Big question in Oil Country is, ‘How can the Oilers stop leaking offence?’
Is it the defence? Some complain that the defence will have 5 minute breakdowns and end up costing the Oilers a game here or there. Really? I can only recall 2 games where the Oilers really blew it defensively in a game. The San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings recently. Other then that, if you look at the stats, the Oilers in goals allowed has been extremely low in the NHL. Yes, you can look at the mistakes you see on the Oilers blueline but have you closely watched other NHL teams defense recently? It happens to ever team even with the best defensemen in the league. Sometimes as a fan, when things are going badly, we look extremely hard to find every mistake and it becomes magnified. If the defence is learning something, it’s not to pinch both defensemen at the same time with all three forwards all pressing in the offensive zone. IMO, this defence is fine and is learning. It’s a work in progress but still a top 15 defence as far as I am concerned. This is not a area
What about Goaltending? As with defence, Goaltending gets far too much blame and too little praise. Any goaltending stats that give you a .910% Save Percentage or better and a 2.50 GAA is good goaltending. That does not even account for giving up high quality percentage shots. Yes clutch goaltending is important, on the other hand, you can’t keep pressing offensively only to lose the puck in the offensive zone and not get back quick. When you do, our Goaltending stops the puck on a odd man rush or breakaway at least 75% of the time. That’s good goaltending, to even give the Oilers a chance to be in a game.
How about offence? This team is really lacking for production. Yes they are playing more defensive but seem to play more a perimeter game that allows for few high quality shots against the opposition. I like the #1 lines, puck possession time but they just can’t quite seem to find the back of the net. Their confidence has been struck cold and they are showing the frustration each game. The #2 line (when it includes Yakupov) creates chances but also is weak defensively. Neither Hemsky or Gagner seem to work well with Yakupov and his style of game. I had hoped they would work in a mentoring role but neithers game seem to have chemistry other then with each other. Gagner struggles to move defensively the other teams bigger players and Hemsky continues to make poor decisions in his passing. The bottom two lines are less a problem to me then the upper two. If the top 6 skill players don’t make it start happening with more goals in next 3-4 games, I suspect this team starts quickly on a real OIL CHANGE.
Coaching? I really do like Ralph but have to really question if his coaching style of defence is affecting the Oilers offensively. Like what Smith has done on defence but think some tactical coaching could be used as another coach brought in.