Sunday, December 28, 2014
As difficult as the past eight years have been to endure for fans of the Edmonton Oilers, nothing comes close to what they have been forced to watch over the first three months of the 2014-15 National Hockey League season. As bad as things have been since their surprising run to the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, this is on a completely different level.
In the eyes of many, the Oilers come across as nothing more than a bunch of overpaid athletes who simply do not care about winning hockey games. From one game to the next, almost nothing changes and not surprisingly…the losses just keep on coming.
While yesterday’s 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames should certainly be viewed as yet another new “low point” for the players who are currently on this roster, the notion that these guys have stopped trying is just not accurate. It may not look like it but the effort is actually there and contrary to what many seem to think, this group has not quit and simply accepted their lot in life.
Players are not wired to go out and not compete but like the rest of us, when they get in a massive rut, it can be almost impossible to get out of and that is where this team currently sits. Work ethic is not the issue. As of this moment, the two biggest problems with this team are rather obvious:
1) A lack of confidence in one another
2) A poorly constructed lineup
As hard as that might be for some to accept, it really is that simple. Take a look at Boyd Gordon in the picture at the top of this article. Does that look like a player who has quit or does not care about winning?
Something tells me Viktor Fasth or Ben Scrivens are not purposely going out there with the mindset of putting this team behind the eight-ball on an almost nightly basis, by allowing one god awful goal after another. There is no question both these guys want to be better but just like the rest of their teammates, both realize they can ill-afford to have off nights and the pressure of the situation is eating them alive.
While Justin Schultz had himself one heck of an ugly outing against the Flames on Saturday evening and was rightly targeted for being “soft” in front of his own net on Joe Colborne’s icebreaker at the 7:08 mark of the first period, let’s be honest here. The fact Fasth lost sight of the puck and proceeded to do a belly flop, and give Colborne a yawning cage to flip the puck into, was the reason the Oilers found themselves in their usual early hole.
Obviously, Schultz did not hold up his end of the bargain but for a team that struggles to score goals as much as this one does, you need better goaltending than that to have any hope in hell of winning games in today’s NHL. Sorry but that is not an “effort” issue. Same goes for Calgary’s second and third goals.
Does a lack of try really have anything to do with Mark Arcobello throwing an absolutely horrible pass to David Perron in the middle of his own zone, which led directly to the first of two from Johnny Gaudreau. After being pinned in the defensive zone for what seemed to be an eternity, thanks in large part a handful of dreadful decisions from Steve Pinizzotto, one would have thought Arcobello would have made the simple play and let everyone regroup.
Of course, that is not what happened. Instead, he did what all these players are currently doing on this team, trying to do far more than needed and essentially making things worse. Hell, it took Gaudreau all of sixteen seconds to make it 3-0, after both he and Jiri Hudler somehow found their way in behind the defensive pairing Mark Fayne and Oscar Klefbom…mere moments after the two sides faced off at centre ice.
While it is more than far to ask how such glaring error could even occur but with Edmonton’s current predicament and head space being what they are, should any of us really be surprised? This team is in a spot where they can do no right and everything that could go wrong, see “Johnny Hockey’s” breakaway goal on Fasth for Exhibit A, is going wrong. In all honesty, it has now reached the point where it is almost impossible to feel anything other than empathy for these players.
It was painfully obvious prior to the start of the season that this roster was nowhere near good enough but a good portion of the Oilers fan base bought in to what Craig MacTavish was selling and expectations were, as usual, unrealistic. The chances of this group being able to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference was almost nil from the outset and that is on the general manager of this hockey club.
However, no one could have envisioned what has unfolded over these last few months and yet here we are and things appear to be going from bad to worse. Like it or not, this ship is broken beyond repair. While it may not need to be taken all the way back to ground zero, “tinkering” with nothing more than spare parts is a waste of time and time is something this organization no longer has at its disposal.