|Taylor Hall (photo by Getty Images)
The Edmonton Oilers return home today after what amounted to a nine-game road trip ending what will likely be the their most difficult stretch of the season.
The road weary and injury-depleted Oilers went 2-5-2 over the last nine games which saw the team sandwich a home game against a rested Washington Capitals team between six- and two-game road trips.
The Oilers also played the last four games without four of their top 12 forwards as young gun Taylor Hall (knee), Jesse Joensuu (back), and Ryan Smyth (groin) joined Sam Gagner (broken jaw) on the injured list.
Edmonton’s 3-8-2 overall record has many fans in Oil Country ready to pull the chute for the season but when factoring in a brutal schedule, injuries and some positive secondary numbers there should be a sense of optimism for more rational fans.
On the injury front it is possible that Hall and Gagner, who finished 1-2 in team scoring last season, could be back within the next two to four games.
Hall as we all know is one of the top five left wings in the NHL. He was the second-highest scoring player in the Western Conference last season picking up 50 points in 45 games and tilts the ice at even strength for the Oilers. He was off to a decent start with eight points in the first nine games before being hurt on an Eric Gryba hit in Ottawa.
Gagner took a step forward last season finishing second on the Oilers in scoring with 38 points in 48 games. His replacement, Mark Arcobello has done a fine job picking up 10 assists in 13 games, and keeping his head above water in the face-off circle, but Gagner has better finishing skills.
The Oilers have missed both Hall and Gagner on the power play where the team had not scored in seven straight games before Nail Yakupov broke through for his first of the season in L.A. last night on the man advantage.
Despite the Oilers record there are some underlying numbers that suggest the team isn’t as bad as 3-8-2 suggests.
The Oilers have scored first in eight of 13 games this season. They have one win in those eight games. Last season the team scoring first won just under 70% of the games.
|Devan Dubnyk (photo by Getty Images) |
Last season the Oilers were outshot in 36 of 48 games, this season the Oilers have been outshot in just five of 13 games.
An early season funk from #1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk factored in a couple of tough losses, and Dubnyk would be the first to admit to it.
Dubnyk’s last four starts have been better, and the team needs Dubnyk to continue that carrying forward once he returns from a minor ankle tweak.
If the Oilers score first in games, outshoot the opposition and get saves, the wins in theory should start to come, especially as the team gets healthier up front.
CHECKING UP ON THE PIPELINE
The Edmonton Oilers #1 pick in 2013, defenceman Darnell Nurse, is off to a solid start in Sault Ste. Marie with 3-12-15 in 13 games this season. The Greyhounds lead the OHL’s West Division with an 11-1-0-2 record.
The Oilers 7th round pick from this past June’s draft Greg Chase has taken a major step forward. Chase, from Sherwood Park, has 13-9-22 in 16 games for the Calgary Hitmen who are leading the way in the WHL’s Eastern Conference standings.
Mitch Moroz, the Oilers 2nd round pick in 2012 has made the most of increased playing time with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Moroz has 12-6-18 in 16 games this season with 49 penalty minutes and has provided a real power forward presence for Head Coach Derek Laxdal.
Bob Stauffer is Radio Analyst of the Oilers Broadcasts on the Oilers Radio Network and Host of “Oilers Now” Monday thru Friday Noon to 2:00PM on 630 CHED. You can follow him on twitter at bob_stauffer