Here we are, a mere 8 games into the 2013-14 season, and it’s business as usual for the Edmonton Oilers. After losing Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to injury, the team is now down four forwards—three of whom are their best. Although it remains to be seen how long the latest injuries last, Taylor Hall, Ryan Smyth and Jordan Eberle are down for the count. On The Jason Gregor Show today, the host stated that Eberle would be out against Montreal. Jesse Joensuu, the teams only real power forward, remains hurt.
The once mighty power play has been mighty ineffective this season. Under Ralph Krueger, the Edmonton Oilers were among the league’s best on the man advantage. Now, not only is the PP weak, so too is the penalty kill. Two areas of great improvement last season have regressed.
Nail Yakupov is in a sophomore slump, with one point in eight contests. The beleaguered winger has a real opportunity to rally the team with Hall out for at least 2-4 weeks, even if the injury is minor. 2012′s draft pick big shot has his chance to light it up. Will he do it? Hard to say. He is passionate and hard-working, but he is under major scrutiny, and that is never easy for a player so young, a fresh 20 year old in a league full of seasoned veterans.
One element to this whole slow burn to success that is rarely mentioned is the fact that Coach Dallas Eakins has never coached a team in the NHL. He is as raw as his squad, and one wonders if some of the teams struggles can be attributed to the learning curve Eakins is on too. He did coach as an assistant with the Leafs, but this is his first at bat in the big leagues–perhaps he’s making changes where they shouldn’t be made. I like Eakins, but perhaps he needs better support.
The Edmonton Oilers have improved. But, the same areas of need that have plagued the last seven years persist. The defence lacks ferocity, the bottom six is inconsistent offensively and defensively unsound. The goaltending is suspect. This season is one in which the current cast has a LOT to prove. They need to win, and not just for the sake of their own confidence. The Oilers desperately need to start attracting essential free agent talent. Edmonton lacks the lifestyle options of places like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Players will flock here for the chance to win, not for the 6 month winter.
Cliche alert. It’s still early. 74 games remain and lost ground can be made up. It’s going to take a combination of some deft roster moves, improved play from the top 6 and solid goaltending. The Oilers need to remain competitive. Another lost season is simply the last straw. These players need to step up and remain consistent. Good things happen when they do. Call it the Arcobello effect.