Oilers Need More From Draisaitl & McDavid to Stop Slump

Plenty of blame is going around, given the Edmonton Oilers’ struggles. They have won twice in their last 12 games; they’re missing steady goaltending, depth scoring and are icing a roster ravaged by injury and COVID-19. However, two names you probably won’t hear criticized are Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. But the irreproachable duo isn’t free from fault. In fact, relatively speaking, Draisaitl and McDavid have fallen off the most during Edmonton’s skid; their point production is half of what it was in the first part of the season.

Draisaitl & McDavid Scoring Cut in Half

In the Oilers’ first 22 games, Draisaitl racked up 43 points (1.95 points-per-game average) and McDavid had 42 (1.91). In 11 games since, Draisaitl has 9 points (0.82), while McDavid has 11 (1.00). Combined, the dynamic duo is averaging more than two points less per game, from 3.86 in Edmonton’s first 22 games to 1.82 in the last 11.

The drop-off is equally steep when it comes to goals. At the 22-game mark, Draisaitl had 21 goals (0.95 goals-per-game average) and McDavid had 16 (0.73). In the 11 games since, Draisaitl has just four goals (0.36) and McDavid has tallied three times (0.27). From a combined total of 1.68 to 0.63, that’s one less goal per game that the Oilers have counted on from the duo.

As McDavid Goes, So Does Draisaitl

When his team needs a goal or two, one of head coach Dave Tippett’s favourite moves is to load up a line with both Draisaitl and McDavid. Otherwise, the two have centred separate lines this season to spread out the scoring throughout the lineup, so if one line isn’t firing on all cylinders, the other can pick up the slack.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Despite being separated, Draisaitl and McDavid are slumping in concert: in over 16 consecutive games between Oct. 16 and Nov. 20, at least one of McDavid or Draisaitl scored; in six of the last 11 games, neither has found the back of the net. Meanwhile, after starting the season with 19 straight games where Draisaitl or McDavid registered at least one point, Edmonton has now seen both held pointless four times in the last 11 games and five of the previous 13 – the pair only had matching zeroes in points seven times in 56 games all of last season.

Oilers’ Production Mostly Unchanged

Set against the rest of the lineup, Draisaitl’s and McDavid’s decline is particularly pronounced; the rest of the Oilers have combined for 19 goals over the last 11 games (1.73 goals-per-game average) after scoring 46 times in the first 22 outings (2.09). Put another way, Draisaitl and McDavid were responsible for more than half of all Oilers’ goals through 22 games (37 of 73). Since then, they’ve accounted for just over a quarter (7 of 26).

Admittedly, it’s apples and oranges comparing the two greatest players on the planet with bottom-six forwards. One can only fall so far, standing a couple of feet off the ground. When you’re in another stratosphere, as Draisaitl and McDavid were for the first month and a half of the season, you’re in for a precipitous fall.

Expectations Sky High for Draisaitl & McDavid

Not that long ago, the Oilers had the best point percentage in the NHL, and Oil Country was swept up in the rapture of an incredible 16-5-0 start as Draisaitl and McDavid were projected to have historic seasons. It seemed almost certain that both would tally 150 points and maybe, just maybe, make a run at 200. Meanwhile, Draisaitl was expected to join the exclusive 50 goals in 50 games club. That’s not happening now.

Related: Oilers’ McDavid & Draisaitl Both Have Paths to 150 Points This Season

And yet, McDavid and Draisaitl still rank first and second in the NHL points race, with 53 and 52, respectively. Draisaitl leads the league with 25 goals, and McDavid tops all skaters with 34 assists. It’s because they’ve set the bar so high that the past month has seemed like a slump. Their greatness is their burden.

It’s not reasonable to ask the two to shoulder the scoring load for the Oilers, but considering their annual salaries ($8.5 million and $12.5 million, respectively), it’s not unfair, either. Lofty expectations come with the territory, and Draisaitl and McDavid have never failed to live up to their end of the bargain, dragging an otherwise mediocre roster as far as they can the last few seasons. Now they have to do it one more time.

McDavid Could Be Out against Maple Leafs

If the turnaround is expected to start when the Oilers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday, it might be up to Draisaitl. McDavid tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and will not be eligible to play unless he tests negative before the game. Fortunately, he is not likely to miss much action, as Edmonton only has one game scheduled in the next 12 days, that is against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 10.

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