Hall’s injury no excuse for defense-challenged Oilers

Taylor Hall is gone till November, but the sharp fangs of the injury bug shouldn’t be sufficient excuse for the Oilers continuing to struggle.

Taylor Hall is gone till November – late November – with a knee injury. That means the Edmonton Oilers’ healthy, veteran players are going to have to pick up the slack. And as Oilers fans are only too aware this season, there’s a lot of slack in need of picking up.

When Hall’s left knee was injured in a collision with Senators defenseman Eric Gryba Saturday night, the entire Oilers fan base and management got the vapors. The team revealed Tuesday that the 22-year-old will be out for one month. It could have been worse, but it also could have been much better.

With Hall gone – and center Sam Gagner already sidelined indefinitely by a broken jaw – the Oilers are going to be in tough to pull themselves out of last place in the Western Conference. But the sharp fangs of the injury bug shouldn’t be sufficient excuse for this team continuing to struggle. Offense isn’t the issue here, as Edmonton is ranked 13th in the league in goals-for. And it’s not as if the Oilers still don’t have a good number of offensively-adept players: Ales Hemsky, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, and David Perron all can get on the scoresheet.

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No, the problem is defense: their 4.00 goals-against average is second only to the moribund Rangers (4.14) as the NHL’s worst. Their penalty kill is the NHL’s fourth-worst (73.5 percent). And there are no catastrophic injuries to any Oilers blueliner or goalie, so their task is the same as it was when Hall and Gagner were healthy.

Now, Hall’s injury might put the brakes on any trade for Hemsky, who was rumored to be on the block all summer. But it cannot be used as the reason for why this team (which is currently 2-6-1) continues to underachieve.

The Oilers find themselves firmly up Crap Creek because of their lack of attention in their own end, not because one of their brightest stars is proving to be unlucky in health.