The numbers are truly alarming.
Not the power play slump. Or the penalty killing slump. Or the offensive slump. Or the defensive slump. And for all we know the goaltenders might be in a slump but it’s hard to tell given how bad everything else is.
Nope, the most disturbing trend in an Edmonton Oilers season that is turning to dust before our very eyes is this: It’s nearly a month old and they have more F-bombs in angry post-game interviews (3) than wins (2).
The latest Curse From the Damned is courtesy of Evander Kane in the wake of Edmonton’s seventh defeat in its first nine games, a night in which a 34-year-old veteran coming off double hip surgery and playing his first game in eight months was their most determined and productive player.
Sam Gagner, who’s been here for 60 minutes, is now fifth in Oilers goal scoring.
So you can’t blame Kane for saying what fans across the province were feeling after Edmonton got whipped in another statement game. On home ice. By a backup goalie. And a team playing the second of back-to-back games and third game in four nights.
Honestly, it looked like the Oilers were dressed up as the 2010 Oilers for Halloween.
Sure, the shot totals and fancy stats will tell you Edmonton deserved better (Evan Bouchard alone hit three goal posts), but don’t believe it. The Oilers were their usual mediocre selves for the better part of 50 minutes until Gagner lit a fire under them with a pair of goals three minutes apart in the third period. Then they pounded shots on an exhausted team trying to run out the clock on the road and took solace in their post-game Corsi.
Fact is, when it was time to rise up and eat the heart of this game, it was 4-1 Dallas.
Once again, the Oilers weren’t good enough, didn’t want it badly enough, when it really mattered.
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Not on a power play that’s stuck in a 2-for-19 slide. Not on a PK that is 28th in the NHL. Not on an offence that is 25th in the league or a defence that is 28th. Not on a team that has been outscored 26-12 after the first period this year.
The sense around the Oilers and everyone who picked them to contend is they’ll figure this out, pull themselves together and everything is going to be OK.
That’s the sense, anyway. But we ain’t seeing it. They look as lost today as when the Vancouver Canucks slapped them around on opening night.
“Forget about the (effing) sense,” spat Kane, joining Darnell Nurse and Jay Woodcroft in the WTF Hall of Fame. “We have to show it on the ice.”
Without the “it’s early” skirt to hide behind, it’s evident in their post-game dressing rooms that the Oilers are starting to feel the pressure, which is not a good sign given how they’ve handled pressure so far.
“The mood is where it should be,” said Kane. “We know we’re a good hockey team, but it’s enough talking about it. It’s time to time to work.”
The Oilers know this is getting ridiculous and that the Western Conference is pulling away from them. They are 16 points behind first place Las Vegas, 10 points behind second place Vancouver and nine behind third place Los Angeles.
Only the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks have worse records in the NHL.
This isn’t funny anymore.
“We are not worrying about that right now,” said Ryan Nugent-Ho[pkins, when asked about the standings. “We’re worrying about our game and getting ourselves out of this and becoming the team we know we can be.”
Here’s the scary part: What if this is who they really are? What if Thursday against Dallas was another grim reminder that the Oilers are simply not the team anyone expected they would be this season?
“I don’t share your level of worry or concern,” said Woodcroft. “But our record is what our record is.”
Cup contender? Playoffs?
We’re almost 10 games into the season, when it’s fair to evaluate a hockey team, and right now a chimpanzee in boxing gloves trying to build a house of cards would have a better foundation than what we’re seeing from the Oilers.
A month into the season they have one win against a team they always beat and one win against the Flames, which takes about as much talent and effort as it takes to beat a mud puddle with a stick. Cup contender? Right now this doesn’t even look or act like a playoff team.
As an outsider coming in, Gagner can provide a fresh perspective on the mood of the room. He says the players are understandably concerned and realize this can’t go on.
“It is obviously not the start anybody wanted,” he said. “There were a lot of expectations on this group and when it doesn’t go exactly as you planned, it’s hard to see the positivity throughout games. You kind of wait for bad things to happen and when they do it kind of has a snowball effect.
“I think it is a matter of trying to find that joy again and the urgency to make sure we’re getting things done correctly. And if it doesn’t go exactly our way, just pushing through it.”
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