Skip to main content
column

Scoring issues, slow pace to play among reasons for Oilers' rough start

Team trying to rediscover offensive touch with four-game road trip starting at Islanders on Tuesday

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- It's gone beyond a bad game or an off week.

The Edmonton Oilers, projected by many to be among the elite teams in the Western Conference this season, are 4-8-1 after being shut out 4-0 against the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Place on Sunday.

The Oilers have a daunting recovery ahead of them if they are to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were second in the Pacific Division with 103 points last season and reached the Western Conference Second Round before losing in seven games to the Anaheim Ducks.

There are multiple surprises, and none of them good, from the Oilers in the first 13 games of the season.

* They have not won consecutive games.

* They have the second-fewest points (nine) in the Western Conference.

* They have scored 30 goals, fewest in the NHL.

* Their penalty-killing is last in the League (67.4 percent).

The Oilers are seven points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference as they prepare for a four-game road trip that starts at the New York Islanders on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SNOL, TVA Sports, MSG+, NHL.TV). They play nine of their next 11 on the road.

"You don't get to participate in late April or early May hockey at .333 [points percentage] … you sure don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out," coach Todd McLellan said Sunday. "The effect of losses accumulating also plays on the mentality of the team and the belief system. We worked hard for two years to get it up. Now it's being tested, so we've got to put some performances together."

McLellan's comment wasn't the only hint Sunday that the Oilers are not in the proper place mentally.

"It's on all of us, this hole that we have dug ourselves," forward Milan Lucic said. "Eventually you have to start doing something about it and stop feeling sorry for yourselves. I think it comes down to the players taking over like we did last year and playing the way that we can. That's what it is going to take for it to turn around."

Video: Mrazek, Red Wings shut out Oilers, 4-0

Defenseman Oscar Klefbom pointed to another disappointing start against the Red Wings, who scored on two of their first four shots to take a 2-0 lead at 9:10 of the first period Sunday.

"Even if we get a couple of goals-against we feel pretty good from the start, but have to find a way to stay in the game," he said. "Right now we're just folding our cards too quickly."

Another issue that has given the Oilers trouble this season is cohesion, which has made their game look hesitant. It's surprising because team play and quickness was among their best qualities last season.

"We're not playing fast enough," McLellan said. "When you describe fast you think about Connor [McDavid] flying down the wing and beating somebody 1-on-1. That's fast. But the group has to play fast as a whole. We're not quick enough to loose pucks. We don't keep a lot of plays alive in the offensive zone.

"Some of that is actual skating pace. A lot of that is just reading and reacting. I don't think we defend quick enough. Our penalty kill is not reacting fast enough, our power play is not reacting quick enough. There are some plays there, a lot of these open nets are laying there, we're just a fraction slow on firing the pucks."

McLellan normally turns to McDavid and linemates Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon when the Oilers need a spark. But against the Red Wings, McDavid played a season-low 15:55, including 4:25 in the third period.

"I didn't think they were having a real good night," McLellan said. "We've played 13 games and they've probably been our best line in 11 of those games and they carried the team and some nights they're going to have an off-night."

McDavid, who leads the Oilers with 16 points (five goals, 11 assists), is averaging 21:55 of ice time in 13 games this season.

"I really don't know what to say," McDavid said. "The game was kind of out of reach. Obviously you don't like [not playing much in the third period]. It is not very fun to sit on the bench. But that's what it is.

Video: Derek Van Diest discussing the Oilers' struggles

"I need to be more responsible defensively, first and foremost. I don't think there is any head-scratching. We just have to be better."

Veteran center Mark Letestu said there are some obvious things the Oilers are missing.

"The execution and polish wasn't there early on," he said. "We're working, getting speed, putting pucks in skates, fanning on pucks. And the game gets away from you."

Letestu said it's a surprise the Oilers are the lowest scoring team in the NHL.

"There are guys in here who have put the puck away, can put the puck away," he said. "We've got a history doing it, but we're going through it right now. We have to find a way to manufacture some confidence and finish around the net. It's going to come, but it's a matter of when. We can't afford to have it come when it's too late."

The combination of a struggling offense and an inconsistent defensive game is a liability a month into the season.

"We have to defend first and score second and we're not doing either right now," McLellan said.

View More