It goes without saying the Edmonton Oilers have had a tough start to the 2014-15 season with a 7-18-5 record not to mention being in the midst of a 1-10-4 run heading into the holiday break. Dallas Eakins, Craig MacTavish and everybody’s favourite in Kevin Lowe have all had their heads called for by the fanbase expecting a major turn around.
Too many times the Oilers have been caught this season by bad line changes, missed assignments and overall bad positioning costing the team dearly in the defensive zone. This has been enough to stir a frenzy in the meme category of the Oilers Blogosphere. Fans have tuned out management at this stage and lost hope for the most part on another Oilers season — 2 ⅕ months into the season.
Another sad realization in Edmonton is that the rebuild is going to be a constant for another few years and the supposed “break-out year” may never come to fruition and it’s already seemingly become another race to the NHL basement.
The Draft Lottery this year gives the Oilers a shot at generational stars in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel but that’s another story for another day. It’ll mean nothing if the Oilers can’t address their defensive issues as a team.
So how bad have they been?
2013-14: 2.43 Goals For (24th)
2014-15: 2.17 Goals For (28th)
Here’s the quick topic on everyones mind: Tyler Seguin has been a revelation for the Dallas Stars leading them with 36 points in 28 games comparing to his 2010 NHL Draft counterpart Taylor Hall who has 18 points in 24 games.
The Oilers would be in more games if the team managed to actually score more than a goal or two a game. This is a problem that lives and dies with the core makeup of this team in Hall (8), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (7), Jordan Eberle (6) and Nail Yakupov (4) who haven’t produced results on the scoresheet. Combined the four have produced 25/65 of the Oilers total goals for which doesn’t exactly bode well for the rest of the supporting cast of David Perron (5), Mark Arcobello (5), Leon Draisaitl (2), Teddy Purcell (4) and Benoit Pouliot (3) who have 19/65.
This means the Oilers “premier star scoring forward” in Hall will end the season as a 25-goal scorer, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle will just break the 20-goal mark. The expectation was for Hall to be a 30-goal and possible 40-goal player this year. Eberle and Yakupov were expected to take bounceback steps but it’s highly unlikely at this point and why the Oilers have so many trade rumours circulating around the two forwards.
Low-scoring Oilers are simply not good enough http://t.co/B3o3C8Um5L
— Edmonton Journal (@edmontonjournal) December 12, 2014
2013-14: 3.26 Goals Against (30th)
2014-15: 3.34 Goals Against (29th)
Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have had their share of difficulties in the Oilers net. Together the pair have made some games feel excruciatingly long for fans who see the team fall behind early and never recover. Of the two Scrivens has been the most disappointing having allowed 63 goals in 21 games this season. Fasth isn’t too far behind with 34 goals allowed in 13 games.
“Ultimately the Oilers’ struggles cost goalie coach Frederic Chabot his job. But the real reason Scrivens’ save percentage is below .900 is porous defensive zone coverage. When running the data for just 2014-15, Scrivens has an expected success rate of .903. Only 82 percent of the shots he has faced are ones in which he could set his depth and angle.” – Chris Boyle, Sportsnet
Either way the problem doesn’t lie solely with the goaltenders, it’s the team altogether. This was further exposed with last night’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks where Fasth blew a gasket on the bench after the play of his teammates. Are they much worse than the 20113-14 team? Not by much but the improvement hasn’t been there either.
— Corey Hirsch (@CoreyHirsch) December 2, 2014
2013-14: -0.83 Goal Differential (27th)
2014-15: -1.17 Goal Differential (29th)
Only the Dallas Stars have allowed more goals than the Oilers this season but they have the goal scoring to back it up with Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza leading the way. This is something that is killing the Oilers who haven’t been able to balance out the equation of poor goaltending with some goal scoring to tip the scales.
“Andrew Ference is a good supplementary defenceman. But when he’s your prized free agent acquisition, there’s a problem. Boyd Gordon is a solidfaceoff guy. But when he is expected to provide real depth at center, you’re asking for trouble. Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have showed moments of brilliance, but they are glorified back-ups, and at such an important position, they aren’t good enough.” – Marcy Di Michele, The Hockey Writers
Much of the weight rests on the pads of Fasth and Scrivens who haven’t provided consistent starting numbers the Oilers were looking for when they made the gamble on two goalies with 109 games combined NHL experience. So far the two have platooned and had poor numbers to back it up, something to be covered below. In the end the key pieces haven’t lived up to expectations in key roles leading to this drop in goal differential, not to mention a diminished morale the mounting number of losses can cause.
2013-14: 82.1% PK (15th)
2013-14: 79.8% PK (19th)
The big carry overs from last seasons PK that was league average are Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon. Gordon has been one of the better Oilers this season and due to the teams overall lack of ability to win faceoffs (49%) has been put into many late game offensive spots. Gordon’s 56.1 FO% and 70:24 SH TOI leads the forwards and he has been the Oilers PK and has one more year on his deal. Hendricks is next amongst the forwards as the only other reliable forward on the PK.
On defense the Oilers have had struggles on the PK with Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry and Nikita Nikitin playing a majority of the minutes. Unfortunately the four are a combined -32 and the PK has regressed 2.3%.
Then again the Oilers have had a few instances where they have opted to play short-handed as well.
The Oilers PK is only at 79.2 percent so maybe Dallas Eakins felt they needed some work. Don’t question the process. https://t.co/JucRoS0urZ
— Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) November 20, 2014
2013-14: 17.0% PP (21st)
2014-15: 12.6% PP (27th)
With the amount of pure offensive talent the Oilers have upfront you would think it would be without a shadow of a doubt they would possess one of the league’s most explosive power plays. It hasn’t quite worked out that way as the Oilers seem to have created some sort of pandora’s box they’ve effectively locked themselves out of since the firing of Ralph Krueger at the end of the 2012-13 season that saw them with the 8th ranked PP league-wide.
The issue is the Oilers inability to be strong on the puck down low and the strong desire to play perimeter hockey. The PP has suffered because of it and the Oilers creativity is essentially nonexistent at this point.
It’s very odd to see teams be playing with a deficit when on the PP but the Oilers have somehow found a way this season time and time again to allow the opposition to tally a few short handed goals. One of the more ironic scenarios was when former Oilers draft pick Tobias Rieder scored two shorthanded goals on the same Oilers PP when the Arizona Coyotes came to down just a few weeks ago.
Either way in the end this comes down to Dallas Eakins and the guys on the ice to make it work and so far it hasn’t, a huge reason the Oilers are playing another lottery season.
The Rest Of The Numbers…
3:30… Justin Schultz is leading the Oilers in total powerplay time per game. In return the defenseman has tallied a total of 3 PP points through the first 30 games.
14… For whatever reason the Oilers aren’t even thinking about sending struggling rookie Leon Draisaitl to the World Juniors. What makes matters worse is that Draisaitl is in the midst of a season-high 14 game goal drought. His last goal? November 13th against the Ottawa Senators.
16… It has been 16 games since the Oilers won back-to-back games this season, both of those wins coming on the road against the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers.
-17… Jeff Petry’s +/- rating this season is the worst amongst the team and fueled fans who have made him this year’s goat. It’s highly likely the Oilers will attempt to move him at the deadline this season. The Detroit Red Wings would be a great fit for Petry with their search for a right-side defenseman continuing.
0.317… The Oilers winning percentage currently ranks dead last in the league and worst in franchise history. The current record for lowest winning percentage over a full season in franchise history? The 1992-93 Edmonton Oilers coached by Ted Green that finished with a 0.357 record. For what it’s worth Green was relieved of his duties 24 games into the 1993-94 season after posting a 3-18-3 record. Eakins (as stated above) is currently in the midst of a 1-10-4 slide.
51… This is where we stop piling on Green and the 1992-93 Oilers that finished with a franchise low 60 points over a full 82 game season. This year’s team is on pace to best that record by a 9 point spread.
57… After posting a career high 80 points and tying for 6th in league scoring with Phil Kessel, Taylor Hall is on pace for 57 points to lead what is supposed to be a high-octane offense in Edmonton. Nugent-Hopkins is on pace to finish second in team scoring with 54.
99… This number has nothing to do with former Oiler great Wayne Gretzky, instead it’s the total number of turnovers by the supposed “core” in Hall, RNH, Eberle, Yakupov and Schultz.
0.100… The total winning percentage the Oilers have after trailing through the first 20 minutes. The only teams worse? Washington and Buffalo — not exactly great company.
177… The current pace for total goals scored by the Oilers at the end of the year, once again a new franchise low besting the 2010-11 Oilers coached by Tom Renney that tallied 193 goals.