road. Draisaitl and McDavid are both posting significantly better possession numbers on the road. The Nuge, however, has been significantly better at home across the board.
Here’s how the back-end splits at 5v5 so far this year:
Edmonton’s three key contributors on the blue line have had a tough time finding the back of the net away from home this year, as the trio have notched zero goals and just six assists in 27 road games collectively. Goals from the back end have been a little easier to come by on home ice with Klefbom and Larsson tallying a couple each but still sit way off their performance pace from a year ago. Nurse has been the rock on the Oilers defence corps no matter where the games are held, but the team will need significantly higher output, especially from Klefbom, if it hopes to scrape it’s way to the postseason despite a dismal start.
The trend is going to be a hard one to buck, though. Of the 36 teams that have been in an equal or worse position than the Oilers at the quarter-mark over the past 13 seasons, only one has been the playoffs, meaning the Oilers chances of bouncing back from their 7-11-2 start and making the postseason sits right around a 1/3 of a percent. Yikes.
Making home sweet once again — and going on a similar tear at Rogers Place as they did at the end of last season when they won their final nine straight games on home ice — would go a long way in helping the Oilers recover from this tumultuous start and reach the NHL’s springtime dance against the odds.