Edmonton Oilers (3-10-2) At Florida Panthers (3-8-3)
The Florida Panthers take on the Edmonton Oilers tonight at the BB&T Center at 7:30 pm. It will be the only trip the Oilers make to South Florida this season.
Facing the Oilers tonight will be almost like looking in the mirror for the Panthers. The two teams may be thousands of miles apart geographically but on an organizational level the Panthers and Oilers are kindred spirits. Well, kindred spirits minus the Oilers’ rich Stanley Cup winning history.
The Oilers made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 05-06 but since then, they have endured seven abysmal seasons. Over the last half decade or so, both the Oilers and the Panthers have been perpetually rebuilding, which is to say they have been annually scraping the bottom of the NHL standings and reaping the top picks that come with such struggles.
Here are the Panthers and Oilers first round draft picks over the past four seasons:
|2013||Aleksander Barkov (2)||Darnell Nurse (7)|
|2012||Mike Matheson (23)||Nail Yakupov (1)|
|2011||Jonathan Huberdeau (3)||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1)|
|2010||Erik Gudbranson (3)||Taylor Hall (1)|
With all the talent on both teams, it seems inevitable that there are brighter days on the horizon, hell tonight’s game may as well be a preview of the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. We’ll look back and be able to say we knew the bands before they were famous.
Back in the present, things are not so rosy. These two youth-loaded rosters have yet to fully translate to offensive success at the NHL level. The Oilers rank 22nd in the league in goals per game averaging 2.33 while the Panthers rank 26th averaging 1.93. Even more troubling is the lack of defense and goaltending that is currently running rampant on both the Panthers and Oilers. Edmonton is last in the league in goals allowed giving up 3.87 goals per game while Florida is not far behind giving up 3.29 per game good for 28th in the league.
Tonight’s game features an interesting matchup between two of last year’s top rookies. Jonathan Huberdeau and Nail Yakupov tied for the rookie scoring title last season as they tallied 31 points apiece. Jonathan Huberdeau was rewarded with the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year while Yakupov did not even make the top three. In year two, Huberdeau has been steady while Yakupov has struggled. The 20-year old Russian has only scored on goal so far this season and has been mired by constant trade rumblings.
Despite his offensive struggles, Yakupov remains a dangerous talent. In a way, he is representative of the current state of the Oilers; loads of talent, struggling to score and not providing much on defense. The talent is there and it is threatening to break through at any moment.