The Edmonton Oilers entered the season as a clear playoff team and an outside contender for a Stanley Cup title. But a pair of six-game losing streaks has sent Edmonton tumbling down the Western Conference standings in recent weeks.
The Oilers are now 18-15-2, and sit in seventh place in the Pacific Division, ahead of only the expansion Seattle Kraken.
Oilers have no answers for recent struggles
After starting the year as a +2000 pick to win the Stanley Cup at DraftKings Sportsbook – good enough to put it in the second tier of contenders and top eight choices overall – Edmonton has drifted to +4500 there. FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Oilers at +3500 to win a title this season.
Those numbers suggest the Oilers could still mount a postseason charge. With players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the way, it’s easy to see how Edmonton could finish strong and then be a dangerous opponent for anyone in the postseason.
But, in order to do that, Edmonton will have to turn things around in a hurry.
“It’s funny … even games you feel like you’re playing well in, you don’t get results,” Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie told reporters after a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the team’s most recent game. “Then everything starts to tighten up, guys lose their confidence. We have to work our way out of it.”
Tensions boiled over a bit during a Tuesday press conference in which veteran Oilers reporter Jim Matheson asked Draisaitl what specific area Edmonton needed to work on.
— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) January 18, 2022
“We have to get better at everything,” Draisaitl answered.
“Would you like to expand on that?” Matheson asked.
“No … you can do that. You know everything.”
“Why are you so pissy, Leon?” Matheson continued.
Trio of goaltenders struggling this season
While Draisaitl may not have appreciated the question, there are some obvious areas for improvement. The Oilers possess a top-10 offense in the NHL, with Draisaitl and McDavid ranking second and third respectively in the league in points this season. But Edmonton has allowed 3.31 goals per game, the eighth-worst mark in the league.
Mikko Koskinen, Stuart Skinner, and Mike Smith have split goaltending duties this year. Skinner has been the best of the group, but none have excelled, and Edmonton is unlikely to give the 23-year-old Skinner full-time duties. The Oilers’ fourth line has also struggled all season long as the team searches for more depth that it can put on the ice without sacrificing too many goals.
Still, there are signs that the Oilers may improve in the coming weeks. For one, their goal differential has hovered around dead even – a sign that the team isn’t elite, but shouldn’t expect long losing streaks to become a regular occurrence. COVID-19 issues have plagued the team in 2022, with the Oilers playing just three games so far in January.
Edmonton will hit the ice again on Thursday night at home against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers come into that matchup as a -150 favorite, according to DraftKings.