We look at three players who have played worse since Kris Knoblauch took over as Oilers coach, including one that may surprise some people.
The last two games elicited an unfamiliar feeling for the Oilers and their fans of late, as they actually lost. However, as tough as the two defeats were, the thinking (hoping) is it’s just a small blip after winning eight straight.
In general, the Oilers have improved since Kris Knoblauch took over from the unfortunate Jay Woodcroft. At the time of posting, Knoblauch has a 10-5-0 record in his 15 games in charge.
Certainly the overall vibe is a positive one, as the Oilers have charged their way up the standings. At the same time it hasn’t all been great, as we look at three players who have arguably been worse since Knoblauch arrived in Edmonton:
1) Evander Kane
To be clear, Evander Kane has had an up-and-down season in general, although we should stress this is in respect of his offensive productivity specifically. He has remained a constant physical presence and menace for opponents ever since the 2023-24 campaign started.
In terms of his productivity, Kane began this season with just one point — an assist — in his opening five games, to go along with a team-worst -6 plus/minus rating. This led to concerns he was still being compromised by the wrist injury which caused him to miss half of last season.
Adding fuel to this theory, was that prior to the wrist injury, the 32-year-old had been on fire with 13 points in 14 games to begin the 2022-23 season. This had represented a continuation of his play after first arriving in Edmonton, which resulted in the Oilers rewarding him with a four-year, $20.5 million contract extension.
Back to this season, after the initial five games the tide started to turn for Kane, as he found his scoring touch. In the eight games prior to Woodcroft being fired, he produced 10 points in eight games to go along with a +1 rating, with him at times compensating for scoring droughts by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Upon Knoblauch’s arrival, things continued to go well for Kane initially. He had nine points in eight games — including a natural hat-trick versus the Kraken — although interestingly he only had a 0 rating, which would add credence to those who question just how effective a plus/minus rating really is.
Regardless, the 2009 fourth overall draft pick was playing well overall and proving to again be a vital cog in the top six. However, it then started to go wrong.
In his seven most recent games, Kane has returned to his early season ineffectiveness with just two points, and keep in mind this includes during the back end of the team’s eight-game winning streak. Yes he’s still putting in the effort, but something just isn’t vibing for him right now.
This leads to the question of if this is just part of the ebbs and flows which come during a season, or a struggle for the Vancouver native, to truly provide a sustained impact in Knoblauch’s system? We’re leaning towards the former, but regardless, the reality remains that he has seen his influence gradually erode since the arrival of the new coach in Edmonton.