Despite posting a rather unflattering 5-10 record through the first fifteen games of their 2015-16 schedule, the Edmonton Oilers have not been playing poorly. Unfortunately for them, it has not led to much success in the overall standings and with their current predicament being what it is, this collection of players could be in for a rough ride over the coming weeks.
Huge four game road trip for the Oilers. They begin it in the basement of the Pacific. Where will they sit in a week?
— Dustin Nielson (@nielsonTSN1260) November 9, 2015
While it does seem ridiculous for a team’s fortunate to be tied to the health of an 18-year old rookie…that is essentially where things stand with this group. The addition of Connor McDavid at least gave the Oilers a fighting chance to hold their own against most opponents. With two legitimate scoring lines in place, Edmonton had a shot of outscoring teams and winning the occasional game. Was there a high probability of that occurring? Not particularly but they have still found a way to remain competitive on most nights.
[Related Article: Taylor Hall Continues to Quiet His Critics]
As of this moment, this team has essentially reverted back to the one that will go as far as Taylor Hall can carry them. And with all due respect to the 2010 first overall pick, no player in the league today is capable of carrying the load on his own. As talented as guys like Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov are…none of shown the ability to drive the Oilers offence with any sort of real consistency.
Replacing McDavid Will Be Next to Impossible
McDavid showed he could do it after just a handful of games in the league and Hall has been doing it for much his six-year career. Remove one from the equation and Edmonton suddenly becomes a far easier side to deal with. Opposing teams were already starting to show signs of being unable to contain the Oilers offence when it got going and that was with Eberle out of the lineup with a shoulder injury and McDavid still getting his feet wet.
Despite playing a pair of decent games against both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks since losing McDavid to a broken collarbone, Edmonton has gone 0-2 and shown signs of being unable to put the puck in the net. So with this team’s ability to produce offence once again in question, the pressure to stay in games will now fall onto a poorly constructed backend and a goaltending duo that has yet to prove their worth in such a setting.
— zach laing (@Loweded) November 2, 2015
Too Many Holes in Too Many Places
If anyone honestly believes a backend that features one of Anders Nilsson and Cam Talbot in goal and a blue line which will include a mix of Brandon Davidson, Andrew Ference, Eric Gryba, Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart, Justin Schultz and Andrej Sekera is good enough to compete with a pop-gun offence, you clearly have not been paying attention. Even with the offence clicking, it was an iffy proposition but at least they had a puncher’s chance.
[Related Article: Sekera Leaves Fans Wanting More]
With this team set to play eight of their next ten games on the road, chances are pretty good that things could get a lot worse in the not too distant future. By no means is that to suggest this season is a lost cause and Edmonton is doomed to once again finish the year with a lottery pick.
In fact, the combination of players growing accustomed to the system Todd McLellan wants them playing, an easier schedule and the return of No. 97 to the lineup will surely lead to the Oilers giving teams fits during the second half of the year and grabbing points that will help them improve on their 62-point campaign from a season ago.
While some may suggest that is a rather pessimistic view to take, it is nothing of the sort. This has zero to do with being negative or overly critical and everything to do with accepting the situation for what it is. In order for the Edmonton Oilers to have had any hope of competing for a playoff berth in 2015-16, everything was going to have to fall into place. Health, a marked improvement in their own end of the rink and a flourishing offence everyone was hoping would come to the forefront with the addition of one Connor McDavid.
[Related Article: A Potential Turning Point]
Some of those things may still come to fruition but others have already come off the rails and this team is simply not equipped to overcome any sort of setback. From a fan’s standpoint, it has to be frustrating but again, this season was always going to be nothing other than a rollercoaster ride. My suggestion would be to buckle in and do your best to survive the next couple of months and hope for the calendar turns to 2016 sooner rather than later.
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.