Whether you are a contender or a basement dweller, every single NHL season entails a series of ups and downs and lessons to be learned for any team no matter how successful they are. Learning is essential to winning. For the Edmonton Oilers, this season has been a learning curve and a 180 degree turn around from prior atrocities in the past. They are getting a taste of what it takes to be legitimate in the NHL.
Last season in 2015/2016, the Oilers placed 29th overall with 70 points. They had 203 goals for and 245 goals against which ranked them 25th. Their power play was 18.14% and penalty kill was 80.71%.
This season, the Oilers have 78 points in only 66 games played and are 10th overall in the league. They have 184 goals for (11th) and 170 goals against (10th). Their power play is at 21.05% and penalty kill is at 79.23%.
These are only a few simple stats that can measure a teams progress season-by-season. Clearly the Oilers have improved in all categories while penalty kill has relatively remained the same in a consistent, above average way.
So what’s the point then? Where do the Oilers need to improve? The root of their issues this season have stemmed from the teams overall inability to capitalize at crucial times when it is needed most.
Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Islanders was a tough one to watch because the Oilers had control for a good portion of the game. They were all over the Isles with good puck possession in the offensive zone and had glorious, high quality chances to score. In the end, this game was won because the Isles capitalized on their chances, the Oilers did not. Final shots were 28-27 in favour of Edmonton. New York was 1 for 1 on the power play and Edmonton was 0 for 2.
Friday’s game against the Penguins was entertaining and yet once again produced the same old result. A rocky start caused the Oilers to fall behind 2-0 and play catch up. However, they turned things around and wound up outshooting their opponent 42-31. It was a game that could have gone either way. Prime opportunities from Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to capitalize in overtime were missed. Those chances have come back to haunt them as yet again, another game was decided by one goal for Edmonton.
The fact is the Oilers have got to find a way to seal the deal in close games and also win games that they should win. The saying goes, the Oilers can win the battles but not the war. Ultimately, it all comes down to their consistency and means to score goals. If you ask me, acquiring a point from a loss is still a failure. It’s honesty like doing a school project with a partner and you did all the work but the teacher still doesn’t give you full credit.
Offence is coming from top dogs like McDavid and Draisaitl; however, there must be more scoring contribution from the forward depth Edmonton has.
It must be taken into account that the Oilers are still students of winning and playoff contention. Ten years of non-playoff hockey is brutal, you don’t have to tell me. But people are prematurely getting a little too amped up for playoffs right now when there is still a lot of important regular season games left to be played and tweaks to work out before then. The Calgary Flames have been red hot and there are teams chasing the Oilers so staying focused on each game is essential. It is important to not bite off more than what can be chewed right now.