The last time the Edmonton Oilers played a game, the club was humbled by a fresher group in Calgary Flames jerseys. The following morning, Oilers were 15 points up on Calgary with 14 to play (Flames had 15 left). I said at the time “if the Oilers go 6-6-2 (14 points), the Flames would need to go 15-0-0 to beat Edmonton into the postseason.”
Calgary had a good week, winning two more and losing just one. The Flames are just 11 points behind Edmonton now, with 12 games to play. How silly I was to predict it was over. So, let’s do the math again to see how much ground Calgary has gained and how close this is now. If the Oilers go 6-6-2 in their 14 remaining games (remember, they didn’t play this past week), the club would finish 31-21-4, 66 points for 56 games.
That means that in those final 12 games, if Calgary went 12-0-0, the team would finish 31-22-3, 65 points. If you’re an Oilers fan you know this: Catching up is very difficult with 60 games left in the Bettman NHL. With 12 games left? Forget about it.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New DNB: Re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Free-agency targets? Oilers mailbag
- New DNB: Oilers sign Dylan Holloway to ELC
- Jonathan Willis: Should the Oilers re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Tyson Barrie?
- Lowetide: Five Oilers prospects who deserve NHL tryouts now that the trade deadline has passed
- Lowetide: What are the Oilers’ ideal defensive pairings after picking up Dmitry Kulikov at the trade deadline
- DNB: Ken Holland’s quiet NHL trade deadline sets up Oilers for big moves later
- DNB: Why the Oilers not maximizing the trade deadline is both predictable and disappointing
- Jonathan Willis: What the Oilers are getting in trade deadline pickup Dmitry Kulikov: A cheap solution to a nagging problem
- Lowetide: What would the Oilers sacrifice if they traded their 2021 first-round pick?
- DNB: A year without Colby Cave
- DNB: To play them together or not? 97 and 29
- Lowetide: Are the 2020-21 Oilers better than the 2016-17 team?
- Lowetide: Evan Bouchard’s season of inactivity — what is the risk for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Every major transaction Ken Holland has made as Oilers GM
- Lowetide: Oilers’ top 20 prospects, trade deadline edition
OILERS AFTER 43 GAMES
- Oilers in 2015-16: 17-23-3, 37 points; goal differential -25
- Oilers in 2016-17: 21-15-7, 49 points; goal differential +3
- Oilers in 2017-18: 18-22-3, 39 points; goal differential -24
- Oilers in 2018-19: 20-20-3, 43 points; goal differential -11
- Oilers in 2019-20: 21-17-5, 47 points; goal differential -8
- Oilers in 2020-21: 25-15-2, 52 points; goal differential +10
The three playoff teams (including this year’s club) have left the other McDavid clubs behind. The goal differential of the 2019-20 team is a concern at this point and it should be mentioned that this year’s group had a +17 and was 21-13-0 back on March 21. Since then, Edmonton is 4-2-2, but -7 in goal differential. That’s not good, about -1 GD per game. Most, but not all, from the Calgary game.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN APRIL
- At home to: Calgary (Expected: 1-0-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- On the road to: Montreal, Ottawa, Ottawa, Calgary (Expected: 3-1-0) (Actual 2-1-1)
- On the road to: Winnipeg (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Montreal, Montreal (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Winnipeg, Winnipeg (Expected 1-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary (Expected 1-0-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Expected April record: 7-4-0, 14 points in 11 games
- Actual April record: 3-1-1, 7 points in 5 games
The Oilers are basically on track with my expectations, I had them going 4-1-0 and the team is currently 3-1-1. This season is very difficult to predict because momentum is fleeting. I do not expect Edmonton to win tonight, but do believe they’ll show well against Montreal in the two games next week.
FIVE ON FIVE GOALS-60 (FORWARDS)
There are 372 NHL forwards who have played 260 or more five on five minutes in the league this season. Why is that important? It gives us the most qualified pool available for all teams top 12 forwards. It’s the NHL this season. I’m going to run the top goal scorers at five on five (per 60) on the Oilers with the designated line they represent based on ranking across all forwards in the league at this time. I think there will be some surprises, there were a few for me. Here we go:
- No. 58 overall: Connor McDavid 1.01-per 60
- No. 93 overall: Leon Draisaitl 0.89-per 60
Both men have improved shot volume and shooting percentage, but there are many marksmen in the NHL posting better numbers this season. By the way, McDavid has been at or near 1.00-60 scoring at five on five every year of his career.
- No. 104 overall: Dominik Kahun 0.85-per 60
- No. 155 overall: Kailer Yamamoto 0.73-per 60
- No. 178 overall: Jesse Puljujarvi 0.66-per 60
- No. 186 overall: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 0.65-per 60
This is a bit of a surprise for a couple of reasons. I didn’t think Kahun would be so efficient (this is a good number, he’s so quiet) and I didn’t think JP would be inside the top 186 forwards in the metric. Dave Tippett chose the correct six shooters to play on the skill lines.
- No. 205 overall: Jujhar Khaira 0.60-per 60
- No. 210 overall: Josh Archibald 0.59-per 60
- No. 230 overall: Tyler Ennis 0.55-per 60
- No. 278 overall: Alex Chiasson 0.44-per 60
The offensive support has been better this year, some of these chaps have benefited from playing with 97 and 29. Khaira has enjoyed a strong season in several areas, this is one.
- No. 289 overall: Zack Kassian 0.42-per 60
Kassian might get a push as early as tonight. The absence of alternatives clears the mind.
The contract starts 2021-22 (PuckPedia), it’s possible he signs an ATO to play in Bakersfield if the season is still going when he recovers from surgery. This is a fine young prospect, we don’t know how good yet but he has a chance to slot in with the big bats if he can bring offense from Wisconsin.
50-MAN LIST 2021-22 (30)
- Goalies (3): Mikko Koskinen, Alex Stalock, Olivier Rodrigue
- Left Defense (8): Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom (IR), Kris Russell, Caleb Jones, William Lagesson, Dmitri Samorukov, Philip Broberg, Markus Niemelainen
- Right Defense (5): Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard, Filip Berglund, Phil Kemp, Mike Kesselring
- Center (4): Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Kyle Turris, Ryan McLeod
- Left Wing (5): James Neal, Tyler Benson, Rafael Lavoie, Ostap Safin, Dylan Holloway
- Right Wing (5): Jesse Puljujarvi, Zack Kassian, Josh Archibald, Kirill Maksimov, Seth Griffith
Lots of holes in this roster but $27 million in walking around money will help. No. 1 goalie, RH defenseman who can defend and play top-4D, Klefbom’s return to full health, a No. 1 LW, Nuge and Yamamoto re-signed, and a No. 3 center. That’s seven, but as many as four could be internal solutions.
RFA’S 2021-22 (8)
- Goalies (2): Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells
- Left Defense (1): Theodor Lennstrom
- Right Defense (0):
- Center (2): Jujhar Khaira, Cooper Marody
- Left Wing (2): Dominik Kahun, Devin Shore
- Right Wing (1): Kailer Yamamoto
I would bring back Skinner, Lennstrom, Khaira, Kahun and Yamamoto. Your mileage may vary. I’d bring back Marody too if I thought they could find a role for him.
UFA’s 2021-22 (14)
- Goalies (1): Mike Smith
- Left Defense (2): Dmitry Kulikov, Slater Koekkoek
- Right Defense (2): Tyson Barrie, Adam Larsson
- Center (2): Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gaetan Haas, Alan Quine
- Left Wing (3): Tyler Ennis, Joakim Nygard, Joe Gambardella
- Right Wing (3): Alex Chiasson, Patrick Russell, Adam Cracknell
I would bring back Larsson, Nuge, Haas. You?
Left wing is going to be the position to watch. There are three young prospects of note who will be pushing (Holloway, Benson, Lavoie if he continues playing LW) and remember skill players rarely spend even 50 games in the AHL.
Players who Edmonton might add via free agency include Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Tomas Tatar, Brandon Saad, Gabriel Landeskog, Mike Hoffman, Mikael Granlund and Blake Coleman.