EDMONTON — It’s broken in Edmonton. Broken into a million pieces.
Thursday night, the Oilers dominated Florida for the entire opener but couldn’t buy a goal despite a 17-7 win over the Panthers. Hours later, that “success” was a distant memory, buried in a landslide of goals in Florida.
Losing by a score of 6-0, the Oilers have now lost seven straight games and 13 of their last 15. It was yet another embarrassment, and truth be told, the group as it exists hasn’t found a solution in weeks, setting up the worst National Hockey League standings record in a month and a half. now.
It’s not the worst team in the NHL. But it’s been playing like this for too long.
So something has to change. Because as it exists today, this set of players and coaches cannot change things on its own.
They no longer have an answer.
Fire chief coach Dave Tippett? It wouldn’t surprise us at all if, for the first time in his career as general manager, Ken Holland pulled the trigger on Friday.
The season is falling apart and the team is not improving. He can’t find a goalkeeper, let alone one who can score every night.
It’s a sad accusation from an organization that has had only one head coach (Todd McLellan) through three consecutive seasons since Craig MacTavish, who left in 2009. And the blame rests on Holland’s feet. far more so than Tippett, having built a hockey team without a goaltender.
But in professional sports, when the collection of players plays so badly for so long… well, you know how that usually ends.
“We have to keep fighting. That’s the only way it’s going to work,” Tippett said looking haggard after the game. “You have to get out of this.”
It was the classic case of a team that played well enough to be rewarded…but didn’t, mainly due to a brilliant 40-save performance from Sergei Bobrovsky. Then they gave in, unable to regain the momentum once it was lost.
“We had a good start, then they took the lead and then we chase them,” said Duncan Keith, whose team has allowed the first goal in 23 of its last 27 games. “I think we have to find a way to get that first goal, to have a better feeling in the room. The way things are going right now, we’re going downhill, it’s frustrating.
Darnell Nurse, who wears an “A,” was tasked with helping pull this team out of the abyss. Like everyone around this organization – top to bottom – he failed.
Do you ever run out of ideas, we asked him?
“It’s a real test of leadership,” Nurse began. “It’s easy to be a leader when you’re 9-1 or 16-5. It’s easy to lead a team. Go out and be the rah rah guy.
“Here is a test for all the leaders of our team. Coming out of this is what will make our team better. There are no excuses. No “trick fountain”. You have to show up every day with your helmet on, it’s the only way out. There are no tricks. To be a leader, you have to show up every day.
“It’s our job. This is what we have to do to get out of this. This is when you really have to lead.
Who knows who’s work here, anymore?
The two superstars, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, are making more news in the media room than on the ice these days, combining for a paltry goal and an assist over the past four games. The power play, once a group record, has one goal in its last 11 attempts. And then there’s the penalty kill, a unit that imploded, allowing three more goals on Thursday.
“The penalty is like scoring,” Tippett assumed. “When you score you feel like you can keep scoring. When you kill a penalty you feel like you’re going to go out there and get the job done. Right now we can’t stop the bleeding. You run around, you get out of the structure a bit. It’s like the rest of our game.”
Keith must be shaking his head at the fragility of this group, coming from a team that had guts, guts and the winning formula.
“We have a lot of good players in there, a lot of guys with character, a lot of guys who care about us,” he said. “Everyone wants to do their part. It’s going to take everyone, and it’s going to have to be a patient, solid defensive game where we’re trying to win this game 1-0. Do not allow anything against.
That would require an excellent goalkeeper, of course…