Oilers Need Veteran Presence Between Pipes
The new season may only be three games old, but for the Edmonton Oilers this season has a remarkably familiar feel to it.
A shoot out loss to Vancouver provided the clubs solitary point thus far, as their much hyped top 6 struggled with injuries and their much maligned defence gave way once again.
The Oilers blue line is horrible – it’s no secret – but heading in to the new season with two unproven netminders seems to further exacerbate the situation.
Conceding 16 goals in their opening three games, the Oilers gave a spirited performance against the Canucks on Saturday – and were perhaps unlucky to lose – but the reality remains that this club simply cannot out gun teams in a competitive Western Conference, no matter how many top picks they flood their forward lines with.
The clubs defensive woes are not new. Last season they moved Ladislav Smid to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov – a move I questioned at the time. Not because Bryzgalov was/is not a competent NHL netminder, but because the Oilers weakened their defence further; hardly creating an environment in which the Russian could succeed.
Bryzgalov went on to a 5-8-5 record with a .908 save percentage and a 3.01 goals against average. Unspectacular, but numbers Edmonton would probably kill for right now.
There is no escaping the dumpster fire that is the Oilers defence; but Bryzgalov and the oft criticised Devan Dubnyk both provided better goaltending than the club is getting at the moment – they just had an infinitely shorter leashes.
Viktor Fasth left yesterday’s 6-1 defeat to LA through injury, but has given up 7 goals in just over four periods of hockey this season. Former Kings netminder Ben Scrivens has faired even worse, with a save percentage barely above .800.
Numbers which are, to say the least, horrible.
Scrivens has received the short end of the stick somewhat – in net for the Oilers embarrassing season opener against Calgary, and thrown in against Los Angeles. But Edmonton still needs more from its puck stoppers. Much more. As bad as the clubs defence has been at times, neither has instilled any sort of confidence thus far.
The organisation gambled on two netminders, both acquired via trades last season, who have just 112 games experience between them (including this season). Whilst some of the concerns about Dubnyk are understandable, and Bryzgalov came with his own unique brand of baggage, it’s hard not to feel the franchise may have actually taken a step backwards between the pipes.
Last year the Oilers defence and goaltending seemed shaky – right now it is flat out non existent.
Edmonton is not the easiest location to attract free agents too, with the winters among the harshest in the league, but years of mismanagement have made the task even harder, as players actively look to avoid this tyre fire.
But Calgary managed to attract Jonas Hiller, and others will be available via trade as the season progresses. The Oilers cannot stand fast with their goaltending (no pun intended) any longer; even if they don’t believe they can make the post season this year (they can’t…) there needs to be some kind of solution in place sooner rather than later. Lest the same old cycle repeat itself again and again.
The blue line remains an issue, a big one, but the Oilers need a bona fide #1. And it may cost more than they’re willing to give; but they cannot go through yet another season of disorder in their own end. By hook or by crook they need to fix it.
Arizona have shown what can be done with a sound defensive system and a competent netminder. The Islanders have already seen the benefits of having two netminders they have faith in.
For Edmonton; rolling the dice on two inexperienced netminders, as affable as they might be, is not the way forward.