Given the Edmonton Oilers’ overall record of 8-8-1 despite a very difficult start to the schedule, the temptation for some might be to grasp the silver lining that suggests .500 isn’t so bad, all things considered. I’m guessing the number of people who feel that way is dwindling fast, as it should be.
I’m also guessing Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche was a tipping point for many of those who were willing to give the Oilers the benefit of the doubt despite three straight losses. Now, it’s four straight losses and pretty much anything gained by reeling off a 7-2-1 stretch on the way to 8-4-1 has been undone thanks to an indifferent effort against the Avalanche.
The Oilers tease their fan base by playing inspired, determined hockey in some stretches, then reverse form and look disinterested and unable in others. It reminds me a little bit of how Lucy van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip used to tease and torment Charlie Brown by pulling the football away. Don’t worry, Charlie. You can trust me. Chaz falls for it and ends up on crumpled in a heap again.
Nobody can blame Oilers’ fans if they feel that way today, especially if you take a longer look at the way this team has performed over the last decade. What makes it worse is this team should be a lot better than some of the teams that had little more than hope to sell in the past. Yet, 17 games into this season, here we go again. You aren’t impressed, and you shouldn’t be.
FOOL ME ONCE . . .
Let’s review . . .
- After a terrific pre-season which doesn’t count for anything, the Oilers started the season 0-2 with a 5-2 loss to New Jersey and a 4-1 loss in Boston. After a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers, the Oilers were staring at a 1-3 start when they roared back from a 4-1 deficit in a rousing 5-4 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets. Faith restored. That win set the stage for a four-game homestand against a Murderer’s Row of competition.
- The Oilers beat the Bruins 3-2 in OT, lost to the Nashville Predators 3-0, lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-5 in OT and spanked the Washington Capitals 4-1. They went 2-2 against top opposition. That’s some home-cooking you can sink your teeth into. Then, they hit the road and beat the Predators 5-3 and the Blackhawks 2-1 in OT. Looking good.
- After a little wobble in a 4-3 loss to Minnesota at Rogers Place to end the month, the Oilers beat Chicago 4-0 and started a four-game road trip by beating the Detroit Red Wings 4-3. The Oilers were far from perfect, but were 8-4-1 and fans around here were feeling better than they had since the Oilers made the playoffs again, at long last, in 2017.
- The Oilers lost 4-2 in Washington and 5-2 in Tampa Bay, but came home in pretty good shape — as long as they took care of business against the Florida Panthers. I, like many of you, expected that they would. They lost 4-1. They were lousy and predictably shame-faced. “We can be better. We’ve got to turn this around . . . blah, blah, blah.” In came the struggling Avalanche, who waxed them 4-1.
Simply put, the Oilers were awful Sunday. They looked disjointed and disinterested. The top of the line-up was quiet. Cam Talbot wasn’t good enough. The Oilers trailed 1-0 before the fans settled in their seats and they chased the game without much gusto or any success. How many times over the last decade have you sat through this movie? There goes the damn football again. Is that about right?
THE BOTTOM LINE
So, here we are. With Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto already dispatched to the AHL, the Oilers are scrambling today to pick up the pieces – again.
With the Montreal Canadiens up next on Tuesday, coach Todd McLellan is running a first line of Drake Caggiula on the left side with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at practice. Tobias Rieder is with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson. Milan Lucic and Ty Rattie are flanking Ryan Strome and call-up Cooper Marody. Jujhar Khaira is with Kyle Brodziak and Zack Kassian, the best Edmonton forward against Colorado.
More than a few of you are suggesting this is akin to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, a proven go-to saying at times like this. I can find no compelling reason to disagree. For starters, Talbot is sitting at .895 through 13 appearances. The power play, 0-for-3 vs. Colorado, is on a 2-for-14 stretch. The PK has given up four goals on 14 attempts in the last four games. McDavid has looked merely mortal lately. Perhaps his back is bothering him after carrying so much dead weight through 17 games.
Lucy has yanked the football away. Charlie Brown has hit the deck again and it’s not the least bit surprising that the poop has hit the fan, even with that .500 record. Line shuffling? Sending kids to the minors? Sure. It’s worth a try, but if that’s all there is, if that’s all McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli have up their sleeves, then I don’t see the pattern changing significantly. There has to be more, and soon, no?