If the Edmonton Oilers were looking to dispel fears that last season was a fluke and they weren’t as bad as they showed, Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils didn’t help their cause.
Look, one game isn’t enough to sound the alarm, but given last season in Edmonton, and the fact they didn’t do that much to improve the team in the offseason, is it enough to put one hand on the alarm’s handle?
Edmonton looked sloppy defensively and, outside of a decent stretch in the third period, appeared largely lethargic.
Search #Oilers on Twitter and you’ll see the tire fire that is well-involved. Game 1 has already started talk of Jack Hughes’ arrival in Northern Alberta. There are 81 games to go and talk of the Oilers winning the lottery for the hundredth time is already surfacing.
It comes with the territory, I suppose.
Last season was a huge disappointment considering the promise Edmonton showed in 2016-17. Edmonton was supposed to compete for the Cup, not the No. 1 pick. Last year brought all that optimism back to earth.
And any good feelings that were produced in the offseason this year — the whole hope springs eternal thing that time away brings — was yanked away early in Saturday’s game in Sweden.
Edmonton’s defense was a big question mark coming to the season and remained that way after the 5-2 loss.
The Oilers gave up 10 high-danger scoring chances in the game and were easily beaten in terms of shot share. They produced just four shots in a woeful second period.
And you’re not going to win many games allowing stuff like this:
Exhibit 1: Kyle Palmieri was allowed to walk in on the first goal of the game.
Exhibit 2: Travis Zajac with enough time to eat a five-course dinner in front of the net.
People are going to fault Cam Talbot, the hero from 2016-17 who had a down year last season. Sure, he didn’t have his best outing, but the man needs some help there in front. Those above goals are almost gimmes when players are allowed that much time and space.
There weren’t a lot of people expecting the Oilers to be world beaters this season, but there we many hoping to see marked improvements. It’s not like Edmonton could really go out and fix this problem with money. They have no cap room to spare and some regrettable contracts that no one wants any part of.
Todd McLellan jumbled his lines in the third to put Milan Lucic, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together. The goal it produced was pretty from Draisaitl and Lucic scored earlier in the game, which is a good sign after a dreadful year last season. Lucic needed to get off to a good start and he did with a two-point night.
But overall, it’s hard to think Oiler fans are thinking positive at the moment.
This team is, and will remain, under the microscope all season. Both McLellan and general manager Peter Chiarelli are on the hot seat.
Maybe getting back to North America will help spark something better.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck