Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to be bad with an Art Ross contender

The Oilers are 25th in the league and their playoff hopes are effectively over despite Connor McDavid doing Connor McDavid things. He’s on pace for another 100-point season, yet the Oilers are nowhere near the playoffs. I think people underrate the impact of star players in hockey versus other sports because how much they can play. Hockey’s best forwards only play a little over a third of the game compared to a star player in basketball or football. How many teams are really bad with a potential Art Ross winner?

I searched for teams at the bottom of the standings with a player in or close to Art Ross contention.

2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins – 22-46-14

McDavid comparable: Sidney Crosby – 81GP 39G 63A 102P

Why they were so bad: They just drafted Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin was still in Russia. Kris Letang was playing junior hockey. Marc-Andre Fleury was adjusting to the NHL. Their defence was led by Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney. Crosby had an amazing season, but was still 20 points back of Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr for the scoring lead.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

What happened next year: They drafted Jordan Staal 2nd overall. Malkin came over. Staal was productive as an 18-year old. Fleury improved and they haven’t missed the playoffs since.

2005-06 Washington Capitals – 29-41-12

McDavid comparable: Alex Ovechkin – 81GP 52G 54A 106P

Why they were so bad: Ovechkin led the team in scoring and had a 49-point gap between him and Washington’s second-leading scorer, Dainius Zubrus. There was no one on defence. Their goalie, Olaf Kolzig, was 35 and not very good.

What happened next year: They drafted Nicklas Backstrom, but he stayed in Sweden. Alex Semin joined Ovechkin and provided scoring depth, but they were still awful.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

2012-13 Carolina Hurricanes – 19-25-4

McDavid comparable: Eric Staal – 48GP 18G 35A 53P

Why they were so bad: Justin Faulk was in his second season. Otherwise, their defence consisted of Joni Pitkanen (22GP), Jay Harrison, Tim Gleason, Joe Corvo, and Jamie McBain. Cam Ward, Justin Peters, and Dan Ellis all played around 19 games, but none of them were good enough to make a difference. Staal was seven points behind Martin St. Louis for the Art Ross, but it didn’t matter.

What happened next year: They added Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey, Nathan Gerbe, Elias Lindholm. They improved but weren’t much better.

2012-13 Tampa Bay Lightning – 18-26-4

McDavid comparable: Martin St. Louis – 48GP 17G 43A 60P Steven Stamkos – 48GP 29G 28A 57P

Why they were so bad: St. Louis won the Art Ross during this lockout-shortened season. Steven Stamkos was right behind him. Despite having the two top scorers in the league, the Lightning were a mess. Goaltender sunk the team. Trading for Anders Lindback didn’t work out.

What happened next year: Ben Bishop’s acquisition vaulted them up the standings. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat became full-time players. Valteri Filpulla was signed as a free agent and had one of his best seasons. They made the playoffs but lost in the first round.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

2017-18 Edmonton Oilers – 23-27-4

McDavid comparable: Connor McDavid 54GP 22G 42A 64P

Why they were so bad: Cam Talbot’s save percentage fell from .919 to .902 this season. Andrej Sekera missed significant time recovering from a torn ACL injury, and hasn’t been the same player since returning. Trading Jordan Eberle meant betting on unproven young players.

What happened next year: To be determined. The Oilers need to improve but aren’t flush with cap space or tradable assets. Will there be a change at general manager or coach? It’s too early to tell, but whoever is in charge has their work cut out for them.

It’s surprising how few teams weren’t close to the playoffs with an elite scorer. Tampa Bay had a few years (2007-08, 2008-09) where both Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were over a point per game but finished at the bottom of the standings. They got Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman out of those years but had another down year during the shortened 2012-13 season.

Can the Oilers find their own supporting cast like the Lightning did with Johnson, Palat, Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and Vladislav Namestnikov?

This year shows sometimes an elite scorer isn’t enough. A good goalie and depth make a huge difference.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I don’t think it’s overstated how catastrophic this season is for the Oilers. Crosby’s Penguins missed during his rookie season and haven’t looked back since. The Chicago Blackhawks are on pace to miss the playoffs for the second time in the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews era. Wasting a season like this from McDavid should prompt serious questions and changes.

  • the dope $teez

    The best that Lucic, maroon, Caggiula, Puljujarvi, Slepyshev, Strome, the 4th line, Russell, Sekera, Klefbom, Benning, Davidson, Talbot, Montoya and the coaching staff can be on any given night – is a non-factor.
    The ineptitude pervades all aspects of the organization, I would not be surprised if Mcdavid requests a trade if they don’t right this ship by next season. There is no supporting cast riding in on white horses, it’s already been skewered by chia and the smart guys up there in the fancy offices

    • McDavid's Comet

      Don’t be surprised if they find a new GM internally before they do externally. This is the only organization in all of professional sports that keeps the same management team that was responsible for 10 yrs. of failure.

      IMO they will give Mac T another term as GM before they hire externally. That’s how bad this team is functioning; no folks this isn’t over yet… not by a long shot!

    • FlamesFan27

      Look at ticketmaster for the game on Monday night against Florida. 1 out of 10 seats is up for resale, maybe more. Katz has his money this year, but long term if the Oilers don’t fix this mess there will be a lot of unpaid seats for years to come.

      • Kass - Brought to you by BTF 2.0

        You have no clue Flamerfan – none.

        The same thing happened for the last 10 years of Rexall and yet the season tickets all sold for the next year.

        The only thing worse than a troll is an ignorant troll

        • FlamesFan27

          Just check out the # of empty seats tonight. I was at the Tampa game (a fantastic game BTW), and there were a lot of empty seats in the lower bowl.

          You might be right in that the games will continue to be sold out, but only if changes are made. Hope is what sells tickets.

  • Alberta Ice

    Does anyone know why when McDavid scores a hat trick this season, a losing streak follows this team? (Merely my guess, but does the rest of the team go into relax mode and depend too much on McD? Bottom line- this team is a conundrum. Really thought they would be better.)

    • gordo

      yes, i’ve been around for quite a while, old flyers, oil kings, nuggets, monarchs, wha, the glorious 80’s the troublsome 90’s and the 21st century. the katz era has been an unmitigated disaster.

  • reidgm

    Said it before and I’ll say it again, as long as the Oilers don’t improve their drafting of young players, they won’t succeed. Tampa Bay succeeded because of Al Murray (head scout). If you look at most of their team and prospects, they are loaded for the future. Peca and Palat, both playing right now, were 7th round picks!!!!

  • Butters

    The Oilers were not as good last year as their record indicated. They are not as bad this year as their record indicates. Last year everything went right, this year everything has gone wrong. I am not sure what will happen next year, but I fear for the worst.

  • OilCan2

    McDavid is the cornerstone. Comparing the 80s the Oilers were built by draft picks who went on to stellar heights. K Lowe was the first draft pick and was followed by Messier, Fuhr, Kurri & Anderson. The depth players were very good at their roles; look no further than Semenko & Moog.

    Edmonton has its hopes pinned on Nurse, Sekeras recovery, Draisaitl and the arrival of Benson, Yamamoto, Bear, Jones and a goalie (take your pick).
    The draft will be of importance going forward as drafting five HHOFers in five years seems to be a recipe for five cups of glory.

    • McRaj

      Bear and Jones are C Level prospects. No guarantee they pan out. Outside of Edmonton, they would have value as “sweeteners” to a big deal. Yamamoto and Benson didn’t even crack top 50 prospects list.

  • D

    I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t view this season as catastrophic for the Oilers. This season serves as a reminder to everyone in this poorly run organization that winning in the NHL is hard, takes dedication, and involves a lot of hard work. After last year, many of the Oilers (from players to management) started acting like winning would just be handed to them on a platter.

    • camdog

      I get what you are saying, if they were close to a playoff spot they would say everything is as expected, keep coming to the games and keep drinking our wonderful koolaid oh er beer. Thing is do you think they learned or will learn what it takes to build a winner? I don’t.

      • D

        @camdog – I am forced to agree with you – there seems to be some hardheadedness in the organization. Hopefully this season will humble them, and winning will be the long-term result.

  • Himynameistaylor

    Please please please lay off Talbot here, Oilersnation.

    He’s not as bad as his stats show.

    You have to keep in mind most goalies have to work in harmony with their defense and their centres, and the Oilers have had an incredibly inconsistent defense all season, not to mention a lot of guys have regressed, are continuing to erode due to age (Letestu, Lucic, to name some) and Chiarelli put too much stock in 3 mid six forwards (Caggiula, Strome, Slepyshev) all being top 6 forwards.

    Talbot is our guy, his last few seasons were all well superior to this one, and he has one mediocre year and you lose faith?

    The team is a wreck right now and needs a huge overhaul, a lot of fat needs trimmed.

    I wouldn’t know where to start but the goaltending isn’t the entire problem, if at all.

    Look at Carey Price in MTL as a good example.


      Wrong. The number of first shot goals against hurts the team 100% more than a sqeaker every few games that Devan Dubnyk ever let in and yet he was chased from the ice with pitchforks. NO MORE EXCUSES. Just be hard and demand change. Talbot has been absolute garbage. Period.

  • abmule

    If the Oil don’t get this sorted (and it will be from the management down) pretty soon then they should do the right thing and cut McDavid loose so he can do great things in his career. As much as I love seeing him in copper and blue I as a fan of hockey would hate to see him rot here in mediocrity. He will always be in the top for points regardless of where he plays but his chances for success and brilliance are currently hindered. It is sick that after 10 years it seems the Oil are just as far away from a solution if not further.

    • Himynameistaylor

      I have to disagree, I don’t think the fixes are as drastic as you seem to think here.

      Realistically they need 2 proven top 6 wingers, another top 4 d-man and a reliable backup.

      Lots of wingers are available in free agency this year, and the draft is always full of good, young and talented forwards.

      As for top 4 defencemen, that’s a luxury that may be hard to come by unless the Oilers draft and develop someone.

      Backups are hit and miss so I don’t know what to say on that subject.

  • abmule

    Just a thought, this seems to be a mental thing, When they play well they are awesome but that’s too infrequent and when they stink……well they stink to high hell.
    With all the old oilers kicking around in the office etc and all the shameless hype to portray them as the best team to ever lace up states are they sucking all the hockey oxygen out of the franchise. Perhaps the greats of the 80’s should simply……….piss off.

  • Fire Woodcroft!

    Change needs to come from the top. I’d be willing to give Chiarelli another season because he’s in a tough spot where literally ALL of the bets he made last off-season turned out to be a bust. Sure lots of folks are claiming in hindsight that we should have seen it coming – but literally nobody predicted it would happen last summer when the decisions were being made. Some of the horses Pete put a stake on should have come through – if I can make that analogy.

    Where I would focus this year is the coaching. This absolute insistence to keep banging our head against the wall and keep playing the same system is killing us. Our special team coaches should have been changed in October. McLellan may be a ‘good’ coach but his refusal to adapt has shown that he is far from one of the leagues best. That and his support for his soul-sucking special teams coaches should have sealed his fate before Christmas.

    Then there’s the teams absolute cowardice in refusing to take the fine and call the league out on the third-world officiating which is having the effect of deciding games. Take the fine and call it like it is. With the prices Katz is charging for tickets he can afford to cover it.

    Just my two cents worth.

    • Slats 101

      I agree, Chiarelli is a disaster, and McLellan had a veteran team in San Jose that made him look better than he really is. Both guys should be axed for this terrible season

    • DannyGallivan

      Luc’s point totals are not far off his norm – he runs 0.54-0.60 pts/gm. He is currently at .56. The problem is: 1) his goals are down, 2) he is playing with the best player in the world and 3) can the guy please not give up the puck so often. He has become a floater.

      Chia is the #1 issue. Gives up Ebs (0.70) for Strome (0.40) which is currently a 12 goal differential. That alone moves us up 6 spots from 22nd in GF to 16. Don’t get me started on Hall who is a 1.12 pts/game and is literally carrying the Devils with 24 more points at 56 than the second top point person on the team. For perspective, McDavid (1.18) has one more goal than Hall. Tell me it is more difficult to find a Larsson than a Hall. I know, cap space next year. I do get that. I am more worried about this year – or not given that it is over.

      TM is #2. We have the second worst PP% and worst PK% in the league – dble whammy. That in itself is the reason we won’t make the playoffs. At a minimum, Assist Coaches gotta go.

      • Big Nuggets

        the Devils have a lot of players that skate hard and put in good effort. They have underrated guys like Miles Wood, so I dont think its fair to say Hall is a one man show. But Hall is doing very well this season.

  • Oiler Al

    I would fire all three asst. coaches.Hire an assistant that could be the next head coach if McLellan fails by mid Nov. then hes gone.If Chiarilli dosnt fill the holes by seasons start hes gone as well.Hire a better asst GM that keith gretzky.