Photo credit:Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Deja-Vu All Over Again
3 months ago
So, just how sideways has it gone?
To review, the Edmonton Oilers fired coach Jay Woodcroft 13 games into the season. They brought in Kris Knoblauch, who is 2-2-0 since. They sent stopper Jack Campbell and his five-year, $25-million contract to the minors and are looking for a way out from under that mistake. Connor McDavid, the best player on the planet, hasn’t even been the best player in the Oilers line-up as we watch another one of his prime years slip by.
What was a prolific power play sits 12th. The penalty killing is at 72.7 per cent, the same as San Jose, and has too often thrown out the welcome mat in front of Campbell, Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard for opposing teams. The blueline corps can’t seem to find a clue about defending with a map and a flashlight and when the Oilers have managed to stay out of their own way long enough to get a lead, they haven’t been able to hang onto it.
So it goes for this edition of the team, tagged in pre-season by over-exuberant pundits like me as capable of taking a run at the Stanley Cup. Instead, the Oilers are lurching along with a 5-11-1 record as they get ready to take on the 10-7-0 Carolina Hurricanes tonight down in Raleigh, which has been a prime place for them to replay and re-live regret since Game 7 here early in the summer of 2006.
As the Oilers struggle near the bottom of the standings in 30th place seemingly upside down in the ditch, the situation is being described by some as a tire fire. Those people aren’t wrong. And there’s plenty of blame to go around from top to bottom – be it management or coaching or the players, everybody gets some of this stink on them.
It’s as if we hopped aboard a time machine and it’s 2010 all over again, when hipster beards were becoming a thing, the Oilers were offensively impotent with Tom Renney behind the bench and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was lighting it up down the highway in Red Deer.
Nov 18, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Luke Glendening (11) is congratulated after he scored goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
This is the third stop on a four-game road swing after losses against Tampa Bay and Florida. The Oilers wrap up the swing against Washington Friday afternoon. If you buy into the notion teams out of the playoffs at U.S. Thanksgiving are longshots to climb back into the post-season picture, the Oilers are already in big trouble. It’s tough to argue with all the flaws this team has shown over the first 17 games.
“I think we’ve hit the re-set button a few times,” Knoblauch said when asked if facing the Canes presents an opportunity to bounce back after the loss to the Panthers. “Whether you’re on a 10-game winning streak, losing streak, no matter how the season is going, you just have to play your game.
“Win or lose, you can learn from it, enjoy it (then) get ready for the next one. It’s a long season.”
As an aside, Campbell finally put an end to three games of futility on the AHL farm in Bakersfield with 30 saves in a 2-0 shutout over the Henderson Silver Knights Tuesday. While I’m not sure that Campbell is finished here – a lot of people believe that’s the case – it’ll take more than one or two good outings on the farm to get another look on top if he gets one at all. Barring injury, it will take weeks.
This team needs a way to find a foothold right now. Skinner, yet to regain the form that made him a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist for top rookie last season, gets the call tonight. Skinner takes a 4-6-0 record, 3.39 GAA and .873 save percentage into the fray with GM Ken Holland working the phones.
“We’re all going through that right now,” Skinner said after getting the tap from Knoblauch this morning. “We’re all trying to learn what it is that’s going to help us get out. We are going in the right direction . . . I think sticking to the process, trying to get better every day and also just trying to stay positive is going to be really huge. It’s a learning process for everybody.”
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