The Edmonton Oil Kings had strong performances since their return from the holiday break. They finished 2018 with a series of strong games against opponents within the Central Conference and went on to defeat the BC Division leading Vancouver Giants in their New Year’s Day game. However, all that momentum came to a crashing halt over the weekend as the Oil Kings hosted both the Victoria Royals and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The Victoria Royals came to Rogers Place on Friday night. Unfortunately for the Oil Kings, their play was not at the same level as their previous games. The Oil Kings looked disorganized and unmotivated in the first period. The Oil Kings managed to battle back but ultimately feel short. The Royals took a 3-2 victory.
Possibly more concerning is the Oil Kings 5-2 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Sunday afternoon. In a battle for first place in the Central Division – when the Hurricanes have several games in hand – the Oil Kings managed a strong first period. However, their second and third period were less successful. The Oil Kings will have to use Sunday’s game as a learning opportunity as they play the Hurricanes in two of their next three games. Interestingly enough, the Hurricanes have recently acquired former Oil Kings netminder Liam Hughes from the Seattle Thunderbirds. Hughes was certainly impressive in net last Sunday, earning first star honours for his performance.
Currently trailing the Hurricanes by one point, the Oil Kings can regain possession of the top spot in the Central Division over the weekend. Their weekend features a Friday night away game against Lethbridge, a Saturday night away game against Medicine Hat, and a Sunday afternoon home game against Lethbridge.
While the Oil Kings last two games were not particularly entertaining, it would be too soon to call them serious cause for concern. The Oil Kings seem to be missing half their roster. Five players remain in the injured list despite the return of three players – including veteran defender Will Warm. Beyond that, the Oil Kings are a younger team who have been prone to bouts of inconsistency all season. It is not unusual for them to win several games in a row in convincing fashion and then loss several more in the same way. If the Oil Kings upcoming series of games – all against Central Division opponents – goes poorly then it might be time to be concerned.
Thursday marks the WHL trade deadline. The Oil Kings roster – ever expanding as it is – has undergone significant changes over the last several months. Due to several acquisitions recently, including Zach Russell and Andrew Fyten, it seems unlikely the Oil Kings are looking to make a big splash on Thursday. While it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to move a couple of their supporting players if they wanted to shore up a particular position, the Oil Kings core group of players appears to be set. With the Oil Kings contending for top spot in the Central Division, it seems unlikely they’ll be making major moves to either rebuild – like they have previously – or make a championship run.
The Oil Kings next home game will be against the Hurricanes on Sunday, January 13, 2019. The game, originally scheduled to start at 5pm has been moved to start at 4pm.