It’s been a tough season for the Edmonton Oilers who find themselves once again in the thick of a draft lottery race enroute to this years prize in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. An even tougher note is that the 2014-15 Oilers are also en route to establish a new franchise low in points total over a full NHL season with 54 points.
The current record for worst season in franchise history is the 1992-93 team that despite losing in the Western Conference Finals (then Campbell Conference) to the Chicago Blackhawks the year before would finish with just 60 points. Still this wasn’t the worst record amongst the 24 teams that made up the NHL 21 seasons ago. The expansion teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning (53 points) and Ottawa Senators (24 points) had worse season. In their sophomore season the San Jose Sharks would also post a weaker record (24 points) as did the Oilers former WHA rival the Hartford Whalers (58 points).
Finishing dead last in NHL with 54 points?
Hard to believe after making one, let alone three consecutive 1st overall selections a team would still find themselves in this spot.
To put this into perspective in 2005 the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Sidney Crosby. In 2008 the Penguins were challenging for the Stanley Cup falling short to Detroit before winning the cup the following season, 4 years after selecting Crosby. In 2007 the Chicago Blackhawks would draft Patrick Kane, challenge for the Western Conference in 2009 and win the Stanley Cup in 2010. In 2008 the Los Angeles Kings drafted Drew Doughty second overall and would win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and again in 2014.
These were all short turnarounds for each of these franchise, but why hasn’t it worked out for the Oilers? It’s simple — all of these teams were building these players into franchises and not franchises around players. Jonathan Toews and Kane are key cogs in Chicago, ditto for Evgeni Malkin and Crosby in Pittsburgh, but they aren’t the be all end all piece that all success is determined by.
Focusing back on the 1992-93 Oilers the finished with a then franchise low with 242 goals at the tail end of the high-octane offensive dynasty years with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. Gone were all big name first-line calibre players and even the one they were developing in Vincent Damphousse was dealt to Montreal becoming a key piece in their 1993 Stanley Cup win.
To put this into perspective the guy that led the team in scoring? Petr Klima, the player who was benched for almost 3 hours during game one of the 1990 Stanley Cup finals and scored the winner. Klima led the 1993 Oilers with 48 points. This year’s Oilers scoring leader has some more cachet (and tying back to our Crosby, Kane, Doughty discussion) is on pace for 55 points and his name is Taylor Hall.
By The Numbers…
0.083… As the opposition if you score first against the Oilers great, if you’re leading at the first intermission call the pizza guy and put it in cruise control for the rest of the night because the Oilers just aren’t coming back. Only the Buffalo Sabres own a worse record trailing after the first period than the Oilers.
0.918… The Oilers former number one goaltender entering last season was Devan Dubnyk who struggled his way out of the lineup and saw him lose his way to Ilya Bryzgalov and find himself on a mercy trade out to Nashville and eventually finished the year in Montreal. This year he finds himself revitalized in Arizona under goaltending coach and former NHLer Sean Burke. Dubnyk has wrestled the starting job away from 2014 Team Canada Olympian Mike Smith thus far, his replacement duo in Edmonton has yet to do much better. So was Dubnyk bad or was the coaching of Frederic Chabot to blame?
1… The number of paid advertisements taken out in Edmonton area newspapers this season from the “Lowe Must Go” facebook group. The group currently has 17,611 members and raised $5,680 to get the full-page ad in a December edition of the Edmonton Sun. This isn’t the first time the group has done something to gain attention. Last season they posted a mobile neon sign that moved around Edmonton. There was no comment made from the team.
2…. At the halfway point of the season it is at a loss for words that the Oilers have managed just two wins against the Western Conference opposition. The wins both came on home-ice on December 7th against the San Jose Sharks (2-1W) and December 30th against the Los Angeles Kings (3-2SO). The kicker? The guy that scored the GWG in both games was David Perron who was traded last week to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
3… When you look up and down the Oilers lineup on paper and see Jordan Eberle you should instantly think 1st PP unit right? What if I told you Eberle has only 3 PP goals this season? What if I told you NY Islanders forward Brock Nelson has more PP goals (9) than the Oilers top PP unit combined in Hall, RNH and Eberle?
Four 1st overall picks in 6 years?
4… When the Oilers made three consecutive first overall selections from 2010-2012 (Hall, RNH, Yakupov) they tied an NHL record for most consecutive picks with the Quebec Nordiques (1989-1991) who used the picks on Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros. Thanks in large part to a trade of Lindros the Nordiques would become a powerhouse and eventual Stanley Cup champion in 1996 with the move to Colorado.
15… After bursting onto the scene in 2012-13 then-rookie Nail Yakupov scored 17 goals in 48 games to lead the team in scoring finishing 5th in Calder Trophy voting. Then came the current drought. Over the past two seasons combining for 104 games Yakupov has totalled just 15 goals. Is this due to having an astounding 21% shooting percentage as a rookie? Can this be because that same percentage has dropped to just 5.1% this season? Either way Nail Yakupov’s shot totals are nowhere near where they should be and the 21-year-old Russian needs a find a way to get himself in better shooting positions to break out of his two year slump. Yakupov currently has 1 goal in the last 2 months and just 2 points in his last 25 games dating back to November 13th.
21:26… Justin Schultz team leading average TOI through 41 games this season.
37… The Oilers spent far too much time forcing 2014 3rd overall pick Leon Draisaitl into a second-line center position he was not ready for. Even then it is far more common to see NHL rookies play most of their minutes on the wing instead of having the heavy responsibilities at center to deal with. In a loaded Pacific Division that saw the Oilers rookie have to play head-to-head against pairings of Ryan Getzlaf – Ryan Kesler, Anze Kopitar – Jeff Carter, Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski it’s no fault of his own for why the struggled. The real question is why the Oilers didn’t address the need to acquire a second-line center in the off-season and force Draisaitl into a spot he wasn’t ready for?
55… After a breakout 80-point season in 2013-14 the Oilers emotional superstar Taylor Hall is on pace for a disappointing team leading 55-point season. Hall, 23, is in the second year of a seven year $6M per deal that sees him in Edmonton until he’s 28. The entire team is due for a bounceback under new interim coach Todd Nelson but you have to wonder if the Oilers will move one of the better LW’s in the league just as he enters his prime, 2014-15 struggles aside.
Where does it stop?
60… The point-plateau that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has yet to crack four seasons into his NHL career after having a heavy comparable to Pavel Datsyuk in his draft year. Datsyuk did it in just his third season in 2003-04 when the Russian registered 68 points while playing responsible hockey on both ends of the ice. RNH has shown improvement this season but his head to head numbers in the Pacific division prove otherwise.
180… The current goals for number the team is on pace for. This would break the current record set in 2010-11 that saw the team record just 193. The leading scorer that season was Hall (22).
278… The ballooning goals against total the team is currently headed towards wouldn’t exactly be the worst in franchise history believe it or not. The current 3.32 GAA breaks down to 29th in the league narrowly ahead of the “McEichel” rival Buffalo Sabres at 3.39.
The good news for Oiler fans everywhere is that the season is almost over, which means the trade deadline is that much closer and the bold moves promised by Craig MacTavish could be that much closer as well.
Until then all we can really enjoy from this season really was a reunion for something that happened 30 years ago…