Years after the Edmonton Oilers trudged around in the bottom half of the NHL standings, they finally made the playoffs. There was so much potential and hope surrounding last season, but as we see this year, it’s not that easy.
This season, things have slowed down a bit. The momentum that was built during the playoffs has seemed to sizzle away as they slide lower and lower in the standings. The team is now 11 points out of a playoff spot with 5 teams fighting for the wild card and 3 others for the last spot in the Pacific Division. It’d be something short of a miracle if they made the playoffs this year.
A huge reason as to why they’ve been struggling is injuries. Defensemen Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom missed games after being placed on IR. Most recently Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was placed on IR and will be out 5-6 weeks.
Special teams is another big reason as to why the Oilers are having a lackluster season. The team’s power play sits at 30th in the league with just 21 goals, scoring on only 15.2% of power play opportunities. The penalty kill also isn’t any better. They’ve allowed allowed 41 goals on 162 power plays for the opposite team, making them last in the league.
It also doesn’t help when the goalie is struggling too. Cam Talbot is second to last in the league among starting goalies with a .902 save percentage. Last season he finished above league average with .919 SV%.
“This is the same team basically as last year,” he said. “And at the end of last season we finished so strong, 15-2. It’s the same group of guys, same goalie, same D pairings. I think once guys get hot, players start to score a little more, lines start to get hot, I think we can string eight, 10 in a row.”
He said that on January 22nd. Since then the team has lost, won in shootout, lost and won. While “eight, 10 in a row” might not be a likely outcome for the Oilers, Connor McDavid did score four goals in Monday nights game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Out-scoring the best team in the league 6-2 and having your star player score four goals sounds like just the motivation the Oilers need to have a shot at the playoffs.
Is it possible that last season was a fluke and that the Oilers are destined to stay in the bottom ten? Or is this year a fluke and they’ll recover and be better than ever next season?