There was a time when the Edmonton Oilers ruled the National Hockey League. The Oilers joined the NHL in 1979 as one of the holdovers from the World Hockey Association. And in 1983, the Oilers would make their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, but there they would be outclassed by the New York Islanders who were in the process of winning their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup Title. The Oliers and Islanders would meet once more in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final with the Oilers getting their revenge and winning their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history. From 1984-1990, the Oilers would win five Stanley Cup Championships under the leadership of future Hall of Fame Players such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, and Jari Kurri. But once the Oilers starting cutting costs and shipping some of these great players out of town, things would change. Four years would go by in the 1990’s without a playoff appearance for the Oilers, but they would turn it around at the end of the decade which carried over to the 2000’s with a return to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. However since then the Oilers have failed to qualify for the playoffs while they have gone through five head coaches. From 2010-2012, the Oilers would have the first overall pick in the NHL Draft in each year. Those three picks for the Oilers resulted in left winger Taylor Hall, center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and right winger Nail Yakupov who haven’t been able to help Edmonton take that next step and so far this season appears to be spiraling downward already as they are on pace to finish with the worst record in the Western Conference for a second consecutive season.
The Oilers 6-10-2 record is the worst in the Western Conference and the third worst in the NHL as they are well off of the pace as far as contending for the postseason. The Oilers are 22nd in the National Hockey League is goals scored per game 2.53 and they are third in goals allowed per game 3.37. The only teams that are allowing more goals per game than the Oilers are the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Buffalo Sabres who happen to be the only two teams in the league that have a worse record than Edmonton. Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens is allowing 3.09 goals per game this season which is 34th among net minders in the NHL this season. In his last five starts, Scrivens has given up 15 goals including 5 in Edmonton’s 5-4 loss this past Wednesday night to the Vancouver Canucks.
Things didn’t get started on the right track for the Oilers this season as they lost their first five games. The Oilers would win their next four games including a 3-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens, but they have lost eight of their last ten including their last four games. Edmonton has the second youngest team in the NHL this season and for Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins, he is looking for answers in order to get this team going. The Pacific Division alone is loaded with Stanley Cup Title contenders in the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Canucks which makes it tougher for the Oilers to contend, but they must find a way to compete with these good teams. The young Oilers must take ownership on defense and put the pressure on the other teams. Offensively the Oilers must begin to force the issue as far as scoring early in order to put the pressure on their opponents which is something that they have been unable to do.
For Eakins and Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish this is the group of guys that they will need to build with. Edmonton, Alberta is one of the smaller media markets in the National Hockey League and it isn’t a hotbed as far as luring free agents to so we shouldn’t expect any type of shakeup to this team. The Oilers have two more tough games on the slate as they will host the New Jersey Devils tonight before clashing with the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night. December will be very important for the Oilers as they will look to get things going if they are going to become relevant this season. If not it will once be a long winter and spring in Edmonton, Alberta.
Sources: Hockey-reference.com, Quanthockey.com