The Edmonton oil Kings 2017-2018 season has been memorable for all the wrong reasons. The Oil Kings have struggled in all areas of the ice throughout the season. A large part of the season has been spent in last place in the WHL; they’ve also been the worst team in the entire CHL at least once. Not an impressive statistic.
With only 13 wins in 46 games so far, it’s obvious that not much has gone right for the Oil Kings this season. They’ve struggled to score goals in tight games, their defense has struggled, and the special teams have been lackluster at best. One of the most obvious indicators of the Oil Kings struggles are the troubles they’ve had in goal. Goaltending is often held up as an important contributing factor to a team’s successes and failures. For the Oil Kings, goaltending has definitely been a factor in their lack of success this season.
The Oil Kings roster lists four goaltenders so far this season. That isn’t as much a cause for concern as the fact neither of the Oil Kings current goaltenders were part of the tandem they started the season with. Starting goaltender Travis Child had a less than impressive season until it was ended by injury in December. In 23 games, Child had 0.868 save percentage and a 4.21 goal against average. Not impressive numbers for the 20-year-old goaltender brought in to anchor a young Oil Kings team.
The Oil Kings elected to keep 16-year-old goaltender Boston Bilous when they set their final roster. They sent 19-year-old Josh Dechaine to the AJHL. However, with Child injured the Oil Kings recalled Dechaine and started him and left Bilous on the bench. If the Oil Kings were serious about developing Bilous to take on a starting role in the future, not playing him makes zero sense.
When a recent trade brought in goaltender Todd Scott, the Oil Kings chose to re-assign Bilous and keep Dechaine as part of their roster. A reversal from the start of the year. If the Oil Kings no longer believe Bilous can fill a starting role for them, they did him no favours by wasting a good portion of his season sitting on the bench.
The Oil Kingss don’t seem to have a clear direction for where they ant their goaltending to go as they work on rebuilding their team. If the Oil Kings intend to play a young goalie tandem – Scott and Bilous—next season, their approach this season has done them no favours.
If they intend to have Dechaine play an overage season, the Oil Kings will have to choose a goalie to move forward with. With Scott starting the last two games, he would appear to be an early favourite.
The Oil Kings 2017-2018 season is all but finished. The Oil Kings will not make the playoffs and now even more than at the start of the season, there needs to be a focus on what their rebuild looks like. They need a design a strategy (different from this year’s because it didn’t work so well) for how they will accomplish that. A good starting place is a well thought out strategy for what they plan to implement in goal going forward. This strategy should also include contingencies for any changes that need to be made – something this year’s strategy most definitely seemed to be lacking.
Whatever the Oil Kings decide to do going forward, it will be vital that they learn from this season’s set backs. A new approach might be required to successfully build a team that can make a positive impact in the WHL.