Well, we can add the San Jose Sharks to the list of things that have gone horribly wrong for the Edmonton Oilers this year.
In a new low that fans didn’t believe was possible, but braced for nonetheless, the Oilers doubled down on their misery Thursday, capping the worst start in franchise history with the worst regular season defeat in franchise history.
There are no words. With so much on the line in a must-win game against the most hopeless team in the NHL, the imploding Oilers couldn’t get it done.
A 3-2 Sharks victory drops Edmonton to 2-9-1 and might have just set in motion a massive shakeup. There is no way to look at what just happened and not think that this team is broken and in dire need of something big.
“Not fun not to win that game,” said embattled head coach Jay Woodcroft. “We have to do a much better job of securing two points. We’ve had moments, but we can be better for a full 60 minutes. In the end some costly mistakes ended up in the back of our net.”
Edmonton outshot San Jose 41-18, most of that damage coming in a frantic third period, but it matters not. Getting beaten by a 1-10-1 punching bag when your coach’s job might be on the line, when one of your buddies might be getting traded if you lose, is as bad as it gets. But that’s where the Oilers are right now.
And who would have guessed that Edmonton’s offence, the one thing they’ve always been able to count on, would be the weak link that broke their chain. But the power play went 0-for-4, Connor McDavid extended his goal-scoring drought to seven games, Leon Draisaitl pushed his drought to one goal in nine games and Edmonton’s territorial advantage went right down the drain.
“We’re battling through something together, we’re working our asses off,” sighed forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “We’re not finding ways to score. We’re saying the right things, we’re trying to make it hard on goalies… it’s not going.”
This was supposed to be their chance to catch a breath and get things moving in the right direction. Playing the Sharks at hockey right now is the equivalent of actually playing sharks at hockey — literally throwing a few hammerheads on a sheet of ice and moving the puck around the outside of the zone until they run out of oxygen.
Come to think of it, that’s pretty much what San Jose did to Edmonton. They hung around long enough for the Oilers to start gasping on their missed chances and glaring mistakes and pulled away for good.
Anyone hoping that Edmonton’s natural talent and urgency would provide clear separation from the worst team in the league didn’t see it. You couldn’t really tell which team was 31st and which team was 32nd. And it was obvious from the start that the Oilers were in for a fight.
With both sides wrestling with fragile psyches, it was a matter of which team would be first to get the other team muttering, ‘Here we go again.’
That team was San Jose, who came out of the first period with a 1-0 lead.
In yet another microcosm of their season, the first period told you all you needed to know about how the Oilers are going. They outshot the Sharks 14-6 in the opening 20 minutes but the Stone Hand Kids couldn’t convert anything and fell behind 1-0 when they left Fabian Zetterlund wide open in the slot.
It was the EXACT same thing that happened last game in Vancouver, only the shots were 21-8 and the deficit was 3-1.
One goal each in the second (Darnell Nurse for Edmonton and then Tomas Hertl for San Jose) it all came down to the third period, where the Oilers had been outscored 14-5 this year.
Two minutes into the third period, Nurse turned the puck over at the blue line and San Jose went up 3-1.
Despite a furious Oilers push down the stretch, and a Nugent-Hopkins goal to make it 3-2 with 2:26 to go, it was made official at the final horn: Edmonton is currently the worst team in the NHL.
“We’re the same team we’ve always been,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “The easy thing to do is quit on each other but that’s not the group this is. We have to find something within ourselves right now.”
POWERLESS TO HELP
The power play had a chance to set the tone with a pair of opportunities in the first period and whiffed on both, with McDavid turning the puck over for a short-handed breakaway on one of them. They always say it’s not how many you score, it’s when you score them and they could have used a boost in the opening 20 minutes.
ROUGH ONE FOR CAMPBELL
Jack Campbell had a really rough start to his AHL stint with the Bakersfield Condors. He allowed four goals on his first 17 shots including a long trickler that went between his skate and the post.