This morning, the Oilers are 28 games into their season and there has been very little to celebrate. Fans were looking forward to some surprises this year, hoping Eakins, Ference or Perron would spark a new team dynamic, but instead have seen surprises like the struggles of Dubnyk and Yakupov. With a 9-17-2 record thus far, playoffs are about a fifteen game winning streak away. Don’t worry, because the Oilers are great at those.
The good news has been this second quarter of the season. The Oilers are 5-2-0 in their last seven, an impressive stat line from the worst team in the western conference. They are beginning to hit the soft spot in their schedule. The wins have been against Columbus, Calgary, Florida, Nashville and Dallas. I’ll be honest, the one in Dallas was impressive, but it was a win for our goalies more than our team. It seems either the players play well or the goalies with this team. The mindset to be okay with mediocrity runs deep with this team. On top of the asterisk of who we’ve beaten in this seven game stretch is how we fared in the previous seven game stretch where we posted 1-6-0 in seven games. You could easily just flip that and say they were 4-15-2 before that stretch, but I’m trying to stay on track. Simply put, the Oilers are going to have to make this seven game run of stealing wins a 20 game run before we start considering this team for a wildcard spot.
Overall, this team has behaved rather oddly this season. Dubnyk looked like Jeff Deslaurier to start the year, Yakupov looked like Robert Nilsson and the Hall/Nuge/Eberle line which has been recently reunited has looked like that one line on the Canadian Olympic team that you think would be an awesome line but never seems to get it together enough to put whole shifts together. But they still score goals like nobodies business, so we’re not allowed to complain about how often they turn the puck over on soft plays, or how often one of them tries to do things themselves. A couple bright spots have been Belov and Arcobello, but we should all take Arcobello at face value and realize that his maximum potential in this league is to be a filler if Gagner or Nugent-Hopkins goes down with injury. He is a tiny centreman, even smaller than Gagner, and we already have two of those. No team needs two. Good teams should only have one. We’ve been discussing how we should get rid of Gagner to improve the size down the middle for years and now we’ve somehow decided that we need less. I know Arcobello has done well, but we sheltered his minutes and ended up with a 4-15-2 record for it. I understand that all of his numbers were impressive, but I don’t buy that the numbers tell the whole story and whether it’s the teams confidence without him, the teams improved size and durability with Acton instead of Arcobello, I like the Edmonton Oilers without Mark Arcobello more than I like them with. Belov on the other hand has been fantastic. If he could find his bombs, either big hits or slap shots, he would be looking like a very good second pairing defenceman.
With the injury to Bryzgalov Dubnyk could be expected to carry the load again for a while, but there shouldn’t be much to worry about as he’s found his game a little bit since we signed that crazy Russian to back him up. Now that Justin Schultz is back in the lineup and Gagner is slowly finding his form, things are looking much better for the Oilers from here on out. I think they’ve got little to no chance of making the playoffs, but at least they’ll be fun to follow as they’ll likely win more games than they lose to close out the rest of the 2013-14 season. Just cross your fingers that the Hall-Nuge-Eberle line figures out who the alpha male is and starts complimenting each other and maybe we might have some fun watching this team.