The Edmonton Oilers have struggled scoring 5 on 5 so far this season, a concern that has been well documented.
Some of their top scorers–the top line of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, to be specific–have been snake bitten out of the gate and aren’t putting up the numbers everyone is accustomed to seeing. With those players though, they have been getting plenty of chances and their play itself has not come into question. It should be just a matter of time before the numbers balance themselves out.
The bigger concern is the lack of production and chances from their group of bottom six forwards.
The Oilers have scored 29 goals on the season to date. All but nine of those goals have come from the top two trios of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. When you also factor in that Justin Schultz has four goals on his own, that leaves just the small remainder to be scored from the rest of the roster.
Now of course the third and fourth lines are not expected to put up the same numbers as the first two. That’s why they are the third and fourth lines. However, to be competitive and push for a playoff spot as the Oilers want to, there has to been some secondary scoring and offensive support.
There isn’t a player on the Oilers roster, except those mentioned above, who has scored more than one goal on the year. Injuries have been a factor: currently two-thirds of their projected third line, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Jones, are hurt–not to mention that the other member of that line, Ryan Smyth, was just made a healthy scratch after registering only a goal and an assist so far this season.
Players such as Eric Belanger and Lennart Petrell have been effective in their role, especially killing penalties, but have just one goal between them. Young players Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi have started to get increased responsibility recently and may bring production as the year goes on, but to date have just three points between the two of them.
Things may change when Horcoff and Jones return. It will certainly give the lineup more depth, although even that is no guarantee.
At this point, it doesn’t appear to be an issue the team is looking to address through the trade route, preferring to get back some of their injured forwards and hope others hit their stride over the next few weeks.
It seems that, unless the 5 on 5 issues work themselves out and someone other than a top six forward starts to find the back of the net, the Oilers are destined to find themselves playing from behind on a lot of nights.