by Lisa McRitchie on 10/21/11 at 05:00 PM ET
The Edmonton Oilers have had various struggles this week; many games after playing so few, players come and going through the lineup due to injuries and the dreaded fall flu. Taylor Hall was questionable for Monday night’s game and did miss Tuesday night’s battle of Alberta. Coach Tom Renney has said that there are a few players that are also battling the flu or at least flu like symptoms as well.
Unfortunately, the flu cannot account for the trend that the Oilers have set this week, leading games only to lose in the end.
The Oilers had a 2-1 lead over the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night, but went on to lose the game 4-3. Tuesday night, the Oilers had a 1-0 lead over the Flames on a goal scored in the first period. The lead held until nearly five minutes before the final buzzer when the Flames scored two goals in quick succession.
Thursday night was much the same thing. The Oilers took a first period lead, and but allowed the Wild to tie just as the buzzer was about to ring.
Now this is not for complete lack of effort, players are attempting to score and complete chances but it just isn’t working right. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Smyth, and Anton Lander have been hit especially hard by bad puck luck.
However, watching the Oilers play, it appears as though the team is playing “not to lose” rather than hungry for the win. The team needs to find a way to keep their offensive play up, and not let up once they have a one goal lead. Every lead is the most dangerous in hockey. The defencive play has been excellent, but there has to be a balance with the offence.
Everyone looks to Renney to solve the lack of scoring
Speaking of offence, Dan Tencer reports that Tom Renney made a comment that he didn’t think was being recorded when he said that it would be interesting to sit out the team’s leading scorer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, to see how the team would respond
@DanTencer Renney hints that Nugent-Hopkins might sit tomorrow in favour of Gagner. Says that at some point maybe they need to look at team without RNH
As soon as that was said, all members of the Edmonton sports media have come out to say that this is not the plan for Friday, and seems to be a remark made when it was thought that the cameras and tape recorders had been turned off.
@JasonGregor Keep in mind Renney was just talking out loud about every scenario. He didn’t guarantee he’d do it.
@SUNdvandiest No need to blow this up into a huge issue. RNH isn’t going back to junior, Renney was simply responding to a question on his ice time.
Although it was just a hypothetical situation, and a vague idea this does not mean that the team is considering sending Nugent-Hopkins back to Red Deer, nor does it mean that that team is dissatisfied with the performance the young centreman has brought. While Nugent-Hopkins leads the team in scoring, and aside from faceoffs has not done anything to draw criticism to his game, what is the point in sitting Nugent-Hopkins in the pressbox? The reason that it will be a great teaching tool seems folly. Nugent-Hopkins has displayed remarkable hockey sense and intelligence. Nugent-Hopkins could likely learn just as much from sitting through videos with the coaching staff. If they really want to sit Nugent-Hopkins in the pressbox, let it be during a game where the Oilers aren’t playing.
It is true that it is early in the season, but the losses to division rivals can hurt the team in the spring and these are painful one goal losses especially the losses in the shootout. Worse, in a loss to a western team, let alone a team in the same division, the Oilers not only pass up on two points, but give those two points to teams they are trying to catch or keep ahead of.
Certain lines are displaying real chemistry, specifically the Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle line and even the Smyth- Horcoff - Jones line. It was a disappointment that Thursday night’s all Swedish line didn’t score a few highlight reel goals, but this is likely a scenario that will be attempted again this season.
If the lack of offence can be attributed to the flu, learning curves and bumps and bruises, things should start looking better for the Oilers in a matter of time. However, the concern will always remain that the Oilers are still missing too many pieces, or that the there is just not enough talent on this team. Of course, the other finger of blame is likely to focus on Tom Renney. The fire Renney comments have already been made and likely will only get louder as the team struggles for wins, and more specifically as the team continues to give up one goal games after having a lead.
It does seem too early to panic, but it is definitely not too soon for concern. With the return of Ales Hemsky, hopefully soon and hopefully for a longer stretch than a game or two, the Oilers may find what they are looking for; goals and offence.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
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