Even though the Oilers have a gaggle of first-rounders on the roster, their offense is slumping. A large part of the problem is shot generation - though the Oilers have improved their team Fenwick by 1.7 percentage points from last season, from (.456 to .473) the team is getting fewer pucks to the net compared to last year's team. The Oilers are ranked 29th in shots for at 26.1 per game, down .6 shots per game from 2010-11 when they ranked...29th.
The improvements at even strength have come from team defense, so the team defense and improved goaltending accounts for most of the +25 goal differential from the same period in 2010-11. The offense isn't sustaining pressure and can't get the puck to the net consistently. Only four forwards are better than league average in shot attempts. The power play is much better, but if the Oilers can't figure out how to get better at 70% of the game, the lottery looms once again. On-ice performance is far from the predictions of a vaunted offense made by people like John MacKinnon.
You've taken a run at helping out the Oilers' defense, now it's time to do the same for the Oilers' offense.
How would you fix the offense? Would you...
- ...change the lines up? The Oilers have had four effective lines at different points during the season, but two of them have involved Taylor Hall and until Rexall develops cloning technology, Taylor Hall won't solve all of the problems. The Smyth-Horcoff-Jones combo worked early in the season as a tough minutes, defensive zonestart line and could be used again if necessary. The Chosen Line of Hall-Hopkins-Eberle has worked with the protections afforded them by Horcoff and Belanger. Gagner-Hopkins-Eberle worked for a few games but who knows if they would have sustain. Belanger has been ineffective in creating any kind of offense so far this season, so where does he slot in? Is a line blender going to matter at all?
- ...fire Tom Renney? Both Lowetide and Jonathan Willis have considered it. Renney has been an effective in-game coach for 20 games in two seasons. His teams are sleepwalking through every first period and he's turned on his notorious New York blender. When he's line matching and working hard, the Oilers can survive, but he hasn't done this for a couple of weeks now.
- ...wait for everyone to grow up? Remember, Kevin Lowe said this is a four-to-six year exercise. Management is going to wait on the young core to grow up and fill the pieces in at that point.
- ...make the defense better? The real problem isn't the offense, it's the defense. The offense is starting in their own end too often, they're coming back to get pucks in transition and the attack isn't leaving the zone as a group. The two-way forwards are cheating for defense because they've got to cover for an extremely weak group. Add two more two-way defensemen and fix the blueline - that will give the offense a giant boost.
- ...do nothing. There are no problems with the offense. It's a young group that's right on schedule to be a cup winner.