The Edmonton Oilers got routed last night by provincial rivals the Calgary Flames 8-1. This game, however, proved to be more than just an emotional punch to the gut, but head coach Dallas Eakins and third GM in five years Craig MacTavish may have lost their team along with their jobs in the process. The Edmonton Oilers are not just plummeting to new lows this season, but they are hitting a rock bottom never before seen in Edmonton… and the fans know it.
Playing on Hockey Night in Canada is not something to be taken lightly. If there ever were a comparison to draw from it in the United States, compare Hockey Night in Canada to Monday Night Football here in the States. In 11 appearances on the nationally broadcasted Hockey Night in Canada, the Edmonton Oilers are 1-10 on the year. Not only do they have an abysmal record on the big nights, but they have some of their biggest flops on the season on it. These blowouts include a 5-0 shutout vs. the Detroit Red Wings, a 6-0 shutout vs. the St. Louis Blues and now this travesty of a game. The Flames in this game completed the three games to none sweep of the Oilers this year.
The Oilers are dropping big games in pathetic new lows this year on national television, but the bleeding has only just begun. Getting embarrassed on national television three times now is clearly enough to make an Oilers fan rip their hair out, but losing eleven games on home ice by three or more goals is enough to make a fan toss his $150 Oilers jersey on the ice… literally. During the 8-1 rout, three Edmonton fans decided to part ways with their beloved hockey sweaters. Perhaps they will buy a provincial rival Flames jersey to wear from now on instead? Fact is, the Oiler fans have seen enough from a team that has squandered talent after talent in the hopes of climbing out of a lottery pick and making the playoffs for the first time since 2006. However, the Edmonton Oilers hitting rock bottom is still not an easy thing to diagnose.
The Edmonton Oilers are a team that should, in theory, be a winning team. Every year they have high hopes and every year an Oilers fan goes home shaking their head. Edmonton’s top lines should in theory be able to compete with the best of the best. Led by Taylor Hall, who has 65 points in 65 games-played, the Oilers top line, consisting of Hall, Sam Gagner and David Perron, rank among the top scoring lines in the NHL with 152 combined points. Their second line this year, when healthy, is just another terrific scoring line in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ales Hemsky (now traded, but replaced with Nail Yakupov) and Jordan Eberle with over 100 points combined. Their goaltender Ben Scrivens, with exception of this past game, is putting up some pretty solid numbers. In his first 14 games of the season with the Oilers (traded from the Kings), Scrivens has posted a 2.67 GAA and a terrific .927 save percentage thus far, giving Oilers fans some hope of the future. Maybe the problem with the Oilers is not talent considering they have a boatload of it. Perhaps it is lack of defensemen and leadership. Ryan Smyth is the wyley veteran on this team at 38-years-old, but maybe even he is too old to connect with this new generation of Oilers forwards who without him average the ripe age of 25. Take out 32-year-old Matt Hendricks, 30-year-old Boyd Gordon, 33-year-old Steve MacIntyre and 29-year-old Ryan Jones, and the Oilers ten other forwards only average the age of 22.
With Scrivens between the pipes now, the Oilers have something they have not seen in a very long time… a legitimate young goaltender in his prime. The youth is going to be in Edmonton for some time, but as lottery pick contracts begin to rise, maybe the time is now for the Oilers to dump a pair of these contracts and pick up an established captain or veteran defenseman who is not the age of some of their parents and can keep the kids in line. Whatever the reason is behind the Edmonton Oilers hitting rock bottom, the Oilers fans have one thing to remember… the only way to go from here is up.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles