While he may have won a pair of Stanley Cup Championships as a player with the Edmonton Oilers, been a part of the coaching staff for three seasons in the mid-2000’s and continues to be a proud member of the Oilers Alumni, Craig Simpson has never been one to hold his tongue when it comes to his former employer.
— Wine Guy (@ryantyke) January 13, 2016
That trend continued on Wednesday afternoon, as the former 50-goal scorer wanted no part in making excuses for the Western Conference cellar dwellers during his weekly appearance on 630 CHED’s “Oilers Now” radio broadcast. After watching Edmonton blow their second multi-goal third-period lead inside a week on Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes, Simpson was not interested in hearing host Bob Stauffer go on about the Oilers current lot in life, in what was an extremely entertaining segment of Talk Radio.
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There is no question the Oilers miss not having Oscar Klefbom and Connor McDavid in their lineup but as the Hockey Night in Canada colour commentator correctly pointed out, that is no reason to give this group a free pass for self-imploding to the degree it has over the last four weeks. After all, there are more than a few teams who have lost key contributors to injury this season and yet Edmonton has been the one who completely folded its tent since kicking off the month of December in style with a six-game win streak.
When Will That Next Step Be Taken In Edmonton?
In their defence, the Oilers had Klefbom in the lineup for five of those six wins but they also put that entire run together with No. 97 on the outside looking in. While Edmonton was carried by the duo of Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall for much of that stretch, with honourable mention going to netminder Anders Nilsson, the fact no one has been able to do the same of late is what doesn’t sit well with Simpson…and rightfully so.
“Learning to play when you are having some success remains the hardest next step for this group and I think if you sat down with Todd and he was brutally honest, he’d feel the same way.”
– Craig Simpson on Oilers Now (January 13, 2016) –
Take a look at the Oilers last 13 games in which they have posted a 3-8-2 mark and you will find a bunch of games they frankly had no business losing. As if giving away their last three games wasn’t already bad enough, Edmonton basically did the same exact thing in post-Christmas break defeats to the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. That is eight points this team has left on the table since Boxing Day and all have come against beatable opponents. Not exactly the response you would have hoped for from a franchise who hasn’t seen playoff hockey since 2006.
Oilers Have Wasted A Glorious Opportunity
Add those points to Edmonton’s current total of 38 and they would be in a tie for second in the Pacific Division with the surprising Coyotes. Instead, they are just two points back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the lowest total in the entire league. As Simpson correctly pointed out, the Oilers have shown signs of improvement in certain areas of their game during the first-half of the season but using injuries as a crutch for their recent failures is simply not acceptable.
“So many guys have had their chance in NHL because some top player got hurt and that is the point I want to make. We would not be having the Leon Draisaitl discussion about what great growth he has had, had there not been the injuries and that is what every general manager and coach looks for within their organization. That has to be the focus. The by-product may be that you don’t make the playoffs because of it but you look within the group for other guys to make an impact. That is what injuries do…they create great opportunities and there are so many great stories of players who have taken advantage of that. “
– Craig Simpson on Oilers Now (January 13, 2016) –
While Stauffer proceeded to go on at great length about the Oilers current management team inheriting a roster that was saddled with some bad contracts, not a very good defence or a No. 1 goalie, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Let’s not forget that Peter Chiarelli did bring in seven new players from outside the organization in the off-season, including three defencemen and two new goaltenders. Call me crazy but something tells me they had hoped they found their starting goalie in Cam Talbot and significantly upgraded their backend.
Plenty Of Blame To Go Around
Unfortunately, that is not how things have played out and that is on the current regime, not Craig MacTavish and company. While much of this team’s failures can be placed on the shoulders of the old regime, blaming them for the new general manager’s missteps seems rather silly. Every front office makes mistakes and it will now be up to Chiarelli to try to fix his in the coming months but it won’t be easy. Which is why Simpson’s take is so refreshing.
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Instead of simply laying all of the blame on the organization, Craig Simpson has decided to direct some of it back onto the players and who can blame him. Yes, the Edmonton Oilers have been hit hard by the injury bug and still have a flawed roster but they are not the only team in the league with that issue. Yet they are the ones looking up at the pack and with the Pacific Division being as bad as it is, they were essentially “gifted” a lifeline but still managed to do nothing with it and frankly it is not a good look.
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.