The easy answer would be that the Edmonton Oilers’ recent 17-day, nine-game road trip was not a success.
Road records are normally measured as successful when a team achieves at least a .500 record. This is slightly more complicated than it used to be, with the points now awarded for overtime and shootout losses.
But despite the Oilers going 3-4-2 and earning eight points out of a possible 18, I would argue that the Oilers' road trip was, at least, a modest success.
There is no measuring stick because the organization has never had a nine-game road trip, nor has another NHL team had a nine-game road trip this year. Given the collective quality of the Oilers’ opponents, the fact that the physical and mental toll has likely been quite high and that this is uncharted territory, falling one point short of gaining half of the available points can be seen as a success.
The team learned something important in the last two games in particular, as it has not been much lower in recent years than suffering back-to-back shutout losses in Detroit and Nashville prior to those final two games. While no one on the roster displayed much of anything other than ineptitude in the shutout losses, the team really came together in the final two games of the trip. The barnburner in Chicago, followed by the superb effort in Colorado, bodes well for final 22 games of the season.
The trip was also successful in establishing, unquestionably, that Devan Dubnyk is a prime-time NHL goalie.
Dubnyk was not perfect away from Rexall Place. Oilers fans won’t soon forget the David Legwand bouncer at the end of the first period in Nashville, but Dubnyk was very good early on in the trip with little defensive help in most games. He played well in Chicago before leaving early with a neck injury, and his shutout performance in the Mile High City on Tuesday night was excellent.
The trip was also successful in that the re-emergence of Ryan Whitney was important not only for the Oilers defensive corps, but for the team as a whole. Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid and Justin Schultz also had good trips, but given Whitney’s early season play, it was critical for his NHL future, whether it's in Edmonton (hopefully) or elsewhere. Whitney’s first pass out of the defensive zone remains one of the better ones in the entire league.
Finally, I would argue that the trip was a success in that there was some genuine learning about how certain line combinations will work over the final half of the season.
While trios are not likely to stay together for any sustained period, some successful duos, like Shawn Horcoff/Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner/Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Jordan Eberle may get extended time together under Ralph Krueger.
Further to this, the importance of Horcoff’s leadership and faceoff prowess cannot be underestimated given the team’s 6-2-1 record with him in the lineup and the boost that the Oilers received with his return for the Chicago game.
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