Despite Losses, Oilers Improving

Regardless of how Saturday’s tilt with the Nashville Predators turns out, the Edmonton Oilers will head into the NHL All-Star break in the basement of the Western Conference standings. While it may not be where the players inside that dressing room were hoping to find themselves 50 games into their season …that is the reality of the situation.

There is no question that this year’s club has been far more competitive than any recent edition of the Oilers, but in the end, they are still finding ways to lose hockey games with far too great a frequency. Yes, injuries have played a big part in their lack of success and to be fair, this season was always going to be a struggle. The problem is, there has been a progression forward in certain areas of their game but it has yet to translate into anything concrete in the overall standings. Again, the injuries have hurt but at what point does that stop mattering?

December Run Was Smoke and Mirrors Routine

After starting the month of December on a six-game win streak, all of which came with Connor McDavid out of their lineup, the hope was Edmonton would find a way to at least stay in the playoff picture in what has been a rather ordinary Pacific Division in 2015-16. Unfortunately, they have managed to put together a rather uninspiring 5-10-3 mark since that run and, in the process, made the notion of them possibly earning their first postseason berth since 2006 nothing more than a pipe dream.

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Could things get better with a healthy No.97 returning to the lineup following the All-Star break? Possibly, but again, adding McDavid isn’t going to shore up the Oilers’ defence and the further this season moves along, the more of a hindrance that backend will become. Let’s not forget, this is a team that has lost a grand total of seven games by more than two goals to this point in the season. Think about that for a minute and compare it to the disaster of the last couple of years and it is obvious they have improved but that final hurdle still needs to be cleared.

The roster is better but it also one that still lacks scoring depth and legitimate NHL blueliners. While it is ultimately on the players to turn things around, much of what we have seen can be contributed to the work Todd McLellan and his coaching staff have done with this group. They still have a ways to go but the initial steps of getting these guys to buy into playing a more structured system has clearly occurred and at times, it has made the hockey almost unbearable to watch — but that is what today’s NHL is. Entertainment value is secondary in what has become a 3-2  league.

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With that said, the piling up of one loss after another is something the vast majority of this fan base grew tired with long ago. While this season is now nothing more than a lost cause, things have to start pointing in the opposite direction. If this organization does not make the necessary offseason moves to address the flaws with this roster, something tells the Oilers could be in for a bit of a rude awakening heading into their new arena. The time for asking these fans to show more patience is long gone. We are about to enter “put up or shut up” time and you can bet that hasn’t been lost on general manager Peter Chiarelli and company.