by Lisa McRitchie on 04/23/12 at 01:30 AM ET
I like to think of myself as an optimist. The glass is usually half full and I always hold onto the belief that things will just work out because for me, they usually do. In looking at another awful Oilers season it was easy to see what some of the positives were but in order to post that, I thought that I should first look at the bad. And yes, that was fairly easy to find as well.
The bad and the ugly for the Oilers will look like a list of excuses, and in really they are. But every team that doesn’t win the Stanley Cup or doesn’t make the playoffs has to have a list of excuses otherwise the world doesn’t make any sense.
First, the Oilers certainly didn’t win enough games. With a record of 32-40-10 the loser point got the Oilers 10 more points than perhaps they deserved, but 10 also puts them at the league average which is strangely enough exactly 10. Yes, there were 300 overtime/shootout games this season and only one team can win any of those games but those can be precious points by the time you reach the end of the season.
Some of the Oilers’ season losses came in the rare and deadly afternoon game. The Oilers played 7 afternoon games this season and earned a record of 3-3-1, which actually looks pretty good. Of the 4 losses it was the loss to the Islanders that should have been different, coming down the stretch the islanders were struggling just as much as the Oilers and so a 4-1 loss that made the game look closer than it really was had to have been the most significant loss.
The Oilers didn’t fare well when it came to back to back games either, especially not when travel was involved. The team was 4-7-1 after back to back games and of those 12 back to back games, only one was a home stand. It seems that arriving at their next destinations at 3 or 4 in the morning and then playing that night does disrupt their flow, their concentration and ultimately their ability to win. Go figure!
Too much time off also seemed to hurt the Oilers this season. That’s right, too much “rest” worked against the team. The Oilers played 17 games where they had not played for 2 or more days. When they only had 2 days off they faired very well going 6 and 4. BUT, when they had 3 days between game days their record fell to 0-3-2. Strangely enough though, following a 6 day All Star break from games the Oilers earned a win. All of these games add up to 7-7-2 when the Oilers had 2 or more days between games; essentially 9 losses after “too much time off.” But two days off doesn’t seem to be as impactful, those games need not be feared.
But we also have to look at injuries. Injuries were a factor not only because 246 regular season games were lost this season, but because it highlighted the team’s biggest flaw; lack of depth. We already knew that the team needed to add to their defensive core, but they were supposed to have plenty of talent on the front end. With the 18 games lost by each of Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the team suffered. Had Jordan Eberle missed any time due to injury the Oilers definitely would have surpassed Columbus in the race to the bottom.
Ultimately, yes, my list of excuses is injuries and the schedule. Two things that exactly ever team in the league will blame. What that means is that it also has to boil down to the fact that this team just wasn’t built to be competitive enough. Clearly the Oilers will benefit from the addition of Nail Yakupov with the first overall pick, but they also need to look for defenceman and perhaps even make some moves on the left wing. Players like Darcy Hordichuk did bring intangibles, but how effective was he when it came to actually winning games? Sadly the answer seems to be no. For the final game of the season, the Oilers left wingers were Teemu Hartikainen, Ryan Jones, Eric Belanger (a centreman) and Darcy Hordichuk with Lennart Petrell being a healthy scratch. There are pieces that can be moved, but Steve Tambellini, or whomever is named GM this summer does have their work cut out for them this off-season.
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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.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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