A week has passed since the NHL closed the door on its regular season, and the Edmonton Oilers had another discouraging one. They failed to make the playoffs again, disappointing fans and players alike.
The team had some strong games and moments of pure brilliance, but these were overshadowed by yet another year of underachieving. It really did seem to be a year of two teams playing in the Oilers colours: one team that could keep up with any opponent in the NHL, and a second team that couldn’t score, defend, or compete with anybody.
What Went Wrong?
To start the season, the Oilers gave the starting goalie job to Devan Dubnyk, who simply underperformed. He couldn’t keep the puck out of the net, and the rest of the team seemed to implode around him. He failed to make the big saves and the team lost their faith, both in their goalie and themselves. The Oilers tried to rectify the situation, bringing in Ilya Bryzgalov in an attempt to give Dubnyk some competition for his job. It worked for a while, but eventually it became clear that Dubnyk was not the right fit for the starting job. The Oilers had to move on.
As a team, the Oilers really struggled to score this year. They were shut out ten times, seven times on home ice. On a team with so much offensive potential, this number is unfathomable. On the whole, the team couldn’t gel offensively every night, and their lack of scoring reflected their struggles.
The Power Play
The power play was, by no means, the Oilers specialty this year. In recent years, the power play was highlighted by the play of the “Kid Line”: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle, along with Justin Schultz. This year, however, the man advantage was not so dangerous. They finished the season 21st in the NHL on the power play, well below their rankings in recent years. More troubling was their propensity for giving up short-handed goals. In this statistic, the Oilers led the NHL, giving up 13 short-handed goals on the season.
What Went Right?
The best move the Oilers made all season was picking up Ben Scrivens from the Los Angeles Kings. After trading Dubnyk to the Nashville Predators, the Oilers quickly filled their goaltending void by picking up Scrivens, a hometown kid from Spruce Grove. Scrivens absolutely carried the team to multiple wins, highlighted by his record-setting shutout against the San Jose Sharks back in January. Even when he wasn’t setting NHL records, Scrivens was rock solid for the Oilers. For a team that saw so many poor goals find their way into the net early on in the season, Scrivens gave them confidence each and every time he stepped into the blue paint.
Taylor Hall was a bright spot on the Oilers roster, continuing his offensive production from last season. Hall set a personal best in assists and points, finishing the season with 80 points in 75 games. This was good enough for 6th in NHL scoring, the second straight year Hall has been in the top ten. David Perron led the Oilers with 28 goals, with Hall and Jordan Eberle tied for second with 27. All three forwards had strong numbers all season, consistently producing for their team.
With the 2013-2014 season over, the Oilers need to focus on next year. The second half of the season was a huge improvement for the team. As a whole, they played a more consistent game and competed against some strong teams. The offseason will give the team a chance to reevaluate what went wrong, and what went right, this year.