At Random: The Moving Target

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.

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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?


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.

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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?

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Hockeytalkguy

    I stopped being a season ticket holder in 2012. They continually pissed me off with there lack of effort. For crying out loud it’s 2018 and NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Chia totally handcuffed himself with STUPID contracts, however the players are just as much to blame. They need a swift kick in the a$$ is what they need. They have proven they can play 2 years ago and a handful of games this year. The skill and talent is there, the problem is they are self entitled little pukes. My patience has run out listening to the same crap post game interviews. Your getting paid to do a job, so start doing it. Perhaps a little less time spent at the local watering holes may help as well. It really is sad how the players can look themselves in the mirror after a performance like yesterday. How can they consistently be so bad 1st game back after a road trip? I usually try look at things from another perspective, in this case the players but i can’t defend there lack of compete, effort, and will. Completely pathetic to watch.

  • Elgando

    I think the only answer lies in fleecing another gm into giving up a top 4 defender for say Strome and a 4th, quickly trading Talbot to Los Angeles before they straighten out their goaltending woes, and above all else, committing to a coaching change in 10 games if they come out of it below. 500. Otherwise the season is lost…. Again.

  • Gravis82

    McDavid, Nuge, Drai I am not convinced we have three players outside of these top three forwards who could make up a respectable 3rd line on a division winning team

  • toprightcorner

    I don’t have an issue that the Oilers have lost 4 in a row, every team goes through losing streaks just as they do winning streaks. My concern is that the past 2 games, the effort has been terrible. Losses are going to happen, bad games are going to happen, but the poor effort for 2 games in a row should not happen.

    It is almost like when this team starts to play well and complete and even regularly outplay teams, they get cocky, think they have solved the puzzle and the game is easy again and they forgot the work it took to get them there.

    It happened after the playoff run, they figured they were a good team again and things should be easy. That didn’t turn out so well.

    The Oilers played really solid for about 7-8 games in a row and even when they didn’t win, they usually outplayed the opponent. Then they took the foot off the gas and figured that the could hang with the big boys so the struggling teams should be a piece of cake.

    I think this is a player issue, not a coaching issue. Everyone shows they can work hard for stretches, so there is no reason they can’t continue to do it. Make mistakes, make stupid plays, I can accept that, but lack of effort should never be an issue, ever.