In today’s NHL, any team can win games when they’re at their best. The difference between any team and playoff calibre teams is their ability to win games when they’re not at their best.
This might sound weird, but I love the fact that the Oilers are winning hockey games and yet we can still sit back and legitimately criticize some aspects of this team. A lot of things have been gone their way but a handful of things haven’t.
Last season, when their defence started to get hurt, they fell apart. In the first game this season, they were dealt a pretty big blow when Adam Larsson broke his foot. They have done the exact opposite of fall apart and the play of Ethan Bear is a significant reason why this team is 7-1-1.
They beat the Red Wings despite the fact McDavid didn’t register a point and they snagged a point against the Jets in a game where their offence didn’t show up. They won a game against the Kings in which their goaltender made a handful of blunders in the first period and they trailed multiple times.
They’ve been winning games in different ways and that’s incredibly encouraging.
The one big concern around this club is their lack of depth scoring. It hasn’t just struggled through nine games, it’s been non-existent. Yes, they’ve gotten points in these last two games but at some point, they’ll need their bottom six to start showing some sort of offensive pulse.
I am very optimistic that the Oilers will be a playoff team this season but if they don’t start getting production from players that aren’t playing with McDavid, Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins then their chances will take a massive hit.
The good part is that depth wingers are the easiest thing to acquire in the NHL. Look back through the history of NHL trade deadlines and look at how often impact wingers are traded compared to impact defensemen or top-nine centremen.
If it gets to the point where they are desperate for help, Ken Holland could probably and go out and find it.
— Oilersnation Radio (@ONradiopodcast) October 21, 2019
He also has players like Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson, and Kailer Yamamoto sitting in Bakersfield. I don’t want any of them recalled before December, but, if the bottom six continues to struggle, Ken Holland just needs to make one phone call to bring in a potential solution.
The other thing to consider is that the Oilers have two of the most dangerous offensive producers in the NHL sitting on their roster and as long as their healthy, they will continue to win games for the Edmonton Oilers. If you think the Oilers can’t make the playoffs with those two carrying the load offensively, then I would ask you to go look at the Colorado Avalanche last season. They only had six forwards score more than 15 goals and only five of them had more than 40 points. They can and will continue to win games on the backs of McDavid, Draisait, and a lethal powerplay.
The other big positive working for the Oilers is the fact that they’re playing in what is probably the worst division in hockey. The LA Kings are going to be awful, the Ducks will only go as far as John Gibson can carry them, the Flames and Sharks are both off to slow starts, and I’m not sold on either one of the Canucks or Coyotes.
This division is wide open and doesn’t feature the high-end talent that the other three divisions do, although I will admit that the Central is off to a much worse start than I expected.
Still, the point stands. This division is wide open and features some very mediocre hockey teams. The Oilers can beat every single one of them and when playoff races are close, winning divisional games is massive.
There is legitimate hope around this team. In my opinion, they are good enough to make the playoffs. Some will say that it isn’t a long-term recipe for success and that even if they make the playoffs this season, they won’t be able to repeat that success in the coming seasons. That’s okay though. This season was never going to be the beginning of a dynasty or anything like that.
To me, this year was just about running out the clock on some poor decisions that the previous regime had made. Even if the salary cap doesn’t go up, Ken Holland will have around $24 million to play with this summer and next season, he should have the likes of Cooper Marody, Tyler Benson, Caleb Jones, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evan Bouchard ready to contribute in the NHL while still on cheap contracts.
There’s a chance for Ken Holland to go out next summer and make some very impactful additions to this roster considering the cap flexibility he’ll have. Although the team next season might look incredibly different, I’m starting to feel like this hot start for the Oilers is more than just a hot start. It might be the beginning of a new, successful era for this franchise.