Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Perfect Ending

For the players inside the Edmonton Oilers dressing room, that final buzzer could not have come soon enough. In a year in which many had pegged this team to at least show some marked improvement in the standings, they took yet another step backwards in putting together a simply disastrous 24-44-14 record. 

Last night’s 6-5 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks left the Oilers with sixty-two points on the season, second worst in franchise history, and twenty-four victories, one fewer than the previous low points of 2010-11 and 1993-94. While it is hard to imagine a team being much worse than those two clubs were, this year’s edition of the Orange and Blue managed to accomplish exactly that. 

With that being the case, it did seem rather fitting for the 2014-15 campaign came to end in the fashion it did. In what was nothing more than an exhibition game for both teams, Edmonton was by far and away the more engaged of the two sides but as per usual, still found a way to cough up a game they simply had no business losing. 

While the line of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Benoit Pouliot made the most of facing a disengaged Canucks side and a goaltender in Ryan Miller, who was making his first appearance in month and a half, combining for three goals and six points, Edmonton still managed to blow a trio of two goal leads in falling for the fifty-eighth time this year…yet another “new” franchise standard. 

Outside of the odd game, the Oilers goaltending has been downright awful from to finish and it seemed almost preordained that Ben Scrivens would self-implode in the fashion he did. That said, just like the season on a whole, it was not all on the guy who has essentially been force fed the starters role by management. This club’s defensive zone coverage, as a collective unit, continues to defy logic and with the state of their netminding being what it is, results like last night become the norm on far too many occasions. 

Make no mistake, Scrivens was terrible and winning hockey games with that level of goaltending is next to impossible for even a good team, never mind one as challenged as this one. However, when you are repeatedly putting players in situations they are destined to fail, being disappointed in the ultimate result should not really be an option. 

For those who were even remotely paying attention, the flaws in the Cornell graduate’s game were apparent during the 2013-14 campaign but there was one big difference. Despite his shortcomings being what they were, Scrivens was playing with confidence and outside of a four game stretch in early October, it was the complete opposite this time around and it was painfully obvious. 

A team with a goaltender that has zero confidence is a team that will not win hockey games and that is exactly what the Oilers have been over the last two seasons. It is not even a debate. The duo of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera were beyond horrible last season but this year’s tandem of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth were even worse. Hard to imagine but sadly true. Unfortunately, the general manager did not see this coming and that is arguably the biggest disappointment of all. 

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