Edmonton Oilers' Biggest Underachievers So Far in 2013-14
Things are as bleak as they have ever been in Edmonton, as the Oilers have a woeful 4-14-2 record after 20 games and are dead last in the Western Conference.
Everything has seemingly gone wrong for the team, as defensive struggles, poor goaltending and off-ice drama have resulted in another year in which the Oilers will ultimately miss the postseason.
While everyone associated with the team has to be held accountable for the team’s struggles, there are a few members of the Oilers who deserve a little more of the blame.
Here is a look at the Oilers’ biggest underachievers so far in 2013-14.
While it was to be expected that Sam Gagner would take a few games to find his form after suffering a broken jaw during the preseason, no one could have predicted Gagner would have struggled this mightily.
Gagner has only one point in seven games since returning from the injury and holds a plus/minus rating of minus-10.
While plus/minus is not a true indicator of performance, Gagner has struggled in every aspect of his game thus far.
On a team that needs a center to step up, Gagner has struggled to win faceoffs and has often lacked the defensive-zone presence that helped him establish himself as a leader on the team last season.
Devan Dubnyk looks like a shadow of his former self, and he has seemingly been at the center of most of the Oilers' woes thus far this season.
Dubnyk currently holds a .881 save percentage and a dreadful 3.69 goals-against average, and while he has definitely struggled due to a below-average group of defenders in front of him, he's failed to show anything this season.
This was supposed to be the year that Dubnyk proved that he was ready to shoulder the load for the Oilers, but on a team with forwards who lack defensive responsibility and no premier defensemen, Dubnyk has floundered.
It has become clear that Dubnyk has lost his confidence in the net and that the team has also lost confidence in its goaltender, which is never a good situation to have on a team struggling to find an identity.
After an above-average rookie campaign, Nail Yakupov has struggled mightily under new head coach Dallas Eakins.
The talented Russian forward has only managed to register four points in 15 games and has a league-worst minus-15 rating.
Yakupov has seen his minutes dwindle as Eakins has repeatedly attempted to hammer in some kind of defensive accountability into him.
To add to the problems, Yakupov has made public comments regarding ice time, and his agent has already discussed the notion of a potential trade through the media.
Some of the issues rest in the fact that Yakupov is being improperly utilized, failing to play with talented forwards and his shot not being used on the power play. But at some point Yakupov has to take some accountability for his own performance.
Dallas Eakins was the most sought-after head coach heading into the 2013-14 season and was viewed as a man who was good at developing young talent.
While it has only been 20 games into the season, it appears that Eakins’ strategies are not working, as he has already began to abandon his “swarm defense” tactics.
The Oilers can’t afford to have another coaching change and must establish consistency. At some point Eakins should help turn things around in Edmonton, but for the time being, he is on the hot seat.
His tough-love approach may have worked for guys like Nazem Kadri, but so far in Edmonton, it has done nothing but alienate Nail Yakupov, who is off to a horrendous start.
Craig MacTavish has got to be one of the biggest underachievers for the Edmonton Oilers, mainly because he has failed to add the right pieces in order to properly help the team.
After declaring to be impatient and ready to make bold moves in the preseason, MacTavish may now be forced into trading one of his young core players before the team, and the fans, begin to revolt against the mounting losses.
MacTavish may be hesitant to trade a player like Jordan Eberle or Yakupov (who seems to have little value at the moment), but he may have to seriously consider a culture change in order to finally see some winning results.
Bringing in Ilya Bryzgalov may be a gamble, but it certainly isn’t a bold move. The Oilers goaltending situation couldn’t be any worse at the moment, and while MacTavish has been trying to make deals to improve the defense, nothing has panned out.