Player grades, Games 21-30: Roster chaos reflected in on-ice play as Oilers tumble down standings

Player grades, Games 21-30: Roster chaos reflected in on-ice play as Oilers tumble down standings

Author of the article:

Bruce McCurdy  •  Edmonton Journal

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 18: Jared McCann #16 of the Seattle Kraken scores against Stuart Skinner #74 of the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on December 18, 2021 in Seattle, Washington.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – DECEMBER 18: Jared McCann #16 of the Seattle Kraken scores against Stuart Skinner #74 of the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on December 18, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers /Getty Images

After an excellent opening quarter of the 2021-22 season, the Edmonton Oilers saw their play, and their results, fall off a cliff in December.The club that stood first overall in league standings at the beginning of the month has since dropped to the middle of the pack, 15th overall and 8th in the West.


It took a long time to play their most recent 10-game stretch, 32 days in all, with 4 games postponed due to COVID concerns in that time. The Oilers had their own issues with the virus, with some 8 players entering COVID protocol at one point or another, which complicated a pre-existing/overlapping injury bug.

By the time the 10-game segment was done, the squad had used no fewer than 31 players — 3 goalies, 11 (!) defencemen, and 17 forwards. To put that in perspective, that’s the exact same number of players that wore the Oil drop in the entire 56-game slate a season ago.

Even the head coach missed some time.

Fair to say the squad did not respond very well to the revolving door that had been installed in the game-night locker room, enduring a dismal 6-game losing streak, all in regulation. The last 5 of those losses came on their home ice, by a combined score of 6 goals for, 20 against. Ugh.


Season to date

Games 1 – 10: 9-1-0, .900 | 44 GF, 28 GA | 331 SF, 339 SA | 1.050 PDO
Games 11-20: 6-4-0, .600 | 31 GF, 31 GA | 323 SF, 341 SA | 1.005 PDO
Games 21-30: 3-7-0, .300 | 26 GF, 35 GA | 331 SF, 308 SA | .965 PDO

From 9 wins in the first 10-game set, to 6, and now to 3. Needless to say, that’s a disturbing trend, one that is echoed in both the Goals For and Goals Against departments.

Some mitigating circumstances to be sure, not least those constant personnel changes. At no point did the Oilers ice anything close to their best line-up. Their top players saw their production slide, their middling players were in and out of the line-up, the depth players struggled, and many of the youngsters who were called into emergency roles were in over their heads.

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Also a factor was the toughest stretch of opponents the Oilers have seen to date. Even as they held home-ice advantage against the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, Boston and Toronto, they simply weren’t up to the task.

Of course it would be a cop-out to point to player absences as the only contributing factor when many of Edmonton’s opponents were also dealing with personnel issues of their own. But a factor it certainly was, especially when coupled with the Oilers’ lack of NHL-proven organizational depth.

Results notwithstanding, head coach Dave Tippett expressed a degree of satisfaction with the process, pointing out that his team’s shot shares have improved significantly in recent times. But surely a key driver has been score effects. Check out the number of minutes in each segment the Oilers have played with the lead vs. how much they’ve been chasing the game.

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That too is a disturbing trend to put it mildly. After enjoying a string of hot starts in the early going, the Oil have allowed the first goal in 17 of their last 21 games, and the first TWO goals in 7 of their last 8. Simply put, that is the road to oblivion.

Also trending poorly is the performance of special teams, Oilers’ bread and butter during the Dave Tippett era. Until lately, that is.

Meanwhile, the club continues to sputter at 5v5, where they rank a lowly 25th league wide with a goal share just below 45%. They were crushed to the tune of 15 for, 25 against during that primary game state.

To the alert reader who is saying “hey, those goal differentials don’t add up”, I will point out that Edmonton scored an empty net goal in all 3 of their wins in the most recent segment, while somehow not allowing a single ENG in any of their 7 losses, all of which occurred in regulation.

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Let’s turn now to individual results during the most recent segment.


Judging by those numbers, the Oilers just sent their hottest netminder to the minors in youngster Stuart Skinner . Something had to give to make way for the returning Mike Smith , but it’s fair to say the reunited tandem of Smith with Mikko Koskinen will be relied on to deliver better results going forward.

In fairness to all three ‘tenders, the ever-changing group of skaters in front of them has included a succession of inexperienced d-men, making life more than a little difficult. But it’s been quite some time since an Oilers’ stopper has flat out stolen a win.


The continuing evolution of Evan Bouchard has been one of the major positives of the season, even as his occasional blips on the defensive side of the puck remain a concern.

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On the left side, no fewer than 8 men saw action over this span. Indeed, the bottom 3 men on the list have all made their NHL debuts in recent weeks. Fair to say all 3 have had some difficult moments, and they are hardly the only ones.


Any discussion of Edmonton’s offensive game begins — and frequently ends — with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl . Both saw their production take a hit in the third segment, even as McDavid chipped in on the scoring play on over half of the Oilers’ goals in that span. But the phenom has scored but 1 goal in his last 8 games, and that into an empty net. Meanwhile Draisaitl’s production was cut in half from the sizzling 2.0 points-per-game pace he had set through 20 games, and his line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto leaked goals at the other end as well.

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Those on depth lines continued to produce little, with the exception of Warren Foegele who clicked for 3 goals in 2 games (both wins) when he was bumped up to the McDavid line.

Player grades

We close in our usual fashion by reviewing the set of 10 games through the lens of our own subjective ratings here at the  Cult of Hockey . Regular readers will know that we grade on a scale of 1 to 10, the performance of every Edmonton Oilers player in every game the team plays, based on a combination of observation and interpretation of statistical output. Here are average grades for Games 21-30 along with our customary thumbnail comment summarizing each player’s contribution over that span:

Results by grader, second segment:

  • Kurt Leavins – 4 games, 1-3-0, average grade 4.9
  • Bruce McCurdy – 3 games, 1-2-0, average grade 5.4
  • David Staples – 3 games, 1-2-0, average grade 5.5

  • Segment totals – 10 games, 3-7-0, average grade 5.2

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