For all the bitching and moaning we have heard about the Edmonton Oilers unwillingness to play the game the “right way” over the last couple of seasons, this group’s inability to put pucks into the back of the opposing team’s net remains its biggest problem.
While their defensive zone struggles and inconsistent goaltending makes it almost impossible for them to get it on any sort of positive run, let’s be honest here. Despite having a plethora of talented youngsters on their current roster, this team has somehow managed to lose its offensive mojo since Dallas Eakins took over prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
Following last night’s 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers, the Oilers have now been shutout a grand total of fourteen times since their current head coach took over behind the bench and have scored two or fewer goals in sixty-nine of the one hundred and thirteen games they have played since October 1st, 2013. Not surprisingly, Edmonton has put together a rather dreadful 6-56-7 mark in those games and things appear to be getting worse.
During his first year in charge, Eakins saw his side blanked ten times while posting a record of 5-38-6 record in such games. So in other words, the Oilers scored two or fewer goals in 59.8% of their schedule in ’13-’14. As of this moment, Edmonton has already been shutout on four separate occasions and gone 1-18-1, in that very same scenario, through their first thirty-one appearances this season.
That works out to a rather obscene total of 64.5% for opening two plus months of ’14-’15 and leaves this group with a number of 61.1% during Eakins’ tenure in the Alberta capital. In his defence, this team has never been the “offensive juggernaut” many have made them out to be but despite having a far deeper lineup than either Tom Renney or Ralph Krueger were ever afforded; the former Toronto Marlies head coach has seen this group do nothing but regress under his leadership.
Though some seem hesitant to give either Renney or Krueger much credit for Edmonton’s success with the man advantage during the 2011-12 and 2013 campaigns, in which they finished third and seventh in power play efficiency, the numbers speak for themselves. After taking major steps forward in the aforementioned seasons, the Oilers fell to seventeenth spot during Mr. Eakins rookie season and currently sit twenty-eighth this year.
Again, let us not lose sight of the fact they have gone in the complete opposite direction in which they appeared to headed, this despite having far better options at his disposal than any previous coaching staff in recent memory. If the plan was to continue to build on the improvement we saw in the standings during the lockout shortened 2013 season, a productive power play was a non-negotiable for this group. While there is no question that some of this falls directly onto the players, the fact remains the core of this group found ways to produce under the previous coaching staff.
With that being the case, would it really be that much of a stretch to suggest the manner in which the current coach has decided to deploy his personnel as the far bigger issue? In my mind, the answer is obvious and if this team cannot produce on the power play, they have next to no chance of winning hockey games as they are currently structured.
While some within the hockey analytics community will point to the Oilers numbers improving in variety of different areas and suggest the reason why they find themselves in the situation they are currently in is due to nothing more than “puck-luck”…that argument has grown rather tiresome. No matter how much of a numbers person one might be, at some point, one must accept the reality of situation for what it is.
Be it because this group of players is simply not good enough to create offence on a consistent basis or that Dallas Eakins has managed to inadvertently coach it out of them or a combination of the two, the fact of the matter is they cannot score goals. And as bad as other aspects of their game have been and continue to be, if they can’t fix that, everything else becomes a moot point.