So the season isn’t going along very swimmingly for the Oilers so far, but that’s not exactly news, is it? Edmonton has lost four straight and seven of the past eight. Were it not for the incompetence of the rival Minnesota Wild, the Oilers would be sitting square in the basement of the Northwest Division.
Even though Edmonton has been stung by injuries early on, it’s terrible to pin blame on something other teams (Pittsburgh, Detroit, New Jersey) have risen above. But what can be said is that injuries or not, this team’s leadership needs to step to the fore.
Players such as captain Ethan Moreau and defensemen Steve Staios and Sheldon Souray all contribute on the ice in very different ways, but they must shake this team out of its stupor fast, before this becomes a lost season.
Monday’s loss to Columbus was a perfect example. Edmonton’s one strength this year has been its success rate when games go past regulation time, but there they were, facing old goaltender Mathieu Garon in the shootout and coming up short.
Now I understand the shootout is a precarious display that can tilt balance on inches of goalpost iron and milliseconds of reflexes, but come on now. In all the practices the Oilers had while Garon was wearing the Copper and Blue, no one thought to mentally jog down what his tendencies were in the shootout drill? In a recent Toronto-Montreal shootout, the Habs’ Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri had Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala dead to rights on two straight goals – and neither had ever been a teammate of the Finnish netminder.
While the Blue Jackets loss may have just been bad luck, it’s also a point in the standings Edmonton gravely needed and symptomatic of a team that on many nights has looked like it doesn’t care about winning.
This latest edition of the Oilers features an intriguing mix of youth and veteran presence, grit and skill. With most of its core now healthy, there are no more excuses for the results that have been turned in so far. Wins are needed, and fast.
This article also appeared in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.