The Edmonton Oilers are struggling through January and if it weren’t for a poor Pacific division that number might be too big to overcome. The Oilers are currently 7th (last place) in the Pacific division with a 19-24-5 record and 43 points. A large part of that has to do with the fact the Oilers are currently leading the NHL in total man games lost due to injury. If you’re already a reader of the website Man Games Lost you’ll be familiar with this information.
To describe how bad the Oilers health has been this season, the team has yet to play a single game with a healthy roster with all their young guns in the game. They haven’t looked bad at times when they’ve operated with 80-90% of that roster but even then they have played every game this season missing a key piece.
Currently the Oilers injured list reads with arguably the teams best forward and defenseman in Connor McDavid and Oscar Klefbom leading the way in impact. The two have missed a combined 53 games this season.
Related: NHL Man-Games Lost January 19, 2016
McDavid has missed the most time according to the Oilers Injury Report on their website with 35 games missed due to a broken left clavicle. He is due back just after the NHL All Star Game. When healthy McDavid was one of the best rookies in the league and had 5 goals and 12 points in 13 games.
The same can be said for Klefbom who slowly emerged into the teams No.1 defenseman this season before suffering a lower body injury and missing 18 games. Klefbom had 12 points in 30 games and was leading all Oilers defensemen with 21:53 TOI. A major loss to the teams defense any way you spin it.
Oilers Season Long IR Carosel Continues
Not only are the Oilers without the likes of McDavid and Klefbom, as stated the teams No.1 forward and defender respectively, the team now finds itself without it’s No.2 center in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This has created a glaring hole down the Oilers middle where they now have a sophmore (although sensational) Leon Draisaitl and a depth player in Matt Hendricks playing the No.1/2 center roles until they can get some help from the IR.
The Oilers anticipate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being out for 6-8 weeks with a hand injury and the versitile Lauri Korpikoski will be missed on the penalty kill as he’s day to day.
Those losses are just the tip of the iceberg. In total the Oilers have had seven players miss more than 13 games this season. Talk about being snakebitten. Here is a chart from ManGamesLost.com outlining the comparison between the Oilers and the rest of the NHL leaders in Man Games Lost:
By reading the chart above it’s clear the Oilers are leading the league in injured man games lost with 199. The Buffalo Sabres (192) and New Jersey Devils (183) are just behind them. The area the Oilers are being impacted the most is in their skaters whether forward or defense with 1555.59 relative corsi impact.
To highlight how astronomical that number is the next closest team are the Detroit Red Wings with 1221.02 relative impact. That’s astounding!
Key Players Lost For Long Periods Hurts Their Success
Craig Simpson of Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada recently got into a heated debate with Oilers Now radio host Bob Stauffer over Stauffer’s claim that the Oilers missing McDavid and Klefbom has been a key factor in the Oilers being where they are in the standings. Simpson argued that injuries create opportunity and in a nutshell that Edmonton shouldn’t be using that as an excuse. Both arguments hold true to some extent, but Stauffer might have been onto something.
Going back to the seven players that have missed more than 13 games due to injury this season those players are; Jordan Eberle (13), Justin Schultz (14), McDavid (35), Nail Yakupov (22) and Klefboom (18). Even a depth player like Rob Klinkhammer has missed 27 games this season. Those are some big time players for the Oilers are things considered.
Schultz hasn’t been the same all season with a lot of speculation being that he hasn’t fully recovered from his back injury, Yakupov is still trying to find his stride after being out since November 27th with a sprained ankle. Eberle struggled in his first 10 games since coming back from a shoulder injury and so on and so forth.
This is reflected in the NHL Man Games Lost VS Team Wins bubble graph above. To understand the graph in a nutshell the teams in the top left (Washington, Chicago) have had very few injuries and have been winning hockey games. This is evidenced by both teams leading their respective conferences in the standings.
Division leaders as you can see are yellow, playoff teams are blue and non-playoff teams are in red.
The teams in the bottom left corner have had very few injuries and haven’t really affect their team (NY Rangers, San Jose Sharks). The rest of the NHL falls into the giant cluster in the middle, an average amount of injuries and a middling in the standings. The top right is an anomaly and we likely won’t see a lot of teams in there because they’ve had a huge chunk of injuries but have still been winning games. The closest team for that is St.Louis who still find themselves in the playoffs.
The bottom right is where the Oilers are; more injuries and fewer wins. The reason why because the injuries in relation to corsi and the impact of those lost has been huge to the Oilers.
This Wasn’t Part Of The Plan
Obviously this wasn’t exactly apart of the plan for the Oilers this season who were hoping to be in playoff contention this year. Most pundits had them finishing somewhere between 10-12th in the Western Conference and be playing competitive hockey into the final weeks of March only to fall short of the playoffs.
McDavid was supposed to lead the Oilers with 70-85 points and a healthy Taylor Hall was supposed to take a step forward as were RNH, Yakupov and the rest of the forward group. Unfortuntely that didn’t happen and injuries have been the biggest factor, not the only factor. The Oilers are struggling to score with 2.40 GF/GP average which puts them in the bottom-third of the league. They’ve also struggled to keep the puck out of their net with a 2.94 GA/GP which puts them 5th in the league for most goals against.
Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson have been hot and cold all season long in goal with Talbot starting to gain steam and Nilsson is fizzling out. Sure the Oilers defense is already undermanned having not yet acquired or developed a sure-fire No.1 defenseman but having lost their best defender in Klefbom for 18 games hurts that already undermanned group. This is a defense that can’t afford injuries due to it’s lack of depth and versitility.
Upfront you can’t score goals from the press box and having lost 133 man games among their forwards. Eberle, McDavid and to a lesser expectation Pouliot and Yakupov were all expected to score close to if not more than 20 goals this season. Let’s low ball this summer and say that respectively that would’ve given the Oilers atleast another 10 goals this season so far added to their 115 so far. That would’ve bumped them up to about 2.60 GF/GP which let’s just consider places them 15th in the league in scoring. More importantly playoff territory.
Sure you can’t say that injuries are the only thing to blame and that’s the crutch Oiler fans can stand on. The team has glaring holes. Again they have no No.1 defenseman, they have struggled to score with the players in the lineup upfront.
Yet you can’t reasonably look someone in the eye and say of the 13 one-goal games the Oilers have lost this season, especially the four they have lost so far in January that having a healthy lineup might have been the difference between zero and two-points. Win all four this month alone and the Oilers are all of a sudden have six more points (two of those losses were in overtime/shoot out) giving them 49!
That would tie them with San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver who are battling it out for a playoff spot in a weak Pacific Division.
Injuries have been the Oilers achilles heel in 2015-16.