After the debacle against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday the 13th, the Edmonton Oilers came out against the Los Angeles Kings and won by a 2-1 score. It was the kind of game most fans would like to see more often. They followed that hard working game with more of a half hearted effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The result of course was a loss to the last place team in the league by a 4-2 score.
The team then came out with a better effort against the St. Louis Blues and although they failed to show up for the first period, being outshot 19-4, they played a solid last 40 minutes and lost 1-0 with the Blues scoring with under 6 minutes to go.
They followed up that decent performance with another debacle last night against the Calgary Flames. The game was a joke and it was the 9th straight victory for the Flames over the Oilers in the Battle of Alberta. The Battle of Alberta has been hardly a battle the last several years and has become a game where those Flame’s players who are having scoring problems break out of slumps.
The Oilers, for the most part, seem to be playing good for a game and then bad for 1 or 2 before the compete level shows up again for a game. So where does the team go from here for the remainder of the season?
This team started the season with the goal of playing meaningful games in March and April and here we are, a week before the All-Star break, and chance of playing meaningful games in March and April have all but evaporated. Unless of course meaningful meant fighting to stay out of 30th place but seeing how they played last night, they appear to have a good shot at a 3rd straight last place finish.
I waited yesterday with hope that some poor sucker…I mean NHL General Manager would help relieve the Edmonton Oilers of one of their overpaid, under achieving bums…I mean stars. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, no one helped in the rebuilding effort. Steve Tambellini will now have less 3 days to work any magic he has and earn his paycheque once the Olympic roster freeze is lifted on March 1st. That’s not to say there won’t be discussions between now and then but nothing can be announced until that time. I would actually expect there to be a few announcements on March 1st as general managers do what they can to help their clubs for either the playoff hunt this year or for the future.
I read Robert Tychkowski’s article at Slam Sports and I think he nailed the major problem with the Oilers right on. Offense! That’s not to say there is nothing wrong on the defensive side of the puck, clearly there are. The Oilers currently have given up the second most number of goals with only the Toronto Maple Leafs have given up more. Their goaltending has been shaky at times but that is to be expected with 2 rookie goaltenders between the pipes. The defense can look like a great group some games and then then next game look like raw rookies with their abysmal play and brutal giveaways.
As the article stated, even the best goaltenders in the league would be losing games in net with the Oilers because they just don’t score enough to offset even the best goals against average. The Oilers still need to keep the puck out of the net more. Let’s compare the Oilers and Flames to make this point. The Edmonton Oilers are averaging 2.42 goals for per game and sit in 28th place in this stat. The Calgary Flames are averaging 2.46 goals for per game and sit 27th. The offense is pretty equal right? Granted the Oilers have been well below that for the last 30 games. Washington leads this stat with an average of 3.93 goals per game.
Let’s take a look at the other end. The Oilers have a 3.33 Goals against average which is 29th in the league. The Flames have a goals against average of 2.44 which is good enough for 7th in the league. The difference? .89 GAA which is worth 23 additional points and 17 spots in the standings. So while a good offense can overcome a weak defense, strong defensive play can make up for weak offense too. For interest Chicago leads this stat with a 2.25 GAA. Washington actually sits 20th with a 2.80 GAA.
This proves to me one thing. You need one of your 2 sides of the ice to be great if you are going to be successful. Teams like Washington know how to put the puck in the net better than keeping it out and they are successful with it. The New Jersey Devils do it the other way as they are second in GAA but 21st in goals for. The Oilers are 28th in goals for and 29th in goals against.
Since the Oilers have 2 young goalies to develop and lots of deadwood on the forward lines, I agree with Robert that the offensive side of things is where the team needs to concentrate. Get some offense and give your young goalies a chance to develop. They always say the best defense is an effective offense and the Oilers just don’t have that. They spend too much time in their own zone and not enough in the offensive zone. It is tough to win games when you are defending all night…and not doing that well either.
The goal for Steve Tambellini for the next 18 days is to get rid of the deadwood for what ever he can get because in the long run this team will benefit even if it is just by freeing up cap room. Then this team needs to make sure they have their collective brains in gear for the draft and make sure there are no Jason Bonsignore picks in the future. The focus needs to be offense because as Washington are proving and the glory day Oilers proved, offense is fun to watch and more often than not will win you games no matter how bad the defensive side of things.