January 7, 2012
Take a pill, Oil fans
By Terry Jones, QMI Agency
So, the world junior is over. And so is the Oilers season?
The Oilers reached the half way mark of their season Saturday afternoon in Dallas, dragging their asses through a 4-1 loss at the end of a seven-game road trip.
And now they return home with only one win to show for the trip, only four wins to show for their last 19 games and only six to show for their last 27.
And now Jordan Eberle joins Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out with an injury.
In the next few days Central Scouting will reveal this year’s mid-season ranking of top prospects and Oiler fans will be projecting who will join Eberle, Magnus Paavarvi, Taylor Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom as Stu MacGregor’s recent first-round draft choices.
After 41 games, the standings suggest they have made next to no progress from this season to last.
They have 16 wins. Last year they had 13.
They have 35 points. Last year they had 33.
While a significant number of fans had only one eye on the Oilers during the world junior, the mood and attitude has clearly changed as the more mercurial members of the fan base, which is also always the most vocal, started demanding sacrifices.
There were supposed to be meaningful games in March. This team wasn’t supposed to be in draft lottery position for a third straight season.
Well, once again the meaningful games for Edmonton in March will be played at the Brier. And the Oilers, after yet another depressing defeat in Dallas Saturday, are ranked 26th overall with every chance of dropping to 28th before they play again next Wednesday at home.
And, although I’m sure nobody is in a mood to read this today, take a pill, Edmonton. If you thought this was going to be a rocket ride to the top, think again. It was always projected as a rocky ride. But there’s still the exact same trip to the top to be contemplated by the time the Oilers get in to their new downtown arena as there was when everybody was giddy about the Oilers start to the season.
Half way through the season maybe fans need to take a second look at the standings.
Last year at the halfway point, the Oilers were a minus 38 in the for-against totals. They scored 103 goals and gave up 141. This year they’re minus eight with 111 goals scored and 119 against.
That’s significant improvement.
And if you contrast the end of the year stats to the mid-season stats you will see dramatic improvement.
On the power play, the Oilers left the ice in Dallas sitting second (21.3%). Last year they were 27th (14.5%).
In penalty killing the Oilers were sitting ninth at game end Saturday afternoon (83.8%). They ended last season 29th (77.0%).
After 41 games, the Oilers sit 20th (0.90) in five-on-five play. Last year the Oilers were 29th (0.74).
OK, the Oilers are a dismal 26th in faceoff percentage. That’s not much of an improvement on 30th place last year. But this year it’s up to 47.9% and they’re trending upward from 44%.
Last year’s top Oilers point producer was Jordan Eberle with 43. He was 147th overall in NHL scoring.
At the half way mark of this season he left the ice with a knee injury Saturday sitting seventh with the same 43 points total he achieved all last year.
Despite being out of the line-up with injury, rookie Nugent-Hopkins sits 29th with 35 points. Ryan Smyth is 44th with 32. Hall sits 72nd with 29 despite missing three weeks with injury. Shawn Horcoff 138th with 22.
Sure there’s a half of a lineup of negatives headed by Ales Hemsky and the injuries and deplorable defence, but as bad as it’s been going lately, remember there are a lot of kids on training wheels on this team — and they’re already the best players on the squad.
Most of the rest won’t be in the team picture when they’re ready to compete for a Stanley Cup. And maybe a few of those can be moved between now and the trade deadline for MacGregor to turn into future attractions; like Klefbom from the dumping of Dustin Penner.
The Oilers will have 23 home games in the second half of the schedule and should match last year’s 13-win season at home sometime well before the end of this month.
With one four-game road trip, two three-game swings, a pair of two-game outings and five one-game hops, the rest of their travel schedule is sane.
It’s really not as bad as it seems right now.
They could still catch Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg ... and this team is on the up elevator, not the down. Despite the current drop of doom.