The Oilers’ Recent Skid is Startling, But Not Surprising

The Oilers are coming off their third consecutive loss for the first time this season, and have looked anything but competitive during that stretch

Despite their early season success, there was always been room for some pessimism when it came to the Oilers. Their weak 5-on-5 production coupled with their lack of depth was bound to be an issue sooner or later, and following a third consecutive loss, this time at the hands of the Wild, the concerns that people had about the Oilers seem to be justified.

The Oilers suffer from a multitude of issues, from their front office, their coaching and a number of other problems when it comes to team building, but the problem that has plagued them the most on the ice is their 5-on-5 play. Edmonton has by far the league’s best powerplay and that paired with a top-tier penalty kill gives them a huge advantage in 5-on-4 situations. This is something that can and has won them games, but it’s not something that can be consistently relied on. Their raw even strength numbers, both offensively and defensively are mediocre at best but the underlying stats paint a picture of a team who struggles to produce much in 5-on-5. At even strength the Oilers scoring chances for are right in the middle of the pack, which isn’t a recipe for success when their scoring chances against are right near the bottom of the league.

Oilers D-man Tyson Barrie recognizing the Oilers need for improvement on 5-on-5

This may seem obvious, but there’s a massive discrepancy between their production when McDavid or Draisaitl are on the ice, and when they aren’t. As much as these two have been able to carry this team, at a certain point they’ll need some help from their bottom-six, something that has been completely absent so far this season. It’s tempting to blame this on the players themselves since they’re the ones who haven’t been performing, but as much as that is a valid criticism, the team that Ken Holland and Dave Tippett have put together just isn’t good enough.

Aside from when Jesse Puljujarvi is playing on the third line (which realistically should never be happening), the Oilers don’t have any guys in their bottom-six that are true impact players. This might not seem like that big of an issue, but I challenge you to find a single team who’s been a real contender in recent years who don’t have impact players on their third or fourth line. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the Penguins are an easy comparison to McDavid and Drai, both hart winners and one of them a generational talent. Together they’ve managed to win three cups in four appearances, and the main difference between them and the Oilers is the talent that has surrounded their superstars. The Pens always had real contributors, like the infamous HBK line, that were there to prop up Crosby and Geno, and it’s these types of players that won them their cups. As for the Oilers, there’s nothing even resembling an HBK line and that lack of depth will continue to be a problem if it isn’t fixed.

The Pens HBK line that played a huge role in their return to the Cup (Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin)

The Oilers are stumbling right now, and they’re at risk of a repeat of last year’s disappointing finish if things don’t change. Their 5-on-5 play needs to get better and their depth has to be improved if they want to be the contenders that they seem to think they are. In an 82 game season three losses might not seem like much, but if they don’t stop the skid soon, things could get messy.

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