Rob Soria The Hockey Writers
A Tale of Two Seasons
Coming off what was easily their most disappointing effort of the season, the Edmonton Oilers reached a new low point for 2017-18. After being thoroughly dominated by the lowly Buffalo Sabres on home-ice and being shutout for the third time in their last five appearances at Rogers Place, much of their fanbase is ready to wave the white flag on what has been a nightmare campaign.
Despite showing the occasional sign of possibly turning their season around, it was never real and this group has been unable to gain any real traction. Though expectations may have been through the roof for Todd McLellan’s crew heading into the year, it is has become painfully obvious this roster is nowhere near ready for said expectations. With that said, this is not a team that should be battling for a lottery pick. So what gives?
Last Season No Longer Matters
Well, it’s actually quite simple. Like it or not, what we saw during 2016-17 was a bit of a mirage. There is no question that last year’s team put together a heck of a run but let’s call a spade a spade shall we. It truly was a perfect storm in a positive way. When a team has the vast majority of its key guys playing at a high-level, with no pressure whatsoever and at close to full health, chances are things could go well.
From @byterryjones — Shutout by Sabres, Edmonton Oilers display no skill and even less will https://t.co/AM9VmP7mit#yeg #Oilers #NHL pic.twitter.com/IrHnLnSeYN
— Edmonton Sun (@Edmontonsun) January 24, 2018
In a nutshell, that was the Oilers last year. Unfortunately, things have not gone quite so smoothly this time around and their fall from grace has been just as shocking as the previous season’s rise. Again, it really is that simple but the problem is those expectations are now out for all to see and reeling them back in is next to impossible. A tough spot to be sure but that is the reality of this situation.
A Shocking Collapse
As ugly as Edmonton’s current 21-24-3 mark may look, the argument could be made it actually flatters this group. On far too many occasions, this team that has been taken to the woodshed and been out of many a game early on. To make matter worse, they have been especially awful since returning from their Christmas hiatus and there are many reasons for it but one stands out above the rest.
Be you in the group that believes much of the blame for the Oilers terrible special teams fall at the feet of the players, coaches, general manager or a combination of the three, the results speak for themselves. At this stage, their home and road splits don’t even matter. Yes, their penalty kill totals make no sense but when you put it together, you still get an embarrassing 71.4% and that isn’t enough. Period.
Special Teams, Special Teams, Special Teams
In my mind, the personnel isn’t good enough and Cam Talbot isn’t playing at the same level he did a season ago. However, those who were expecting another Vezina caliber season from the Oilers guardian may have been asking a little much. That said, with the chances this team gives up on a nightly basis, not sure how much it would have even helped but certainly an extra save now and again wouldn’t hurt.
#Oilers in "uncharted territory" when it comes to special teams disparity at home vs. on the road as they continue to work on narrowing that gap. pic.twitter.com/ipKSXWO4SQ
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 24, 2018
Same goes for the power play, which is clicking at an alarming 14.8% and sits second last in the league. That’s right, a power play with Connor McDavid on it is among the worst in all of hockey. While the Oilers penalty kill wasn’t very good after the first month or so of the year in 2016-17, the power play was top five and played a big part in this team’s success.
Success breeds confidence and with it, teams tend to excel. Whereas when the group loses that belief as a collective unit and aren’t as good as advertised, it can go in the opposite direction in a real hurry. That is what has happened to the Edmonton Oilers and they are simply ill-equipped to deal with it. Their season has spiraled out of control because of it and barring a minor miracle, we are well beyond the point of thinking this can still be salvaged.
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