Call it karma, luck, or a break, whatever it is, the Edmonton Oilers need all of it right now, as they drop further out of the playoff race. So many things went wrong over the last month and a half: injuries, players in COVID-19 protocol, subpar goaltending and weak defensive play. Oh, and that high-powered offence that started the season has all but dried up.
Many theories and excuses have been thrown around, including one member of the local media who wondered if the franchise suffers from a seasonal affective disorder. It’s easy to point fingers. Social media has been calling for head coach Dave Tippett and general manager Ken Holland to be fired. As the losses mount, the knives keep coming out, and what once looked like a promising season has quickly unravelled. So, what will it take for the Oilers to turn the season around?
Oilers Need a Healthy Team
With the latest injury news that Mike Smith hurt his thumb and could be out at least a week, the Oilers were down to Mikko Koskinen in net at their most recent practice. The organization made the call for Stuart Skinner to join the team in time for their next game against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 15. The Oilers can’t use the pandemic as an excuse for their slump because every other team in the league is facing the same challenges, but team chemistry had been tested, not only because of key injuries but also by those players who tested positive for COVID-19.
However, they can hope that the team stays healthy between now and the end of the year. Right now, the Oilers have Ryan Nugent- Hopkins and Kris Russell out with injuries until at least Jan. 18 and a group of seven out with COVID until Jan. 15. Meanwhile, there is hope that goaltender Alex Stalock and right winger, Josh Archibald, can begin rehabilitation after suffering long-term health issues resulting from COVID-19.
Stalock and Archibald have been out all season, so even one of them returning could help the Oilers. Then there’s Dylan Holloway. The promising young forward is coming off of wrist surgery that has kept him sidelined all of 2021-22. Just as he was cleared for practice and assigned to Bakersfield, he was placed in COVID-19 protocol. The kid could use some good luck.
Holland Needs to Make Wise Decisions
Holland’s latest press conference on Jan. 11 was like a Seinfeld episode; it was a conference about nothing. The Oilers media came looking for earth-shattering news and walked away disappointed. You can’t really blame Holland for not revealing his hand to the world because it would further diminish any chances to leverage a deal if something good comes along. His first order of business should be to solidify the Oilers’ goaltending situation.
With the news of Smith’s injury, Skinner’s recall from Bakersfield as well as Stalock’s possible rehab assignment down on the farm, you have to wonder when the goaltending musical chairs will stop. Based on Mikko Koskinen’s inconsistent play and his comments about the lack of support, he could be the odd man out when Smith returns, especially if Skinner continues his strong play.
Most Oilers fans would like to see the tandem of Skinner and Smith in net for the rest of the season, but like it or hate it, it’s Holland and Tippett’s call. If Stalock clears waivers and shows promise in his return to Bakersfield, could he be part of the solution? This is why Holland gets paid the big bucks, but he has to make wise decisions and hope for some luck on the injury front.
At his most recent media availability, Holland also let it be known that the answers to the team’s success lie within the organization. He seems to have changed his stance from earlier in the season when he mentioned he could part with picks and prospects for immediate help. That’s all off the table now as Holland and assistant GM, Keith Gretzky, evaluate the team in late January. The only problem with a long evaluation is that they could let yet another promising season slip by, which the franchise cannot afford right now.
Is Evander Kane Worth Pursuing?
This could be about karma for the hard-luck Oilers. While Evander Kane’s skills could help the team, his off-ice antics make him a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. One has to hope for his sake that he has hit rock bottom personally and is looking for redemption. If that’s the case, then maybe the Oilers should sign him if he’s interested. However, if Kane continues to alienate teammates and shows no remorse for his off-ice behaviour, then it might be best to move on.
Oilers Need to Create Their Own Luck
The 2021-22 NHL season has been one of the most promising and frustrating campaigns in franchise history. It’s been a tale of two seasons, with one final act yet to be played out. The Oilers have the talent to make the playoffs and even make some noise, but will they get there? This is where the rubber needs to hit the road, and if the team can get on a winning streak, they just might be able to carry that positive momentum into late spring.
The answers lie within, at least that’s what Holland says. If Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse and company can overcome the adversity the team has faced, maybe they can turn it all around. Maybe all the Oilers need right now is some good luck.
Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.
Latest News & Highlights
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.