Edmonton - March 2, 2014 - In the eyes of many, the Edmonton Oilers had what looked to be a favourable schedule coming back from the NHL’s Olympic break.
With their first four games coming against the Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders, all being home ice, optimistic fans were hoping for the club to continue on their pre-Olympic winning ways.
Well, we are now two games into that four game stretch and the Oilers have gone 0 for 2, after dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to their provincial rival on Saturday night.
After coming out as flat as a board against the Wild on Thursday night, Dallas Eakins crew wasn’t much better in falling to a team that has somehow managed to remain in front of them in the Western Conference standings.
Despite having a far less talented roster, Calgary now sits five points ahead of the Oilers with two games in hand. How is this even possible you ask? It’s actually quite simple.
The Flames play a fairly straightforward, hard working style that suits the type of roster they currently have.
Whereas Edmonton seems to be far more interested in turning this group into a defensive juggernaut, which is something they most certainly are not built to be.
Don’t get me wrong, these players need to improve on the defensive side of the puck but when it starts effecting their offensive production, there is a problem. Watching the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov struggle against the Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings of the world is one thing but it is quite another to see them create little against a team like the Flames.
What makes this even more troubling, is the fact it keeps happening on home ice, which is where this team should be pushing the pace…regardless of who their competition is. Instead we see them continually being outplayed and outworked by their opponent and not surprisingly, it shows in the standings.
On a night in which rookie Sean Monahan played the role of hero for the visitors, scoring both goals, and defenceman Mark Giordano was by far and away their best player, the same could not be said of the top players from the team skating around in Orange and Blue. Outside of Luke Gazdic handily winning a first period bout with Kevin Westgarth and some great work on the penalty kill from Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks, Edmonton had no one come up with a standout performance.
David Perron had a solid third period and was rewarded for his efforts with his twenty-third of the year midway through the third but outside of #57 and a handful of shifts from Ales Hemsky, the top two lines didn’t do much over the opening fifty or so minutes. Hard to fathom, considering the type of effort this group put forward in their 3-0 loss to Minnesota.
They finally decided to make an appearance over the final ten or so minutes but were unable to get another puck in behind Flames starter Reto Berra. In today’s National Hockey League, even the best of teams struggle to take home two points if they are not engaged and ready to go on a nightly basis. With that being the case, can any of us really be surprised to see the Oilers sitting where they currently are?
Be it a lack of talent on the current roster, questionable coaching strategy or players who would rather be doing anything else but playing out the string after a near three week break , there is plenty of blame to go around. With that said, at what point does dragging the crest on the front of that jersey through the mud no longer become unacceptable?
The time has come for everyone within the Edmonton Oilers organization to take a long look in the mirror and decide if they truly want to put in the necessary work to help turn this mess around. If the answer to that question is anything other than an unequivocal yes, than those people need to be shipped out of town...regardless of whom they are.
Losing hockey games has been an acceptable outcome for far too long in this neck of the woods and it has to stop. No more excuses. Actions speak louder than words and the clock had better be ticking.