Craig MacTavish went on HNIC Radio yesterday afternoon. One of his comments sent shivers down my spine:
“Even within the five game winning streak, a lot of games we get outshot. The shot differential in the game is quite significant for our club. It was a great run that we were on but I was never really under the illusion that we were a team that could put together that stretch nor did I think we’d lose four or five in a row here the last little while. It’s really a reflection of where we are. It’s not a set of specific circumstances that occurred over the last week that stopped us from winning five games in a row to losing five games in a row. Over that period of time we’ve probably been a .500 team and that’s where we are over the last ten games.”
We haven’t heard someone in power in Edmonton talking about this sort of thing since God knows when. Loon bloggers? Sure. Guys with the power to actually address this problem? Not a word. MacTavish went on to make a point that he made in his press conference earlier in the day:
“It would just be asinine to think that this situation that we’re in has anything to do with Ralph Krueger. I think that as managers and as players, we have to take the responsibility on ourselves to a) as managers get more out of the group that we have, we have to add depth to the group that we have and I think that’s where my focus certainly will be on and it won’t be on the coaching staff, that’s for sure.”
Here’s a chart that I posted last week, looking at how the individual Oilers are doing this year in SF/SA ratio, as compared to their time in Edmonton between 2010-12.
This is part of what I said when I posted that:
The key data in this table is the SF/SA columns and the DIF column. In brief: five of the Oilers who were here last year are at least matching what they did in terms of their SF/SA. Eberle and Hall have both seen big jumps in their numbers. I was critical of Eberle last year because I didn’t believe the offence was real – this is a far, far more positive sign from him than last year’s big S% year. The guy’s a good hockey player, even if he’s not what the Oilers thought they were buying.
The rest of it though…good lord, what a disaster. Horcoff and Jones have kind of posted similar numbers to last year, albeit in awfully small samples due to injury. Smyth’s numbers say he hasn’t performed as poorly as is widely believed, at least relative to last year. Then it just gets ugly. It’s easier to appreciate the scale of this if I do a comparison between the actual shot differential when given players are on the ice and what it would have been if they’d had the same SF/SA ratio as they had in the 2010-12 seasons.
It is, I hope, pretty apparent where things are really going off the rails for the Oilers this year. Start with Smid and go down. The numbers for what is basically the second line (Hemsky, Gagner and MPS) and the fourth line (Petrell/Belanger/Eager/Smyth) are horrific. Even if we thought the fourth line guys were bad last year – and I did – they seem to have gotten dramatically worse for some reason. I’ve seen a lot of talk about Gagner on Lowetide’s site, how he cheats for offence but I think it does bear mentioning that he was once a guy who, while not great, didn’t get slaughtered at ES. This year, it’s Stalingrad out there.
It’s not just guys who are over the hill who are struggling – Hemsky’s been dinged up, but guys like he and Gagner are in the prime of their careers and were getting hammered in SF/SA before the injury. I’ve said it before: I instinctively like Ralph Krueger. He seems like a thoughtful guy who is positive by nature and I identify with the former quality and envy the latter. I am baffled though, as to how you can bring back a roster that has so many of the same players, everyone can get markedly worse and MacTavish can be so comfortable that it’s not the coach’s fault.
Hopefully, a media guy with access to MacTavish stumbles across this and raises it with him, with an eye towards getting his thoughts as to why this is occurring and why it’s affecting guys who are in what should be the heart of their career if it’s not a coaching issue. Fixing this is the most critical issue facing the Oilers and it’d be great to have a little more exposition from MacTavish as to why, precisely, he thinks it’s happening.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org