The Oilers Need a Stronger Effort Outside of McDavid
Last season, the Edmonton Oilers scored 103 points to end an 11 year playoff drought that saw the team defeat the reigning Western Conference champs. They defeated the San Jose Sharks in the first round before dropping out in the second round to the Anaheim Ducks in 7 games.
This season has been a totally different tale as the Oilers have struggled both offensively and defensively. Connor McDavid who is in his 3rd season leads the team with 53 points in 47 games while Leon Draisaitl is behind him with 39 points in 43 games. Those two along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been the only players to provide an offensive spark for the struggling team that has only outputted 131 goals in 47 games which sees them near the bottom of the Western Conference. My concern has been the play of Milan Lucic whose on-ice performance has been sluggish. He currently has 9 goals and 21 assists for a total of 30 points which may seem adequate but for a forward that is making 6 million for the next 6 seasons that is very disappointing. Also, Lucic is currently going through a career low shooting percentage of 9.9% while also having seen his ice time decrease this season. Another player that has been disappointing has been Ryan Strome who was acquired in the offseason for long time Oiler Jordan Eberle which has always been a questionable trade in my opinion. Strome who has seen his offensive play drop since his impressive sophomore season that saw him net 17 goals and 50 points with the New York Islanders, has 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 47 games. As for Jordan Eberle, he has 16 goals and 22 assists in 48 games with the Islanders so that definitely has to be a stat that stings for Oilers fans as Eberle’s play would really help Edmonton right now.
Moving onto the Oilers defence, it has taken a big step back this season. Last year’s team only allowed 212 goals. However, this year’s team has so far allowed 149 goals and is on pace to surpass last year’s total. Oscar Klefbom has had a disappointing season on the blue line as he leads all Oilers defencemen on the wrong side of the plus-minus category with a -11. Andrej Sekera who has dealt with an injury for the majority of the season before returning a few weeks ago has been another lackluster player in his own end who looked sluggish on the ice and has not played with the same bite as he did last year. Don’t forget that Sekera is still Edmonton’s highest paid defenceman at 5.5 million for the next 4 years. Now what about main anchor on the blueline, Adam Larsson? Well I feel like he is still the steady player as he was last year but the play of others around him has hurt his defensive stats considering he led the Oilers defence with a plus 21 last season to drop to a plus 1 this year. Kris Russell has also had an okay season as he is still a great workhorse and loves to block the shots when you play him in his bottom 4 role. The one player however that I felt has really turned it around on the blue line has been the play of Darnell Nurse who has not only looked good offensively but has looked great in his own end. He actually leads the entire Oilers roster in the plus-minus category with 17, and has seen his ice time increase to 21.26 while also averaging 27 shifts per game.
Finally, I finish off with the goaltending and Cam Talbot that has taken a turn for the worst. Last year, Talbot played on an elite level when he picked up a franchise record in 42 wins ,while also having an impressive goals against average of 2.39, and a save percentage of 919, with 7 shutouts added to his 2016-2017 resume. This season has looked completely different for the 30 year old from Caledonia Ontario as he has allowed over 3 goals per game while also seeing his save percentage plummet to .902. He really needs to pick it up again if the Oilers would like to make a 2nd half push for a playoff spot.
Overall, I just don’t see the Oilers doing any damage to crack the playoffs this year. They heavily rely on Connor McDavid and even with his talent, it’s just not enough to make a push as hockey is a team game and the team has not been helping him out. Also, one of their top players, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will miss the next 5-6 weeks with cracked ribs and a bruised sternum which should really hurt the Oilers depth. I know that there is a lot of games left in the NHL season and a long win streak can change everything but I think Oilers fans should look to next season for the team to turn it around.