Campus Corner: What went wrong for the Oilers this season?

We at Oilersnation have proudly teamed up with NAIT to give students in the Radio and Television program an opportunity to produce content for audience. This is a semi-regular feature in which students submit extra credit assignments and we post the ones we feel are the most interesting. This topic was what ultimately went wrong for the Oilers this season?

How the power play ended Edmonton’s season


A good power play is one of the key focal points of a successful team, this season the top five teams in terms of power play percentage are:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins 27.0%

2. Winnipeg Jets 24.7%

3. Tampa Bay Lightning 24.3%

4. Nashville Predators 23.2%

5. Washington Capitals 21.7%

The teams listed above are all near the top of the NHL’s standings. All teams are also considered Stanley Cup contenders. The following are the bottom five teams in the NHL in terms of power play percentage.

27.  Ottawa Senators 16.6%

28. St. Louis Blues 15.9%

29. Chicago Blackhawks 15.5%

30. Columbus Blue Jackets 15.4%

31. Edmonton Oilers 13.8%

Of those five teams, one, Columbus, is currently in the playoffs by three points. St. Louis is in the midst of a free fall and are currently two points out of a playoff spot. The other teams, Edmonton, Chicago, Ottawa, are all near the bottom of the standings.

The problem with Edmonton being at the bottom of power play percentage is that they have too much star power to be this bad at organizing a power play. A team with Connor McDavid should have a top flight power play year in and out. Aside from this year Edmonton’s power play percentage in 2015-16 was 18.1% good for 18th in the league. However, McDavid was hurt for half of the season. Last season when McDavid played a full 82 games Edmonton’s power play was working at 22.9% good for fifth in the NHL as well as being eightieth in the standings with 103 points. Much more representative of where the Oilers  should be.

It begs the question, why is Edmonton’s power play so bad this year with a fairly similar roster?

Last season, Edmonton scored 56 goals on the power play last year on 245 attempts. Letestu scored 11 of those goals and Lucic scored 12 together they accounted for 10.6% of Edmonton’s power play goals last year. Without Letestu  and Lucic Edmonton’s power play falls from 22.9% to 15.9%. Falling from fifth to 26th in the NHL.

This season Letustu only has eight goals, three have come on the power play. While Lucic only has nine goals as well as only three on the power play. Dropping Edmonton’s power play significantly. The Oilers only have 22 goals on the power play this season on 160 attempts.

Thus forcing someone to step up in the wake of Letestu and Lucic producing at a lesser rate. This has not happened. Only two players have more goals than Letestu on the power play. They are Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with four each, Leon Draisaitl also has three goals on the power play. Ryan Strome has two goals. Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Caggiula and Oscar Kelfbom all have one power play goal. Simply not good enough for a successful NHL power play.

The Oilers power play has no sign of improving either as Milan Lucic is currently in the midst of a 27-game goalless drought. Mark Letestu is no longer on the Oilers as he was traded at the trade deadline. Without anyone picking up for lost production, the Oilers power play will continue to sputter and continue to push the Oilers further and further down in the standings

Scoring at even strength is a difficult thing to do in this league, so producing with the man advantage is critical. However there are some exceptions in which a team with a poor power play does make the playoffs. For the most part, though, a top-10 power play will play a huge role in getting you into the playoffs. For the Oilers being dead last in power play percentage has all but ended their hopes at the post season. 

Edmonton now must shift their focus to the draft and free agency to hope that a season like this, where at the beginning they were picked by many to win the Stanley Cup, now are being picked to win the draft lottery again, doesn’t happen again. If it does, it may very well be the end of Peter Chiarelli as general manager or Todd McLellan as head coach. 

Dripping Oil: Crown or Clown?


What has gone wrong for the Edmonton Oilers this year? Where do we point our collective fingers? The easiest scapegoat is the head coach. However, Todd McLellan can only create with what he’s been given.

Yes there are some players who are playing short of their potential. But we should be looking at the one responsible for evaluating and acquiring that potential. 

What has Peter Chiarelli done to build his roster?

There’s the acquisition of Cam Talbot, who helped carry this team last year (73GS-42W-.919SV%-2.39GAA) and showed he could be a franchise-calibre goaltender. Talbot’s numbers this year have not been as supportive through 50 starts (22W-.903SV%-3.11GAA).

Chiarelli then traded two draft picks in the top 33 for Griffin Reinhart who had played in eight NHL games prior. Reinhart only played in 29 games with the Oilers spending 74 games in the AHL. He was left unprotected to be selected in the expansion draft.

Next he gutted the top six, shipping out Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in back to back off-seasons. Now don’t get me wrong trading for Larsson was the right move to make. The value of having a defenseman like Larsson is something the Oilers have been coveting for years. Chiarelli however, certainly overpaid for the Swedish blue-liner. Hall is lighting it up this year (26-40-66) and is in the Hart Trophy talk.

It was clear that with the trade of Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, Chiarelli banked on finding his depth production somewhere else on this roster.

Inheriting the role of “97 shooter” on the first line was never plausible for Strome. A player whose best year came in 2014 with 50 points (17G-33A) would never replace the production of a consistent 20-goal scorer. The numbers show Strome isn’t more than a bottom six talent.

Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev had impressive post-seasons after a 16/17 regular season that was nothing above average. This year Caggiula is having an identical regular season while Slepyshev is having a hard time even cracking the line up only playing in 32 games. For two players Chiarelli seemed to be banking on picking up some slack neither have played their way up the line-up.

So, who did Chiarelli give McLellan to put with McDavid and Draisaitl in the top six?

Nobody expected Patrick Maroon, who had never eclipsed 34 points before last year, to replicate his 27-goal year from last season. He bounced around from the top line all the way down to the third this year before being traded.

After signing Milan Lucic to a massive seven-year contract Chiarelli can only feel disappointed. This season his expensive winger is only mustering a mere 9 goals after hitting 50 points last season (23G-27A). He is proving to be too slow to play on a line with McDavid. A role he signed here to fill.

Chiarelli was banking on Oscar Klefbom to continue his escalation after finishing with 38 points last year but has only mustered 16 through 55 games this year. Determining that Eric Gryba and Yohann Auvitu would be solid stop gaps until Andrej Sekera returned from his ACL injury proved to be another missed bet by the Oilers GM.

Truth is Peter Chiarelli spent last offseason trying to play the safe game. He made moves to open cap space for a new McDavid deal, an unlikely Draisaitl offer sheet and the idea they would be bulking up for a playoff run.

Instead he should have been filling the roster that wasn’t complete last summer.

The vision from Chiarelli should be clear and easy to understand. Build around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, especially with both being signed to eight-year deals. The problem is he didn’t fill the roster with enough viable options to play next to his two highest paid players.

Added to that is the current laundry list of restricted free agents going into this offseason. With players like Caggiula, Slepyshev and the newly acquired Ryan Strome being on the list, the most notable are two young defensemen. Matt Benning has shown potential in his first two years in the league, while Darnell Nurse has proved to be the Oilers best d-man this year.

Yet rather than be about new deals for his impressive young blue-line talent the talk going into October was about locking up Patrick Maroon. Four months later Maroon was traded.

It does appear he may be looking in the right direction after a trio of moves at the deadline. Chiarelli added two 3rd round picks, a young speedy forward in Pontus Aberg and minor league depth while sending out Brandon Davidson, Mark Letestu, and Patrick Maroon.

It won’t be easy, but it can’t end there.

With McDavid’s ELC being all but wasted, Peter Chiarelli has no choice but to keep making moves into July and build around his two best centres.  He can no longer wait for his young depth to develop. Will he take the crown? Or become the clown?

Feb 12, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Florida Panthers forward Evgenii Dadonov(63) scores against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) on a penalty shot during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Death by a thousand paper cuts


Saying that a lot has gone wrong with the Oilers this year is an understatement. From the GM in the press box to the players he put on the ice everything that could go wrong this year has. The Oilers started on the highest of notes with a 3-0 victory over the Calgary Flames in the battle of Alberta. Captain Connor McDavid scored all the three goals and Cam Talbot pitched his first and only shutout of the year.

Cam Talbot, regarded as Chiarelli’s best trade, is also a wonderful place to start looking when thinking of the single most reason why the Oilers have underachieved so much this year. With a record of 22-24-2 In 50 games this year he is 42nd in the league in save% (.903) and 40th in GAA (3.11) or simply put, not good enough to get you into the playoffs. The problem is that Cam is not giving the Oilers enough quality starts to win games. In 23 of Talbots 50 starts he has boasted a .900SV% or less, the Oilers unable to outscore poor goaltending have won only two of those games. In the 17 games this year where Talbot gives up four or more goals the Oil have mustered up just one win compared to 16 losses. That lonely win coming in their first meeting with Dallas, a home game for Edmonton, where stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Oilers had a lacklustre performance on the PK, giving up three goals on five chances.

Vying with Cam for the top reason the Oilers will be on the links early this summer is the penalty kill … If you’ve watched this year, those two words feel like nails on a chalkboard. Sitting 31st in the league at a measly 72.8% the Oilers penalty killing effort has been about as productive as starring into the sun to burn out your corneas, which is also what  witnessing it, will make you want to do. It has been a struggle all year that the Oilers coaches and players haven’t been able to solve. With the departures of service-able penalty killers Benoit Pouliot and Matt Hendricks from last years group we knew that there would be a learning curve but I don’t think anyone could have guessed it would look this bad.

Below is a comparison of unblocked shot volume on a heat map developed by Micah B. McCurdy of hockeyviz.com, between the first ranked Sharks PK (right) and last ranked Oilers PK (left).

What you should notice is the amount shots the Oilers are continuing to give right in front of their own net. Teams all year have been driving towards Talbot to shoot since thats what the PK has been gifting them from October on. While snipes from outside of 20 feet may look great on television, it has long been known that the best place to score on the ice is in the slot. Until the Oilers can box out their opponents and force shooters to work from the outside, it’s only going to get worse before it gets any better. Whether the shield of blame will be worn by the coaches or players has yet to be known but it is something that will surely be addressed by Chiarelli in the off season, that is of course if he is still around.

Which brings us full circle to the absolute No. 1 reason why the Oilers are not making the playoffs this season: Peter “General Disappointment” Chiarelli. Earlier in the year answering a question about what area of the game the team had “failed to achieve” he referred to it as a “death by a thousand cuts”. If so, the first cut extends past this season, it comes June 29, 2016. When Taylor Hall was traded to the New Jersey Devils.

The moves made from now to then have not all been home runs either. The Oilers needed defence to start this season after losing Sekera too injury in the playoffs. So we traded Ebs for Strome and gave Kris Russell a long and expensive extension knowing this year, that he would lead Oilers in D scoring, 21P (4G 17A). Wasted, has been the last year of McDavid’s ELC and with that goes his last year at a beyond market value price. Edmonton should have been buyers at the deadline this year but every move proceeding it kept them further and further away from being just that. Now with the departures of Maroon, Letestu, Davidson and the deadline past us, the Oilers, coming to terms with this not being a playoff year can truly evaluate what they have one the ice, who they have behind the bench and who they may replace up top.

  • Spydyr

    I have been saying this since the day Talbot arrived. They need a goalie to push him for the starters job.

    For two season I have been saying play Nuge with Connor.

    When Lucic signed I said the deal would be a bugger that last few seasons. That has come to be true already.

    The Oilers will try and land a defenceman this summer. The only way that is possible cap wise is to move Nuge. It will be yet another mistake in long series of mistakes that have plagued the Katz era.

    • corky

      Totally agree on Talbot. Trading for a goalie months into season was so reactionary. Why didnt Chia do that in the summer. I bet the braintrust thought Talbot would be good for 70+ games again this season. Poor planning, coaching and on ice productivity have sunk this season. A perfect storm that was very avoidable.

      • HardBoiledOil 1.0

        not only was not replacing Sekera with a competent d-man and doing the d-man by committee thing the wrong move that backfired in our faces, but relying too heavily on young players like Slepy, Khaira, Pool Party and Caggiula to pick up the slack when they weren’t ready was the wrong judgement call by Chia too and it backfired big time !

      • percy

        Corky and Spydyr,,,, your so right. Very avoidable. Talbot stood on his head all through the playoffs. Guess they figured that would go on indefinitely. That was a no brainer.

  • Heschultzhescores

    So we are 31st in PK and PP? Do we need to look much further than that? Now tell me the risk in getting rid of the special teams coach? I’m sure a totally uncoached team would do better. QUIT protecting underachievers. This is the NHL, the best league in the world. It’s not a TRY out league. You either perform or you go back to the the TRY-OUT leagues. Katz needs to run his hockey team like he runs his business…hire no Friends!

  • Petrolero

    “A line is assigned (to come on in a change) and one individual player gets assigned the position for the goal-tender,” said McLellan. “That individual left obviously light years before he should have. The goal-tender was still in the crease.”

    Light years are a measure of distance not time. Maybe I’m starting to see why the coaching staff of the Oilers is so bad at their job.

  • The Future Never Comes

    Those numbers alone should be shipped to the HR department, followed by the firing of the entire coaching staff. Todd gets out-coached nearly every game. Mistakes like having Lucic in overtime at the beginning of the year costing them the win. Putting Sekera in OT right after coming back from injury and costing another loss. caring more about getting Lucic off the shnide than winning the actual friggin hockey game at hand. Most players have played below their levels all season long. The players don’t show up ready to 70% of the games, how is he going to magically change that next year when he hasnt been able to get them to commit all this season. He’s to soft, get someone in here that holds people accountable and will break a stick over the wall or bench players.

  • RJ

    PP/PK worst. Save% Talbot is in the bottom five in the NHL.

    Kris Russell leading scorer among defencemen. Some use this as proof that Russell was a good signing. Those people are wrong. It’s proof that the defence sucks.

    Klefbom should have been moved last summer for a right-handed d-man. He’s gone back to his Mr. Glass persona. Always some excuse for his poor play.

    Sekera played really well last year then got hurt. *News Flash Alert* It was the kind of injury that takes months to heal and up to a year to fully recuperate. An astute GM picks up a player to make sure they have defensive depth.

    Russell sucks. Every game I’ve been to this year, Ive never seen him do anything other than back almost to the goalie and then hope to get hit by the shot. He can’t pass worth a lick.

    Don’t even get started on the forwards.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Many games are 1 goal games in this league. A double death combo of worst PP and worst PK are hard to overcome. Then we have the triple threat of a soft goal pretty much every game…and often the first shot on goal!

  • Heschultzhescores

    Nuge needs to stay at all costs. He rarely hurts the team and has picked up his offensive game, plus he can skate in today’s game. And he has a great attitude and work ethic!

    • GK1980

      Nuge does need to stay. He is the veteran now and I tended to take him for granted. He needs to stay. The oilers need to keep these guys now. The jury is still out on Drai if he can run and drive his own line.

  • Oil9744

    How about the to many men on the ice call while we are on the power play with a couple minutes to go in the game? Brutal, that’s all coaching as well, McLellan and his staff have been terrible this season, if they get fired then it’s all there own doing, If you go by the numbers Mclellan has one good year so far and two crap seasons, It’s hard to say if they should bring him back, but if they do I’d say give him to the 20 game mark in the new season, if we’re not at least in a wild card spot then he’s done. If Joel Quinnvielle gets let’s give by Chicago I’d rather have him here in a heart beat then Mclellan’s staff.

    • GK1980

      There seems to be more confusion and a lack of focus this year. Attention to detail is just not there. Coach’s fault? I’m not sure but they are a disaster in their own zone. Maybe they need to learn to play a patient, defensive first game first.

  • Bills Bills

    Last season, Edmonton scored 56 goals on the power play last year on 245 attempts. Letestu scored 11 of those goals and Lucic scored 12 together they accounted for 10.6% of Edmonton’s power play goals last year.

    Better check your math.

  • Nuge can not be moved. He is still going to get better. The problem with this team is that the veteran players are not helping this young core of players, it’s actually the opposite. Last year the veteran players were helping this team and we got hot.

    You have to have a bit of luck when signing vet players. I mean look at Eric Stall in minny.Now would he be having the same year in Edmonton? I feel for Nuge as he has had no one to be a mentor accept the centres he has played against. I thought Boyd Gordon was doing a good job at least on the face off dot but sent him packing. We need to get winning cause we have a couple of BOA’s coming up and living in Calgary I need something to hang on to.

  • KennyG

    PC thinks he will just throw everyone into the wash and start out clean next season and all will be good. As for himself, he’s been taken to the cleaners enough.