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At Random: Mad as Hell

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
6 months ago
Peruse the comments section at Oilersnation these days and it’s obvious a sizeable chunk of the Edmonton Oilers’ fanbase is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore.
And really, after all the talk in pre-season about this edition of the team being a legit Stanley Cup contender, there’s good reason for that. Through 29 games and a record of 13-15-1 this season, there’s been a 2-9-1 start that cost coach Jay Woodcroft his job. On top of that, we’ve seen two losing streaks of four games and two more of three games going into tonight against the New Jersey Devils.
That’s not the stuff of a legitimate contender. Factor in what’s essentially akin to a tease in the form of an eight-game winning streak – I think of it sort of like Lucy promising Charlie Brown things will be different this time and then pulling the football away again – and you get what we have here.
While I don’t have skin in the game the way fans of the Oilers do, there are a few things rubbing me the wrong way — about the team and in general — with Christmas break two games away. In a lot of cases, they’re the same things that have you filling the swear jar in the comments section. I’ll touch on a few of them below.

THE WAY I SEE IT

Dec 19, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates his power play goal against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) with center Brock Nelson (29) and center Kyle Palmieri (21) during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
I’ll start by picking the pocket of Captain Obvious and state that the acquisition of Connor Brown has been a disaster, even allowing for time needed to get back in the swing from a knee injury and surgery that kept him out of all but four games last season with the Washington Capitals. A healthy scratch tonight, finally, Brown has to quit the fly-bys on the perimeter when he gets the puck and take it to the paint. That’s where the goals are.
I grow weary of the latest lingo, the talk about teams “getting goalied,” as it’s been applied to the Oilers in recent games when they’ve looked good on the shot clock but not on the scoreboard. The thing is, the volume of shots isn’t as important as the quality of shots. Yes, the Oilers got goalied in that 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay to start this skid, but I heard it again after losses to Florida and the Islanders. Not the case. Not enough quality chances.
Coach Kris Knoblauch didn’t take long to put Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back alongside Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman in the game against the Islanders after initially dropping RNH down the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Warren Foegele. Smart move. “It wasn’t just because we reunited those guys, but everybody just kind of fell into place I think,” Knoblauch said. The Oilers outshot the Isles 15-3 in the third period with the top line back together.
I’m on board with Knoblauch giving Calvin Pickard the start against the Devils tonight. He helped beat New Jersey 4-1 the last time the teams met with 25 saves Dec. 10. The thing is, how long can Knoblauch run Stuart Skinner and Pickard as a tandem? Jack Campbell hasn’t looked ready to return with Bakersfield and now he’s getting in Olivier Rodrigue’s way. Skinner starts against the New York Rangers tomorrow. What’s the plan?

THE BOTTOM LINE

Like I said yesterday, the Oilers can get back to .500 with wins tonight and against the Rangers at MSG tomorrow, but they can just as easily lose these two games before Christmas. Do that, and GM Ken Holland and Knoblauch are thrust into hair-on-fire mode going back into action after the break.
As tough as it is to get a read on this group of players as the roster stands today, going with the status quo looks like more of a remote possibility with each passing game. The Oilers are 29 games in and have an eight-game win streak in the books, but are still nowhere near a playoff spot. This is a group that’s begging for change. It’s not a matter of if but when, no?

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