The ultimate battle royale.
Recently it struck me that, on paper at least, this is the best Oilers team in the last five years. And yet there hasn't been much progress in the win/loss column over those other teams.
Tom Renney won 57 of 164 games as Edmonton's head coach, which is a pretty terrible winning percentage (34.7%). On the other hand, he didn't have much to work with. His leading scorers in 2010-11 were rookies Eberle and Hall, the defense was shaky at best and he was still saddled with Khabibulin. That 2010-11 team was every bit as thin up the middle as this current one is, sporting Gagner, Cogliano, Horcoff, Brule, Fraser, O'Marra and VandeVelde. Nugent-Hopkins came along in Renney's second year, but of course he's still here now.
Then you've got Ralph Krueger, who won 19 of 48 games in his only season as the bench boss (39.5%). This is a hopelessly small sample size, and the underlying numbers suggest that a major drop off was imminent. I'm not nearly as much of a Krueger-booster as some, but this guy got fired with that record.
And then there's Dallas Eakins, who has won 36 of his first 109 games (33%). This is the worst record of all. Has there been some bad luck? Yep. Has the goaltending let the team down? You betcha. But as I said before, this is the best Oilers team in five years, and last year's team was better than anything the other two coaches had. It's really time for Eakins to make hay.
There were some encouraging signs against the Sharks, however. Maybe for the first time all year, the player usage made sense. The defense's ice time was ranked:
1) Ference (26:25)
2) Petry (24:50)
3) Klefbom (24:20)
4) Fayne (23:26)
5) Schultz (13:14)
6) Aulie (7:55)
Which is as close to ideal as we've come all year. Least capable at the bottom, most capable at the top. Most of the forward ice time was spread out, except when it comes to the number one center in Nugent-Hopkins, and the team's best player in Taylor Hall. And best of all, they got good goaltending and barely needed it.
If Eakins can continue to make logical decisions (ie: don't scratch Petry in favor of Nurse when you're playing the Stanley Cup champs) then he may yet deserve to stick around, whatever the win/loss record says.