Monday, October 07, 2013

Time to start winning games at Rexall Place

It has been so long since the Edmonton Oilers last posted a solid record on home ice that one must go back into the record books and see when it actually occurred. It was the 2007-08 campaign in which Edmonton put together a solid 23-17-1 run on home ice, in large part due to Mathieu Garon and his mastery in the shootout.

Whatever the reason, they managed to get the job done and not surprisingly, that was the one and only time the Oilers have had a legitimate shot at earning a playoff spot since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. They finished the season in a tie with the Chicago Blackhawks with 88 points, three points back of the eighth place Nashville Predators.

Since then it has been nothing but a whole lot of losing for the once storied franchise, with much of that disappointment occurring on Rexall Place ice. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, the rookie year for both Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, until the end of the 2013 campaign, no other team in the National Hockey League has been as inept on home ice as the boys in Orange and Blue.

While some of that can be attributed to the organization's decision to go the route of an all out re-build, the Oilers have been in a class all their own when it comes to their failures on home ice. Edmonton's inability to put away games has come to light on far too many occasions in recent years and continues to be a big question mark facing this club.

Since the start of the 2010-11 season, there have been roughly six franchises that have continually been at the bottom of the barrel in the standings. While the Columbus Blue Jackets fell just short of qualifying for the playoffs during last year's abbreviated NHL schedule, every other team on that list has qualified for the playoffs on at least one occasion over that time span...except the Edmonton Oilers.

2012-13: (9-11-4)
2011-12: (18-17-6)
2010-11: (13-22-6)
106 GP (40-50-16) = 96 Points (45.3%)

2012-13: (10-11-3) *
2011-12: (17-18-6)
2010-11: (17-18-6)
106 GP (44-47-15) = 103 (48.9%)

2012-13: (14-5-5) **
2011-12: (17-21-3)
2010-11: (17-19-5)
106 GP (48-45-13) = 109 Points (51.4%)

2012-13: (12-9-3)
2011-12: (22-17-2)*
2010-11: (16-21-4)
106 GP (50-47-9) = 109 points (51.4%)

2012-13: (13-9-2)*
2011-12: (18-16-7)
2010-11: (18-15-8)
106 GP (49-40-17) = 110 (51.9%)

2012-13: (8-11-5)
2011-12: (21-9-11)*
2010-11: (16-17-8)
106 GP (45-37-24) = 114 (53.8%)
(* - playoff year)

Of the 212 points available on home ice, Edmonton managed to secure just 96 over those three seasons. They are ten games below .500 with the next closest team being the New York Islanders. Outside of the Islanders trip to the post-season in 2013, every other squad reached the playoffs on the back of a strong home-ice record. Even Columbus, who feel just short a year ago, rode a ridiculous 14-5-5 mark at Nationwide Arena to nearly force their way in, despite a less than stellar start to the 2013 season.

For a team that is still quite young but simply dying to get themselves into the playoff picture come next April, Dallas Eakins is going to have to find a way to get his group to become dominant on home ice. They have gone a combined (36-57-13) on the road during that same stretch, meaning anything in neighbourhood of last year's mark of (10-11-3), at least from a points percentage, would have to be considered a success.

The playoff cut line in the Western Conference has been 95 and 97 points over the last two full NHL seasons. Who is to say that will be the case in 2013-14 but for argument sake, let's use 95 points as our cut-off. If the Oilers were to piece together say a 17-17-7 record on the road, that would earn 41 of a possible 82 points. With that being the case, they would need to earn another 54 on Rexall Place ice, in order to reach the 95 point plateau.

Think about that for a minute. Edmonton would need to go something like 24-11-6 to hit that mark. Coming from a team that has generally had their show run on home ice for far too long, something would need to change and in a hurry. Now could they be better than.500 on the road? Anything is possible but expecting anything outside of a couple of game on the positive side, would seem highly unrealistic.

They got off to a good start against the Winnipeg Jets in the season opener but ultimately let not only one but two points slip from their fingers. Rexall Place has to once again become an imposing building for opposing teams to visit. At the moment, that is not the case and if the Edmonton Oilers want to take a serious run at earning a playoff spot, Dallas Eakins had better get to work on righting the ship.

Starting with tonight's tilt against Martin Brodeur and the visiting New Jersey Devils.

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