The Day After: What direction are the Edmonton Oilers going?
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing10 months ago
No more excuses.
It’s time for the Edmonton Oilers to make changes.
The team lost their sixth straight game last night 6-4 to the Ottawa Senators. It was Dave Tippett’s 12th straight loss behind the Oilers bench. The Oilers had a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
Just this last week, Ken Holland stood in front of the Edmonton media. He made a few things clear:
- He didn’t want to fire the head coach. He believes in Dave Tippett, and the coaching staff.
- He didn’t want to make a significant trade. It sounds like he doesn’t want to trade his first-round pick. He only wants to move a significant asset for someone with term — something we’ve heard before.
- He believes the answer is already in that locker room.
The Oilers appeared to have that answer after the second period. While they gave up the first goal of the game, the team actually responded well. By the end of the first, Edmonton was all tied up thanks to Zack Kassian.
As the second went on, the Oilers pushed and scored twice more: Kailer Yamamoto on a partial breakaway after a beautiful stretch pass from Warren Foegele.
Late in the frame, Duncan Keith toed the line and a blocked shot attempt landed on Brendan Perlini’s stick, who made no mistake in finding the back of the net.
There was rejoice heading into the third.
But it took all of 2:41 into that final frame for the tone to change. Adam Gaudette scored. Then Alex Formenton. Then Artem Zub. Darnell Nurse got one back, but Josh Norris and Zach Sanford kept pouring it on.
In the most spectacular way, the Oilers found a way to lose.
After the game, Connor McDavid was at a loss for words.
“I wish I had an answer for ya there,” said McDavid, when pressed on what went wrong. “We were rolling along, we get a couple chances early we don’t finish them. we give up a 2-on-1, then it’s… yeah.”
The game, McDavid said, was one of the most frustrating regular season losses of his career.
Can you blame him?
Edmonton had a chance to make a major statement Saturday night. A chance to silent the doubters, give the team some breathing room, and the ability to get things back on track.
Instead, we’re left wondering what’s wrong in year seven of Connor McDavid and to be quite frank, there’s people all around the NHL asking the same question. Why can’t this organization seem to put it together? Why can’t they better build around McDavid and another superstar talent in Leon Draisaitl?
After all, this was the year to take the step forward. Ken Holland had been rid of the past regime’s mistakes and had $23-million in cap space to work with. Sure, some of the moves haven’t been awful. Duncan Keith has looked okay, and Cody Ceci is competent. Tyson Barrie has been Tyson Barrie, while Zach Hyman has been everything as advertised and then some.
But the problems still remain. Edmonton doesn’t have adequate depth up front, or on the backend. The goaltending still isn’t anywhere near good enough.
In the Ken Holland era, when one of or both of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are on the ice, the Oilers are controlling 53-55 percent of the goals scored on the ice. When the pair are off the ice? Edmonton only controls 36.54 percent of the goals. They’re outscored 95-165.
So it begs the question: what direction are the Edmonton Oilers heading?
They have a coach who has lost 12 straight games. A general manager who says not to worry, the answer is in the room. They have a roster full of holes. A management group that is underserving itself by having a shallow, if any, analytics department.
The Oilers don’t have the cap space to make any significant changes, either. That’s on Holland’s summer shopping spree. Even if the team wanted to move their first-round pick for a cost-controlled asset, would that cost-controlled asset be enough to pull them out of the darkness they’ve slid into? Would the team want to risk a potential lottery pick?
There are major issues that face the team. A coaching change may not be the answer, but with Tippett losing 12 straight games behind the bench, something has to give. That’s not acceptable for any coach and one has to wonder if the messages are falling on deaf ears. It’s hard to imagine the Oilers being any worse under a replacement than they are now.
But beyond all of that, how can anyone even have faith in the organization fixing the problems that lie ahead?
- Despite coughing up an awful turnover early in the game, I thought the second pair of Duncan Keith and Tyson Barrie played well — a surprise to me.
- Speaking of playing well, the Oilers second line of Zach Hyman, Ryan McLeod and Jesse Puljujarvi looked tremendous. They absolutely dominated in every facet of the game, and appeared to feed off each other really well. McLeod played 14:39, the second-highest TOI total of his young career.
- Things are not going to be any easier. The Oilers don’t play until Thursday, when the scorching hot Florida Panthers come to town. It’s yet to be seen exactly how the rest of the months schedule will play out, but that’s going to be a massive test for the Oilers against one of the best teams in the league.
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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