The Edmonton Oilers are rolling through February, but there are some real challenges and we could see a breakdown dead ahead. Tonight, and tomorrow, this upstart Oilers group are going to get challenged in a real way. Take it to the limit, one more time.
GOING TO TAMPA, YEAR OVER YEAR
- Oilers in October 2015: 4-8-0, goal differential -7
- Oilers in October 2016: 7-2-0, goal differential +10
- Oilers in November 2015: 4-7-2, goal differential -6
- Oilers in November 2016: 5-8-2 goal differential -3
- Oilers in December 2015: 7-6-1, goal differential -9
- Oilers in December 2016: 7-2-5, goal differential +3
- Oilers in January 2016: 4-5-2, goal differential -5
- Oilers in January 2017: 9-4-1, goal differential +8
- Oilers in February 2016: 3-8-2, goal differential -18
- Oilers in February 2017: 4-3-0, goal differential +1
- Oilers after 59, 2015-16: 22-31-6, goal differential -35
- Oilers after 59, 2016-17: 32-19-8, goal differential +19
The Oilers lost G60 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall. At this point the Oilers were all lost in the supermarket and times were tough. This year the club (imo) has been a little lucky at times, including the first game of this road trip. We have seen good defending, and some fine goaltending, but Edmonton will need to play more complete games in Florida in order to grab points.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM FEBRUARY
- On the road to:
Nashville, Carolina, Montreal(Expected: 1-1-1) (Actual 1-2-0)
- At home to:
Chicago, Arizona, Philadelphia(Expected: 1-1-1) (Actual 2-1-0)
- On the road to:
Chicago, Tampa Bay, Florida, Washington, Nashville, St. Louis (Expected: 2-3-1) (Actual: 1-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 4-5-3, 11 points in 12 games
- Overall current results: 4-3-0, 8 points in 7 games
This is close to fantasy, based on harshness of schedule, and a win in the next two games should be considered a good result. I think tonight is the better chance for Edmonton, but we will see who starts in goal and the rumored Russell—Gryba pairing offers its own challenges.
- This is WoodMoney along with 5×5/60 from Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
- I see this as four men (Larsson, Sekera, Russell, Klefbom) carrying the heavy load, and those four gents are close in DFF Rel—all ranking from -0.4 through -1.1 so far this year.
- It is also fair to be impressed with Matt Benning, who is now at 34 percent—equal to Klefbom—and is ripping up the Corsi Rel. If he posts 10 seasons like this one, we will be talking about Benning as one of the best defenders in Oilers team history. Haha. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Benning, who is No. 5, is really more like No. 4A based on the Woodmoney usage.
- Larsson is a workhorse. Valuable thing.
- I think the numbers suggest Edmonton has two (about) equal pairings: Klefbom—Larsson and Sekera—Benning. Does Todd McLellan agree? We will get his answer tonight, when Russell—Gryba play as the other pairing. What pairing do you think will end up playing the fewest 5×5 minutes?
- Connor McDavid soars with eagles. He goes ultimate McDavid in the wink of an eye and has to be the scariest thing in Defenseman World at this point in time.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is playing punishing minutes, 42 percent of his 5×5 time is against elites. This is Horcoff territory, or at least that is what my memory is saying.
- Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl have a good to great story to tell, with the zooming caveat about McDavid.
- Jordan Eberle, again getting some help from 97, seems to be recovering his season in this rather late hour.
- Matt Hendricks and Zack Kassian are in good spots based on where they bat in the lineup and the types of forwards who are their linemates. Kassian especially impresses considering the number of minutes against elites.
- Milan Lucic and Benoit Pouliot have had similar 5×5 seasons. Interesting to see how fans feel about each player.
- Jesse Puljujarvi, Drake Cagguila and Anton Slepyshev are exactly where rookies belong.
The Oilers keep getting good news on the out of town scoreboard. It’s like the hockey Gods spent a decade gumming up the works, and one day they all got bored with being dirt mean about the Oilers. Ara-freaking-zona knocked off the Ducks, with a goalie who had to come in from Upper Snowflake, Alaska to stop them Anaheim hooligans. Hope you slept well, Mr. Getzlaf, Mr. Perry and Mr. Kesler. Music!
Which would you choose? If I thought the Oilers could get him signed and included under the cap, my vote would go to Tyler Johnson. In many ways, he is a perfect fit—RHC, good on the dot, can help on the power play. Johnson is not a volume shooter, but is an efficient one. Any of these men would be a solid pickup, Hanzal has to have impressed the Oilers in games they have seen him in.
OILERS STATS (ALL SITUATIONS)
This Year (Last Year)
- Goals For Per 60: 2.77 (2.40)
- Goals Against Per 60: 2.47 (2.92)
- Goals For Percentage: 52.9 (45.1)
- Shots For Per 60: 30.6 (28.7)
- Shots Against Per 60: 29.3 (30.7)
- Shots For Percentage: 51.0 (48.3)
- Fenwick For Percentage: 51.1 (48.0)
- Corsi For Percentage: 50.7 (48.5)
- Shooting Percentage: 9.05 (8.35)
- Save Percentage: 91.59 (90.50)
- PDO: 100.6 (98.8)
Impressive year over year improvement across the board. Edmonton’s goal differential year over year has improved by 54 goals, a monumental improvement. We spend a lot of time identifying the third best Oiler (behind McDavid and Talbot), but for me one of the reasons we see this kind of spike is better depth across the board, balance at almost every position. If you ask yourself the following question about each man, how many yes votes do you get?
- Can the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup with this player in his current position?
The answer for McDavid (No. 1 C) and Talbot (No. 1 G) is surely yes, but how many others can we give the check mark to? Surely we can agree the number is higher than one year ago.
THE OILERS IN THE 2017 DRAFT
- First Round: No. 24 overall
- Third Round: No. 82 overall (FROM ST. LOUIS—this is payment for Nail Yakupov)
- Third Round: No. 86 overall
- Fourth Round: No. 117 overall
- Fifth Round: No. 129 overall (FROM Vancouver—this is payment for Phil Larsen)
- Fifth Round: No. 148 overall
- Sixth Round: No. 179 overall
- Seventh Round: No. 210 overall
The more I dig down on this draft, the more I think Edmonton grabs a player like Kole Lind in the first round. Although he is not a big winger, Lind offers an impressive offensive arsenal and is a perfect fit for the current cluster. Another item I am looking at is players who fell through last year’s draft and are eligible again this year. An example: Tyler Steenbergen, who I ranked No. 62 for the 2016 draft. I talk to a WHL scout every once in a blue moon, and he told me Steenbergen actually stepped forward last season, and this year is more a matter of being in a more prominent spot in the lineup. Among his positives are a quick release and an ability to impact the flow of play consistently. I think the Oilers might be in a position to add someone like Steenbergen at this year’s draft.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RYAN SMYTH!
Happy birthday to a heart and soul player who could still probably win a corner battle and get the puck to a good place for the Oilers. Turns 41 today, if the organization decides to honor a former player before each playoff game (Bruins do this, effectively), I think Smyth would be a fine place to start. His tears and departure signaled the decade of darkness, only fitting to bring him back on the first home playoff game at Rogers. I think that would be a fine idea.