Even for those of us who weren’t completely sold on the Edmonton Oilers being as good as many an expert thought they would be heading in the season, no one could have seen this coming. At what is essentially the midway point of the 2017-18 NHL campaign, this club finds itself with the second-fewest points in the Western Conference and on the verge of falling completely out of the post-season picture.
Oilers with back to back 5-0 losses at home. Oh boy. Oilersnation will be hot.
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) January 3, 2018
Hard to imagine but having lost four in a row since returning from their Christmas break, Edmonton is now nine points out of the playoffs and there is little that can be done about it. Unless this group can magically right the ship overnight, it’s not happening. There will be no cavalry coming to save the day and quite frankly, if there was, those running this organization should have their heads examined.
Oilers Nearly Out of Racetrack
With Peter Chiarelli having already moved a good chunk of their primary trade chips in deals over the previous two summers, the Oilers are in no position to be giving away assets to take a run at the playoffs. In fact, they are at the opposite end of the equation. Like it or not but the best thing this organization could do is to sit back, take their medicine and ensure no more damage is done.
That may sound a tad bleak but to try to fix what ills this club at mid-season, is not only a near-impossible task but also a pointless endeavour. Let’s face it, the Oilers current predicament isn’t pretty and their shopping list is rather lengthy. Unless the plan is to trade away the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi or their first-round pick, they are not going to get a good enough return to make it worth their while.
In other words, sit tight and ship off whatever spare parts that can be moved and wait for this nightmare to be over. Though some may view the “throwing in the towel” approach as the wrong route to take, continuing to give up assets for pennies on the dollar will do far more damage. Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation but the time has come for everyone to accept the fact that this team isn’t very good.
Their special teams have been awful for much of the season and continue to betray them on a nightly basis. The Oilers penalty kill on home-ice has fallen to 55.6% on the season, which is on pace to demolish the previous league-worst total set by the woeful Washington Capitals in 1977-78 of 66.7%. Not surprisingly, we are talking about a team that has given up the fourth most goals against this season and show no signs of “slowing” down.
Special Teams Nightmare
They continue to struggle on the man advantage and despite sitting in the middle of the pack in goals scored, it has been a feast or famine situation for much of the year. Edmonton has already been shut out five times this season, four of which have come in their last eleven games. Add to that the fact they have scored two or fewer goals 19 times, scored six or more on six other occasions and the picture starts to get much clearer.
I used to think (earlier in the season) that the biggest reason for the Oilers failure was the goaltending. It's clear now that it's special teams that has plagued them the most and will cost them a post season berth.
— Dean Millard 🎙🦆🎧 (@DuckMillard) January 3, 2018
At this stage of the season, ignoring the consistency of their inconsistency is about as silly as it gets. With what could potentially be an ugly five-game road trip on the horizon, followed by a week-long break, even the staunchest of Oilers supporters may be forced into calling it a day and wave the proverbial white flag. No matter what happens, on paper, it will still look like there is a chance but looks can be deceiving.
Unless this group can go out and take, at the minimum, eleven points from their next six games this charade will be all but over. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be that chance of them getting hot and running the table for an extended period, just look at what the Boston Bruins have done over the last month and a half. However, there is a big difference between doing it in late November as opposed mid-January when you are buried in the standings.
Also, there is absolutely nothing to suggest such a run is around the corner. If it was going to happen, chances are it would have taken place following the aforementioned break. Let’s not forget, on Christmas Eve this team was on a four-game win streak and owners of a 7-3 record for the month of December. It’s funny how things can change so drastically over the course of a week and a half but change they have.
With that said, the time has come for the Edmonton Oilers to recognize that 2017-18 is nothing more than a lost season and act accordingly. Yes, it is a tough pill to swallow but allowing Peter Chiarelli to make another knee-jerk reaction that will further hamper this organization over the long haul is something that simply can’t occur. From here on in, it is about all damage control and ensuring this sort of thing never happens again.
Also available from Rob Soria:
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.