Before the season started, the Edmonton Oilers had their share of detractors. For a team that had finished at the bottom of the standings the past few years, it seemed like expectations may have been a little high. The defense had a lot to prove. The goaltending tandem was questionable. And so far this season, those two elements have been uneven at best. But the one thing all hockey people gave the Oilers was their ability to generate offense. They have a plethora of talented forwards, and a number of puck-moving defensemen. Scoring goals would be just about the only thing Edmonton would do right this year. But midway through the season, everything has been going wrong for the Oilers, including their so-called potent attack.
Going into their game against the Nashville Predators, the Oilers were ranked a dismal 26th in the league in goals for, a far cry from what anyone expected. Now obviously the aspirations for the playoffs may have been a pipe dream, but this team had the makings of an exciting one to watch because of the skill up front. But other than the theatrics of Nail Yakupov early on, this team has been anything but exciting. The 6-0 thumping at the hands of Nashville was the second consecutive game in which the Oilers failed to put a goal on the board, something that has even the team themselves scratching their heads.
So what exactly is the trouble in Edmonton? Thanks to all the success the young core had in the AHL during the lock-out, the Oilers came into the season with a bit of swagger. They were getting a lot of press, some of it deserved, and some of it just hype, but press none-the-less. It looked like this team was poised to take a big step forward. But following their fifth consecutive loss in a winless month of March, the Oilers are looking for answers.
“It’s unacceptable. We just went two full games without a goal.” – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “You’re not going to win games scoring zero goals so that’s on us. The guys we rely on to score didn’t.” – Taylor Hall. “We can’t just say all the right things… we have to go do it.” – Devan Dubnyk. (Edmonton Oilers)
Not one Oilers player has goals in double digits. Lightning forward Steven Stamkos has more goals on his own than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz have combined. For a group that completely dominated the American Hockey league while they were there, the drought is a little baffling. Yes, the NHL is a different animal, but with the exception of Schultz, these are not first year players. They’ve been there before. They know what to expect.
There’s no denying scoring isn’t the only issue on this team. And there has been a lot of negatives surrounding them. The goaltending has been dreadfully inconsistent, but the defense isn’t giving them a ton of help either. The Oilers, a team who was supposed to improve, looks just as bad as they have the past few years. An injury to Ales Hemsky certainly isn’t going to help the offensive woes. And in this shortened season, the Oilers are already in danger in missing the playoffs if they aren’t already essentially out of the race.
No one expected this team to be world beaters. But the offense has dried up, and that is an unexpected concern. This team isn’t in the worst slump in the history of the NHL, though. The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since two lock-outs ago. The Florida Panthers have only made the postseason once in the past 10+ years. The Columbus Blue Jackets have had only one playoff berth in their entire existence. The New York Islanders have been consistent basement dwellers for years. Yes, things could be worse. But unfortunately for fans, there’s no guarantee team’s will get their act together simply because they’re due. Turning a franchise around takes patience, and for Edmonton, it looks like another season of that is on the horizon.