I was wrong. Again.
At various parts of last season, I felt it was the most disappointing and frustrating season in Edmonton Oilers history. They’d ended a 10-year playoff drought in 2017, and won the first round in six games over San Jose before losing in seven games to Anaheim. It was supposed to be the first step towards the Oilers becoming a consistent, competitive team.
However, 21 months later the Oilers are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and for the 12th time in 13 years. This season has become much more frustrating than last year, punctuated by some horrific GMing by Peter Chiarelli, and the fury from Oilersnation is reaching new levels.
The frustration and disappointment from Oilers fans is at an all-time high, at least for the 18 years I’ve been covering the team. Prior to this season, I’d never received lengthy emails from season seat holders, loge seat holders and even a few luxury suite holders stating they won’t be renewing their tickets. The emails weren’t tirade-laced paragraphs, instead they were calm, direct and many had the same theme.
Apathy. Their enthusiasm has been drained.
“I’m not having fun at the games any more. I used to get excited to go to the games, but right now I have to force myself to go or give my tickets away. Until they start winning consistently I can’t do it. Even my wife, who is the ultimate optimist, rarely goes anymore. It feels odd to not want to go to games, but my joy is gone,” wrote one indifferent fan.
As the season unfolds it reminds me of the 2017 song Mad As Hell by U.S Girls.
It is full of spit and fury and the video is downright odd, but these lyrics accurately explain how some Oilers fans feel.
Now this is what I’m questioning
I won’t forget so why should I forgive?
Supply me with one reason why, boy.
I firmly believe the majority of fans want their team to win. Yes, you get frustrated at times, but like any parent who is irate with their child, they still love them at the same time.
Sport is a great escape from life. It brings people together. It forges a bond between parent and child. Friendships are strengthened as you discuss the love for your team, but when the team shows no signs of figuring out how to improve, the excitement starts to wane and in some cases it all but disappears.
The frustration is so bad right now I see some fans lashing out and voicing their displeasure at the wrong people. Somehow Leon Draisaitl is the problem because of his body language. I remind all those who think Draisaitl is the problem that many said the same thing about Taylor Hall. They started to believe Hall’s body language, or the odd defensive mistake was why the Oilers lost. Hall, like Draisaitl, and even Connor McDavid, made the odd wrong defensive play. They didn’t pick up their man and he’d score, and somehow that became the focal point.
Do not let your rage fool you into thinking Draisaitl is a problem for the Oilers. Sure, he could improve defensively a bit, but he does way more positive things for the Oilers than negative. It isn’t close.
Draisaitl’s 33 goals account for 21% of the Oilers goals (157) this season. Only Jeff Skinner at 21.1% is higher with 34 of the Sabres 161 goals. I’ve heard and read how Draisaitl needs to lead his teammates and if he doesn’t backcheck ferociously the rest of team will see that and they won’t give 100%. If that was true, wouldn’t the teamwork harder offensively, because they see how often he is scoring? They wouldn’t score as often as he does, but they’d at least score a bit more, no? Suggesting a player isn’t working hard because they made a wrong read can lead to inaccurate analysis.
McDavid is fourth in the NHL with highest percentage of his team’s goals at 19.7%. He and Draisaitl have combined for 40.7% of Edmonton’s offence. Suggesting their odd defensive miscue is why the Oilers are where they are is peculiar to me.
Do you think Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and other high-end scorers were defensive specialists early in their careers? Their job was to score. And they worked hard and smart 99% of the time. Sure, they cheated the odd time, because that’s what high-end scorers do. And when they make a defensive error, you remind them of it, but it doesn’t overshadow all the great things they do for your team.
Oilers management was foolish enough to start focusing more on what their players didn’t do, rather than what they did, and that’s why they are in this spot.
Hall wasn’t a leader.
Eberle wasn’t good in the playoffs.
Strome wasn’t consistent enough.
Caggiula wasn’t big enough.
You have to evaluate every aspect of the player, and not become narrow-minded and zone in on what you don’t like. Because when you do that, you end up trading them away for lesser talented players and your chances of winning slowly erode as the talent pool of your team diminishes.
There is nothing wrong with holding your best players accountable, but considering how much Draisaitl and McDavid do for the Oilers it seems counter-productive to suggest a few defensive miscues are an underlying reason why the team isn’t winning.
I am amazed at how loyal Oilers fans have been during the past 13 years, especially those who buy tickets. That is a massive financial commitment. Same for those who don’t buy tickets, but watch the games regularly, buy merchandise and care about the team. It truly is remarkable, and I understand why your frustration level has reached new heights. It’s normal, and there is no reason you shouldn’t feel angry, disappointed and even apathetic.
Much of that frustration will be heaped on the shoulders of the organization and those who are in charge of building the roster. I see McDavid, Draisaitl as the eye of the Storm, the calm area.
Until management fills out a roster so those two aren’t responsible for 40% of the goals, they will have the odd defensive lapse, because right now they have to be thinking offence before defence if the team has any hope of winning.
No lineup changes for the Oilers. I thought they played quite well against Pittsburgh, but couldn’t beat Matt Murray.
In case you are curious about other team’s top two scorers and their team’s goal percentage. Here is the top-13.
EDM: McDavid/Draisaitl: 64 of 157 goals. 40.7%
CHIC: Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat: 63 of 189 goals. 33.3%
BUFF: Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel: 52 of 161 goals. 32.3%
NYR: Mika Zibanejab and Chris Kreider: 49 of 153 goals. 32.0%
COL: Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon: 59 of 186 goals. 31.7%
BOS: David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand: 53 of 167 goals. 31.7%
DALL: Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn: 43 of 145 goals. 29.7%
OTT: Matt Duchene and Mark Stone: 52 of 172 goals. 29.7%
CBJ: Cam Atkinson and Artemi Panarin: 53 of 180 goals. 29.4%
WSH: Alex Ovechkin and TJ Oshie: 57 of 194 goals. 29.3%
TOR: John Tavares and Auston Matthews: 60 of 206 goals. 29.1%
TB: Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point: 65 of 225 goals. 28.8%
CGY: Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan: 58 of 207 goals. 28.1%
Niederreiter – Aho – Williams
Ferland – Wallmark – Teravainen
Svechnikov – Martinook – McGinn
Foegele – McKegg – Maenalanen
Slavin – Hamilton
Pesce – Faulk
De Haan – Van Riemsdyk
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
You can’t win hockey games without shooting the puck, right? It might not take many shots past the Oilers’ poor goaltending options. The recently-extended Mikko Koskinen – you know, the guy whose extension was the final straw in the Peter Chiarelli era – leads Oilers netminders with a decidedly average .908% save percentage and 2.86 GAA, while now-backup Cam Talbot is having a nightmare season with his .893% save percentage and 3.36 GAA.
If the Carolina Hurricanes can continue to do what they do best – shoot the puck from all angles – then a win is surely a foregone conclusion. The Canes still lead the entire NHL in shots taken, and if they get pucks on whoever starts for the Oilers, a win is there for the taking.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: They have to win sometime right? Don’t they? Oilers defeat Curtis McElhinney for the first time. He was 6-0 against EDM entering tonight’s game. Oilers win 4-3 in OT.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Both teams score a PP goal. Oilers PP is 23.4% and Carolina’s is 22.4% since January 1st. Oilers PK is 72.2% and Carolina’s is 78.7% in the same span.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Jesse Puljujarvi maintains is point-per-game pace against the Hurricanes and scores his fifth goal of the season. Carolina is the only team in the league Puljujarvi averages a point-per-game against.