It has been 31 days since the start of the 2019/20 season and a lot has happened in that time. We got a five-game winning streak to start, some great individual performances from the team’s star players, nothing from their depth, great goaltending, and a breakout month from Ethan Bear.
To recap it all, I threw together 31 takes on the first 31 days of the Oilers season:
Pretty rude of everyone to be talking about baseball when Leon Draisaitl took over the NHL lead in points.
— Baggedmilk – Oilers Beet writer (@jsbmbaggedmilk) October 31, 2019
- This might be the most confusing start to an Oiler season that I can remember. The team is leading the division yet the fan base is frustrated. I can understand why. There are reasons to be worried but still, they’re in first place and some aren’t happy.
- This team’s biggest problem is their depth scoring. That’s not exactly a hot take. But you could argue that it’s really their only big problem right now. If they got average scoring from their bottom six they could easily have a couple more wins. I’m looking at one-goal losses to Chicago and Detroit (when you take away empty netters) and a SOL to Winnipeg as prime examples.
- It’s not even a matter of them being snake-bitten or anything like that. They aren’t even generating chances and that’s what is most frustrating to me. Do you know who leads their bottom-six in high danger Corsi for? Patrick Russell (and that’s not a compliment to Patrick Russell).
- The biggest disappointment to me has been Jujhar Khaira. I had high hopes for him this season after injuries derailed his 18/19 campaign. He’s starting to look better next to Nuge and now he finally has a goal. Hopefully, he can keep this going.
- A big part of it is his skating. He’s not a great skater but when he starts moving his feet, he gets more engaged physically, he sustains cycles better, and offensive chances come from it. He was better at it against Detroit and Columbus but needs to be consistent.
- Another big disappointment has been Alex Chiasson. He was red hot at the beginning of last season and then really cooled off (I believe this is called a PDO heater) and still got a two-year deal this summer from Ken Holland. He’s struggling to score goals and produce offence and really, that’s all he was brought in to do.
- I don’t think he will be an Oiler 12 months from now. Even if they have to retain 25% of his deal, they’ll find a way to trade him at some point.
- I’ve actually liked what Haas and Nygard have brought to the table when they’ve been in the lineup. The Oilers need speed and guys who can handle the puck. As these two keep getting more NHL games, I think they’ll keep getting more effective.
- Continuing with some positives, the goaltending has been tremendous. Smith and Koskinen have been good enough to keep them in almost every single game this season.
- Koskinen is looking like a legitimate number one goaltender but it’s important to remember that he also got off to a very good start last season as well. Hopefully, the addition of Smith means that Koskinen will be able to stay more rested and won’t hit a wall late in the year like he did last season.
- Last year, through six starts Koskinen had a 2.60 GAA and a 0.917 SV%. This season, he’s at a 2.39 GAA and a 0.922 SV%. Very similar numbers but he’s proven that he can look like a number one goalie for solid stretches.
- I wonder how long Tippett will be able to continue just rotating the goalies for. I think he was definitely more comfortable going with Smith throughout October but in my opinion, Koskinen has been the better goaltender. How long can these two guys keep up their current play? It’s a crucial factor for this team.
- The special teams have also been great. In past years, it was costing them games. Especially their penalty kill. This year, you could say it has been a massive contributor in almost every single one of their nine wins. Their powerplay has a goal in six of their nine wins and their PK has allowed just five goals in those games.
- Perhaps the biggest surprise on this roster has been Ethan Bear. I don’t think a lot of people thought he would make the NHL roster out of camp but now he’s looking like a legit top-four defenseman.
- His biggest asset is no doubt his ability to pass the puck. Having him and Klefbom on different pairs means this team has two solid puck movers on the ice for at least 75% of the game.
- At the same time, I think expectations need to be cooled a little bit around him. We’ve seen him make some mistakes over the last few games and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about how his game will hold up over the course of an 82 game season.
- That’s not a knock on Bear but it’s very hard to routinely go up against the other teams best players. His play has shocked me through the first month of the season and maybe he won’t take a step back at all. But if he starts to go through some rough patches, it’s important that fans are patient with him.
- When Adam Larsson comes back into the lineup, Ken Holland will have an interesting decision to make.
- Bear and Larsson are no doubt in your top four. So does that third pairing spot just rotate between Benning and Persson? Or does Holland use this opportunity to move out Benning for some scoring help?
- Some fans love to dump on Benning, but he’s a capable young defenseman with some offensive upside. He could bring you back a middle-six forward.
- It’s no secret that this team has been carried by McDavid and Draisaitl. But how far can those two take them? Right now, McDavid is on pace for around 140 points. That would be incredible in today’s NHL and while most will say he won’t hit that mark, I’m not willing to bet against him, especially if the Oilers remain in the playoff hunt.
- I’ve been saying it for a few years but there will be one season during his prime where McDavid just goes supernova and has a record-breaking year. At some point, I think he will crack the 150 point mark in his career.
- I looked at Draisaitls 50 goals last season and said that he probably wouldn’t do it again simply because his shooting percentage had to regress. It was 21.6% last season. Through the first month, I’m willing to eat my words. He’ll get 50 again this season.
- He might just be a player who consistently shoots around 17-22%. The fact he plays alongside the most dynamic playmaker in the game and his ability to score in different ways could just mean that he will always convert on a high level of chances.
- While he’s cooled off a bit in the goal-scoring department, I still think Zack Kassian has looked like a legit top-six winger next to McDavid and Draisaitl. He’s on pace for 18 goals and 35 assists right now.
- If he cracks 20 goals, I don’t see how Holland can let him walk this summer as a free agent. But how much money will he want? I’m really hoping that Kassian realizes that he has it really good in Edmonton and doesn’t price himself out of a new deal with the Oilers. It’s a hard contract to gauge. Would two years at just under $3 million be fair?
- The Oilers are desperately weak on the wings as is but could you imagine where they would be without James Neal? He isn’t perfect but he’s a legitimate NHL winger who can create chances. The play doesn’t consistently die with him and that’s an upgrade on what they had.
- Back to the struggling bottom six, I wonder how long Ken Holland will sit around and not make a change?
- If it’s a trade, I can’t imagine a scenario where he gives up anything more than a B level prospect or a later round draft pick. I know this year wasn’t the year they ‘go for it’ but I’m hoping Holland recognizes that it would be foolish to waste another year of McDavid and waste the great start they had.
- If it’s a call up from the minor, I think Holland will just hold on until closer to the Christmas Break. I think he is that committed to making sure that players are 100% ready for the NHL level. Once Yamamoto is called up again, I really don’t want to see him go back to the AHL at any point.
- The Oilers will play 14 games in November with eight of them coming against Pacific Division opponents. This is a huge stretch of hockey for them. My prediction for the month is that they will go 7-6-1. Enough to keep them in the race.