After kicking off their 2015-16 schedule with five of their first six games on the road, the Edmonton Oilers played seven of their next eight on home ice. That run came to an end on Friday evening when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins paid their one and only visit of the season to Rexall Place.
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) November 7, 2015
Unfortunately for the Oilers, last night’s 2-1 loss to the Pens not only left them with a 3-5 mark in those games but also gave them a less than flattering 5-9 record through the first month of the season. With that said, this team is about to embark and yet another extended period away from home and one can argue this may be the worst possible moment for Edmonton to be headed out-of-town.
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As if facing the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings over a seven-day stretch wasn’t already bad enough, this group will close out the month of November on a very similar trek. While the Oilers will make a brief seven-day pit stop in between trips, they will take on the aforementioned Blackhawks for the second time in ten days and New Jersey Devils during their so-called “down time”.
They will then follow that up with another week-long stay on the road that includes games against the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Not exactly a murder’s row but far from a walk in the park during what will unquestionably be the make or break point of their season.
McDavid Will Be Sorely Missed
Yes, they have shown a marked improvement in different facets of their game but this could be asking far too much from such an inexperienced group…especially when it no longer has its ace in the hole at their disposal. By removing No. 97 from the equation, it certainly puts them behind the eight-ball and in a position of weakness.
That is not to suggest Edmonton would be off to the races with a healthy Connor McDavid in their lineup, but it certainly would not hurt. With Jordan Eberle having just made his season debut against Pittsburgh, the Oilers would have been poised to take on the toughest part of their schedule with essentially all hands on deck.
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Now could this group find a way to keep their head above water over the next three-plus weeks and at least stay relevant in the Western Conference standings? Stranger things have happened, but they will need the trio of Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to carry the load up front while receiving Herculean-type performances from both Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson in goal.
Anything short of that and the Edmonton Oilers could be in deep trouble when the calendar turns to December. Again, this is far from an ideal situation but these are cards this group has been dealt and it is now up to them to find a way to survive. One thing we can count on is Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan will learn a lot about these players in the coming weeks and you can bet those findings will go a long way in helping determine what direction this organization decides to go down in the not too distant future.
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.