The Day After 6.0: Contrary to popular belief, the sky isn’t falling for the Edmonton Oilers
Photo credit:Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 month ago
Things could be better in Oil Country.
A sluggish start has led the Edmonton Oilers to a 1-4-1 start to the season, one of the worst in franchise history. Their lone win, a 6-1 lashing of the Nashville Predators, stands out as an anomaly amid five others in which the Oilers have been outscored 30-11.
Yeah, it’s not pretty.
With last night’s 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the team has given up seven or more in a game twice, four or more in a game four times, and three or more five times. A defensive system change ahead of the season has done everything but help the team defend, which is equally as crucial in the sport as scoring is.
THE DAY AFTER IS PRESENTED BY BETWAY
This isn’t the first time the franchise has found itself with just one win in their first six games.
In the club’s inaugural season in 1979-80, the Oilers won and lost a game, tying in four others as they sputtered out the gate. By season’s end, they would finish fourth in the Smythe Division, sneaking into the playoffs with a 28-39-13 record, only to be swept by the Philadelphia Flyers in three games in a preliminary round.
In 1991-92, they won one game, lost four, and tied another. They finished the year 36-34-10, making the playoffs where they beat the LA Kings in the semi-finals in six games before dispatching the Vancouver Canucks in the division finals in as many games. The Chicago Blackhawks, however, would end their aspirations in a four-game sweep. Ouch.
They only won one game through six in the 1992-93 and 1995-96 seasons, missing the playoffs each year, before having another sluggish start in 2002-03. That team, however, would finish the year making the playoffs but falling in six to the Dallas Stars in the quarter-finals.
The franchise has experienced two other one win through six game starts coming in 2013-14 and 2014-15, the “peak” years of the Oilers’ infamous decade of darkness. We don’t need to rehash any of those years.
This year, however, things are a bit different. Edmonton came into the year with massive expectations of a Stanley Cup or bust. That was never the case in any of those prior seasons; understandably, frustrations are starting to mount.
You may not want to hear this, but patience will be essential. The Oilers haven’t been immune to this kind of start to the year, either. Before American Thanksgiving-ish in the last four years, the Oilers have had two strong and two slow starts. In the 2021 COVID-shortened season and last year, the Oilers had 10-8 records and still made the playoffs.
Every year is different for its reasons, and while this one is far from where anyone wanted it to be, there’s still more than enough season left — 76 regular season matches, to be exact. The silver linings in this one? There’s plenty to find.
Warren Foegele scored two goals last night and is now up to three with four points. His game has taken a step forward this year, and he’s been impactful in an elevated role.
Evan Bouchard has two goals and eight points — 1-1—3 last night — with his point total second in the entire NHL among defencemen behind Shayne Gostisbehere and Cale Makar. Aside from Defensive inefficiencies, like any other young defencemen in the NHL, his game is in a good spot.
Evander Kane had a Gordie Howe hat trick last night and ended the night with three shots on goal, the second most in any game this year he’s had, with his second fight in as many games. This could be a cataclysmic turning point in his season.
Overall, the Oilers are doing many of the right things. They’re dominating the pace of play and posting some of the best shot attempt and scoring chance share rates at 5v5 this season.
It’s not a situation where score effects are taking place, either. If you were to adjust for score and venue, the Oilers’ shot attempt share increases from 56.82 percent to 57.51, their expected goal share climbs from 53.91 percent to 54.06, their scoring chance share rises from 53.91 percent to 55.40, and their PDO from 95.0 to 95.2.
All this signifies the Oilers are doing many of the right things, but they’re falling victim to poor luck, defensive breakdowns, and a lack of attention to detail. The good news is that the scoring rates will rebound, and things like defensive breakdowns and a lack of attention to detail can be fixed.
The Oilers control their fate and have many opportunities to do so the rest of the way.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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