Walked over in Dallas, now crushed in St. Louis, the good ship Oiler rolls into Detroit on Wednesday at its nadir, one day before American Thanksgiving and as far away from the playoffs as it is from an identity forged last season.
That’s right. Quit.
We watched, took some notes, and offer you these wholly negative takeaways on a pre-season favourite whose season is circling the bowl:
• As a team, this was embarrassing and somewhat sad. Against the best club in the Western Conference, the Oilers stacked up as so far away from being competitive, it’s impossible to quantify the gap.
Their record is a pungent 7-12-2, a disappointment of Herculean proportion that does not appear repairable. The final score was 8-3, but the Blues built a 7-1 lead before laying back and letting Edmonton have the puck. As such, the Oilers scored two un-celebrated goals in garbage time. The starting goalie was awful, the Top 4 defencemen were worse, and the guys who get paid the big bucks up front were absolute no-shows.
The Oilers, to a man, did not compete. It doesn’t get worse than this, folks. When you quit, it reveals something. We learned something about these Oilers Tuesday.
Exactly what? We’ve got 60 games to figure that out — if you can bear to watch.
• Last season, all anyone wanted was to see the oft-injured Oscar Klefbom play an entire season. Well, he played all 82 games and was generally fantastic, leading to a solid belief that Klefbom could anchor the Oilers top pairing again this season. He might even improve!
Alas, this season has marked a massive regression for Klefbom’s game, and it is simply killing the Oilers. If Drew Doughty is awful, the L.A. Kings are in trouble. Same with Duncan Keith in Chicago, or Alex Pietrangelo on the Blues.
Klefbom isn’t of the same pedigree as those aforementioned D-men, but he is the Oilers’ best rearguard, and they count on him. He had yet another stinker on Tuesday, getting knocked off a puck far too easily on the Blues’ first goal, and drifting softly through another pointless, minus-4 evening.
The old cliché says your best players have to be your best players. Klefbom has consistently been one of Edmonton’s worst players, and it shows in the standings.
• There isn’t a team in hockey that can survive when their No. 1 goalie gives them a .902 save percentage. So if it all starts in goal, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the Oilers haven’t moved off the starting line yet, 21 games into the season.
Cam Talbot let the first shot on goal in for the umpteenth time this season, this one on a very unfortunate deflection off of Adam Larsson’s stick. But then the death knell: a long wrist shot from the sideboard snuck over his shoulder, and Talbot was on the bench just 7:35 into the evening.
One save, three shots faced, and a long night in a ball cap. Who ever saw Talbot’s game dipping this far after two seasons as a very competent goalie in Edmonton?
• Leon Draisaitl had two cheap points in garbage time, but when this game was on the line, he was a rumour. When they pay you $8.5 million, a game like this one is a siren call. The Oilers needed their best players to be great, and Draisaitl was opaque.
Then again, so were about 15 other players. Which leads us to…
• General manager Peter Chiarelli will take a lot of heat for this, as will head coach Todd McLellan and his staff. And they should, as a team that was primed to contend in the West has fallen back into cellar.
Everything has gone wrong, and the guys who are paid to see those things coming were winding their watches when the rain rolled past. Almost every player that Chiarelli counted on to get his club to the trade deadline, when he planned to augment for a playoff run, has let him down. From Zack Kassian, who we are not sure has even reported for camp yet, through to an uncharacteristically bad Mark Letestu, to Draisaitl, to a seriously in-decline Pat Maroon.
If you’re the type who thinks the GM should have seen these performances coming, then you’ve got Chiarelli squarely in your crosshairs.
Me? He hasn’t done a good job, and grades out like his team at a D-minus. But I won’t blame him when players digress for no particular reason. The players play, and in Edmonton, too many of them have let the jersey down this season.