The Edmonton Oilers entered the 2013 season with much hope and expectation. After three straight No.1 picks and the signing of Justin Schultz, this was the year Oiler management vowed they would be in playoff contention. At the very least, they’d be in the mix for a heated playoff race.
That goal would appear to be getting further and further away. Following back-to-back losses in Detroit and Nashville combined with a Columbus win, the Oilers now find themselves in last place in the NHL’s Western Conference. They currently have 21 points and have gone 1-4-2 on their current road trip, and their task does not get any easier as they face the league’s top team in the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.
In a normal, 82-game schedule, there would not necessarily be a reason for concern, at least not yet. The season is 24 games in and even though they sit last, they’re just three games out of eighth. This is not a normal year, however, and game 24 in 2013 means the half way point of the season and the race for the playoffs is already on.
It begs the question of what is wrong with the Edmonton Oilers. They have some of the most electrifying talent in the league, so you would think scoring wouldn’t be an issue. That is not the case though as they are one of the league’s lowest scoring teams.
2013 has been a year plagued with massive inconsistencies for the Oilers, and even when they do put an impressive game together, there is no momentum built and they have failed to capitalize on almost every opportunity to build some.
They are currently on one of the most grueling road trips seen in years with a nine-game, 16-day hiatus from Rexall Place, and they have clearly struggled away from home. These types of trips can make or break a season, and it appears to be doing the latter for the young Oilers so far. They have dates with Chicago and Colorado on Sunday and Tuesday respectively before returning to the comforts of home.
It is certainly still possible to get back in the playoff picture. However they will have to improve drastically in a number of areas, and have seven teams to jump over. They certainly have the type of talent to make a run of that sort, but it hasn’t shown up this year as a group. The team will need players like Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to improve their production and have it reflect the top line players they are.
The effort will need to start tonight in Chicago, and there wouldn’t be a bigger momentum or confidence-builder than knocking off the NHL’s best team. They came close in the first game of the road trip, taking the Blackhawks to overtime, and will look to get back on track tonight.
Following a very poor effort in Nashville on Friday, the Oilers will need to prove to themselves and the league that they are still a team to be reckoned with.