Sports always seems to possess a feeling of, “what have you done for me lately.” Seven months ago Edmonton Oilers fans felt 2017 was one of the best years of their sporting-fan life. The Oilers were in the playoffs for the first time in eleven years, they won a round and then went to game-seven in the second round. Fast forward to today and Oilersnation doesn’t feel the same glee.
The Edmonton Oilers ended 2017 with a lifeless 5-0 loss against the Winnipeg ,and they sit in 13th place in the western conference with 42 games remaining. 2017 began with such promise for Oilers fans, but it ended in frustration. Will the frustration continue in 2018?
1. The Oilers were quite good in December before the Christmas break. They were 7-3, but after a three-day Christmas break they finished the month 0-2-1 and surrendered 13 goals in three games. Their effort vs. Winnipeg on New Years Ever was non-existent, and it is fair to wonder if this group is capable of playing consistent hockey for the next three months.
2. The good news for Oilersnation is the Oilers play 23 of their final 43 games against the Pacific Division. The Oilers are 5-1 vs. the divisional foes so far this season. They are 12-18-3 against the rest of the NHL, and they will need to continue their domination within the division if they have any hope of staying in the playoff race.
3. The Oilers went 19-4 against the Pacific in the 2017 calendar year and were 13-1 on home ice. They have home games against LA, Anaheim, Calgary and Vancouver this month and road games in Arizona and Vegas. With only 10 games this month due to their bye week (Jan 14-19) and All-Star weekend, they can ill-afford any more heartless efforts like Sunday’s loss to Winnipeg.
4. The Kings, despite sitting 5th in the NHL, have been average against the Pacific this season at 4-4-3 and are 10-13-6 in their last 29. They are, however,19-7-2 against the rest of the league. The Kings missed the playoffs with only 86 points last season. They already have 51 and their resurgence is due to a healthy Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar having a good first half and Dustin Brown having one of the most surprising bounce-back seasons in recent memory.
5. Brown’s last four seasons have not been good. He finished with 27, 27, 28 and 36 points. He looked slow and many felt his salary, five years, with a $5.875 million cap hit, would be an anchor for the Kings moving forward. But Brown fooled us all. He has 13-16-29 in 39 games and looks reborn. I was told he and Darryl Sutter weren’t on the same page, so that is part of it, but Brown is on pace for the best season, 61 points, of his career, and the most points since 2007/2008 when he scored 60. A new coach is likely part of it, but Brown looks much quicker, more decisive and he is playing regularly with Kopitar again. Without question his bounce-back season has to to be among the top-three, and number one for me, surprise individual performances of the first half.
6. The Kings allow the fewest goals, 91, in the NHL. They have the best PK in the league at 87.1%, allowing only 17 goals in 132 opportunities. Jonathan Quick has a ridiculous .920sv% while shorthanded. He’s only allowed 13 goals on 163 shots. His even strength SV% is .927.
7. The Oilers PK is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. They’ve allowed a league-worst 35 goals. They only allowed 43 last year. Cam Talbot’s SV% down a man is .810 having allowed 23 goals on 98 shots, but many of them he had no chance on due to some egregious mistakes in front of him. The penalty kill is not improving. It is actually getting worse. I started tracking it over seven games sequences in the middle of November.
Seven games between November 16th to 28th they allowed six goals on 22 kills. 72.7%
Seven games from November 30th to December 14th they allowed seven goals on 22 kills. 68.1%
Seven games from December 16th to December 31st they allowed six goals on 20 kills. 70%.
We’ve seen no improvement in six weeks, in fact it got worse, which is amazing considering only four teams in the last 38 seasons have had a worse PK than the Oilers current status. The coaches have tried new players, altering the system and watching video and nothing is working. They should be past desperate and now is the time to bring in an outside consultant. Someone with a different voice, or more importantly, a different perspective. Jim Johnson’s message is not working. Something is amiss and if they don’t fix it soon the season will be lost.
8. The Oilers powerplay has become equally inept. In their past 19 games the PP is 6-for-50 and 12%. It has gone downhill after going 21.2% through the first 20 games. They are 25% over their last four games (2 for 8), so they likely will try and focus on that, but until they are 20% or better over ten consecutive games I won’t be convinced the PP is improving.
9. Connor McDavid’s quest for a second consecutive Art Ross trophy will be a challenge. He trails Nikita Kucherov by nine points. Kucherov scored the most points in 2017 calendar year, amassing 106 to McDavid’s 102. Patrick Kane and Blake Wheeler were tied for third with 90 while John Tavares was fifth with 88. If McDavid is going to catch Kucherov he will need to outscore him by 10 points over the next 43 games. It will be a challenge, but if the Oilers powerplay can wake up he’ll have a chance. McDavid had 74 EV points to Kucherov’s 65, while Kucherov produced 41 PP points to McDavid’s 24.
10. How bad is the Oilers PK? Since 2000 nine teams allowed fewer PP goals in a full season than the Oilers 35 allowed through 39 games this year.
In 2012 New Jersey allowed 27 PP goals.
In 2015 Carolina allowed 29.
The 2003 Devils, 2015 Wild and 2016 and 2017 Hurricanes allowed 32.
The 2012 Penguins and 2014 Sharks allowed 33.
The 2014 Rangers allowed 34.
The Oilers are currently at 71.8%. If they go 80% (league average) the rest of the season they would finish at 75.5%. There is no point looking at the overall number for their PK. It will be terrible when the season ends, but at least they need to show some improvement. The past six weeks have been a tutorial in how not to kill a penalty.
The Oilers home PK, 56.1% (allowing 25 goals on 57 kills) is the worst the NHL’s seen in 40 years. The 1978 Washington Capitals were 66.7% at home. The Oilers are 10% worse than the worst team in the past 40 freaking years.
QUICK HITS BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL
Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
Enter the Vegas Breakaway for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas and tickets to a Golden Knights game. Enter to win at atb.com/vegas
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 01/02/2018 – 10:30am MST