A couple years back, the Edmonton Oilers were so thin due to injuries and some obnoxious version of the flu that was sweeping through the NHL that roughly half of their roster was comprised of AHL-level talent. It was not a pretty sight. Why do I bring this up? Well, we might be starting to see signs that the wheels are about to fall off in similar fashion again if Edmonton’s fortunes don’t change soon.
While none of the Baby Oilers are the ones who have been injured up to this point, the players who have been are just as key to Edmonton’s chances for success this season, so losing them for any length of time could be disatrous.
Shawn Horcoff was out a few games with a neck injury, came back last night against the Vancouver Canucks and promptly incurred some sort of hand injury that is going to keep him sidelined for an as-yet-determined length of time. Eric Belanger is on the IR with what may or may not be a couple of broken toes. It is unknown how long he will be out of action, but some reports are suggesting 1-2 weeks, if not more. So there go the Oilers’ best faceoff-takers, on a team that already isn’t that great in that department.
The Oilers also lost Mark Fistric to an undisclosed injury last night, which only spells more trouble for the team. Already thin on defense, an injury to arguably the team’s toughest defender doesn’t bode well for the team’s attempts to keep opponents from scoring, but add to this the fact that the oft-injured Ryan Whitney is playing like he’s injured even if he actually isn’t, and the trouble only deepens for the Oilers.
Theo Peckham has been nursing a hip injury all season and Nikolai Khabibulin recently returned from his off-season injury, but he has yet to play and at 40 years of age is just one bad pivot away from going right back on the IR, so he is a big question mark for the Oilers, especially since he is Devan Dubnyk‘s only backup in net.
So now the Oilers can’t win faceoffs, are down to about four and a half defensemen who have any business playing in the NHL and one steady goaltender with a gigantic question mark backing him up. Any chance Oilers fans are panicking now? If they aren’t, they probably should be because this could be the beginning of yet another collapse in Edmonton that the organization will absolutely take lying down.
GM Steve Tambellini and the organization have been maddeningly meticulous in their approach to the rebuild these past few years, and the chances are great that they won’t do anything to address these problems and will instead try to ride this thing out as always. They want to win now and the city wants them to win now, but they realize that 2013-2014 was always the target for the Oilers to have their coming out party.
If the team bombs one more time, bring in super defensive prospect Oscar Klefbom next year and pick up, say, a Seth Jones or one of the other defensive studs projected to go high in this year’s draft. They might be okay with one more year of failure if moves like those will help them dominate for the next decade.
That’s little consolation right now, and for all we know the team could heal up very quickly and be fine going forward and this will prove to have been nothing more than a bump in the road for them. But for now things are starting to look shaky despite Edmonton’s being tied for sixth in the Western Conference. Are things about to go from bad to worse in Edmonton? Stay tuned.