Why are the Edmonton Oilers Struggling in 2017-18?

Edmonton Oilers logoLast spring the Edmonton Oilers finally skated on post season ice after a decade long series of also-rans in the NHL.  In fact we could suggest that the Oilers had a somewhat successful playoff run and if not for a series of ill-times missed calls by the officials should have eliminated the Anaheim Ducks to face the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference final.  So needless to say there was high expectation in Oil Country to start the 2017-2018 NHL season.  That, in part, is where some of the issues lie.

Quite honestly the expectations for the Oilers were unfair.  Here’s five reasons why:

  1. Cam Talbot over-achieved last season.  Playing in 73 regular season games and another 13 in the playoffs, Talbot could easily have won the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goaltender. With 42 wins he set a new Oilers record for goaltender wins in a season.  He played over 2,100 minutes in net posting a 2.39 Goals Against Average and a .919 Save Percentage.  He’ll be hard pressed to match those numbers again.  To start this season, he’s played 22 games with 10 wins and a Goals Against Average of and even 3.00 and a save percentage of .903.  Frankly he’s not had the same fire as last year and tends to give up a goal when the team needs a save the most.
  2. Lack of a Backup – I don’t work for the NHL but I probably should.  For the past couple of seasons I have been suggesting that the Oilers need to bolster their back-end and that includes goaltending. It’s been years since the Oilers have had a formidable duo in between the pipes.  Sorry but Laurent Broissant is not the answer.  The team needs to get a solid backup that can play 20-25 games and deliver 15-18 wins.
  3. The Oilers traded away their speed – I’m not even going to get into the Taylor Hall trade (terrible trade), but the Oilers traded away their speedy wingers in Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle (even worse trade).  While you might argue that Ebs was a salary dump, the guy could skate, was good for 55-70 points a season and was money in the shootout.  Taylor Hall a cancer in the dressing room?  While I don’t know about that, he was a dedicated Oiler for his time in Edmonton.  Both Eberle and Hall are exactly what the Oilers are missing now.
  4. The defense is no where near good enough – what is going on with Oscar Klefbom?  Realy Sekera means that much to the backend of the Oilers?  Sheesh?  Can someone explain to me why the Oilers didn’t trade for Seth Jones a few years back?  The Oilers sit 28th in the NHL (fourth from the bottom for all of you fans out there) only five teams in the NHL have surrendered more goals than the Oil.
  5. Too much faith placed into Leon Draisaitl – Quite often with big salary comes big disappointment.  Rumors aside (some suggest that Darnell Nurse cause Leon’s concussion apparently), Leon Draisaitl somehow got even slower than he was last season.  Now I watch Leon light it up in junior here in Kelowna, so I understand what he is capable of.  He had a solid season last year, but does that warrant the huge payday that he got?  He got a lot of those points last year as a result of playing with Connor McDavid.  He needs to step it up.

As an Oilers fan I watch the team closely and I’ll be frank, they have the right coach.  Todd McLellan is a smart hockey guy and great coach.  Pete Chiarelli for my money is not a great general manager.  He’s made some of the worst trades in the 100 year history of the NHL. He’s tried to build a “heavy” team when the rest of the league was building teams with speed and solid defense.

Here are ten why this hockey fan thinks the Edmonton Oilers are struggling so poorly this season. While I’m not going to get into specific details, these thoughts are purely based on observations from having watched this team’s on-ice performance.

10 Reason Why the Oilers are Struggling (again)

  1. Expectations were too high for this team.  Too much pressure was placed on this team prior to the start of the season.  Didn’t Vegas odd-makers have the Oilers as the favourite to win the Stanley Cup?  That sure changed four games into the season.
  2. Team Speed is too slow.  These guys just get beat to the puck plain and simple.  Hard to believe for a team that has the fastest player in the game today.
  3. Asset Management is poor – quite honestly, you have to get a better return in your trades and later round draft picks.  You cannot continue to play players in situations that they are not comfortable in or are not a strong part of their game.  This kind of mismanagement ran good players out of town (see Justin Schultz).
  4. Defense is poor – this could easily be at the top of the list.  The Chris Pronger curse lingers still.  While Darnell Nurse shows promise and I like the efforts on most nights from Kris Russell, the rest of the defense is not doing their job.  They are not keeping the pucks out of the net as they should and they’re not moving the puck to the forwards quick enough.
  5. Power play sucks – ’nuff said.
  6. Penalty Kills sucks even worse
  7. Ryan Nugent Hopkins has been solid and arguably their most consistent forward this season, yet they give prime powerplay time to Mark Letesteu.  See items #3 and #5 above.
  8. Lack of Confidence – professional sports is a weird beast.  These are the best athletes in the game right?  How is it that they can not turn on a consistent effort night in and night out?
  9. Poor Starts – the Oilers give up the first goal on most nights.  Coach McLellan is aware of this works on this in practice, yet the team comes out flat more often than not.
  10. Lack of Respect from the NHL – watching the Oilers, for whatever reason, this team does not get the calls in their favor.  The old “you win some you lose some” is not true when it comes to these guys.  Take last spring’s playoff series vs. Anaheim.  One word brutal.  Two more words Missed calls.  Lucic wasn’t wrong in his interview when he was filled with bewilderment and frustration.  On any given night the holding, interference, slashing, disallowed goals… you name it  and the Oilers cant catch a break.  But is that for a lack of effort???

This team needs to be better, but make no mistake about it, this team is a good three of four core pieces from being a Stanley Cup contender.  Connor McDavid is pure awesomeness on skates but one man does not make a team.  I actually believe that they can turn this season around, but when they can’t even put back to back wins together you have to wonder.  It saddens me to see this team under-performing.  You have to feel a little bad for Connor on some nights.  Over the years, we Oilers fans have had to put up with a lot… maybe it was justified after all.

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