If the Leafs are going to be the annoying bandwagon team in the East, whose fanbase will be the constant drone of the season as they try and flagellate themselves as publicly as possible, then the Oilers are going to be that in the West. They won their first playoff round in 10 years last year, and probably should have beaten the Ducks in the second round. It won’t take people long to point out that Toews and Kane won a Cup in their third season, and that Crosby was in a Final in his third. The training wheels are off Run CMD and the boys. It’s basically June or bust for them. Unfortunately for them, their dumbass GM may have put too many roadblocks in their way. Or more to the point, behind them on defense.
’16-’17 Record: 47-26-9 103 points (2nd in Pacific, out in 2nd round to ANA)
Team Stats 5v5: 49.9 CF% (18th) 51.0 SF% (9th) 49.7 SCF% (19th) 8.2 SH% (9th) .927 SV% (7th)
Special Teams: 22.8 PP% (5th) 80.7 PK% (17th)
Goalies: The problem for the Oil wasn’t that they didn’t get goaltending last year. The problem was that they ran it into the ground. Cam And Magic Talbot played 73 games in the regular season, and that can’t happen in a season where EdMo is dreaming of having him play 20+ games in the spring. Talbs actually put up a .924 in the playoffs, but had his hiccups against the Ducks when the defense in front of him didn’t know how to protect a lead. It’s not that goalies haven’t been able to back up a season with such heavy use the one before–Holtby won a Vezina the year after playing 73 games–but it’s not a fire you want to play with.
Backing him up is Laurent Brossoit, which I’m pretty sure I had at Girl And The Goat that one time. He only played in eight games last year, and his numbers in the AHL or even the WHL don’t exactly fill you with confidence. If he doesn’t flash early, Talbot is going to be playing 70+ games again which is going to make it really dicey if he can handle three or four rounds in the playoffs after that. The Oilers might need to find someone who can take 20 games off of Talbot during the season.
Defense: One day, a GM with a promising crop of young forwards will realize there’s little point in having that if you’re not going to back it up with a defense. The Oilers enter this season with a top pairing of Oscar Klefbom (you’re my Klefbom!) and Adam Larsson. That would be a really great second pairing you feel. But are you trusting these two to take on the top assignments every night? This was it when the Ducks ran off 14 goals in three games after the Oilers had them down 2-0, including giving up 64 shots in Game 5. They’re not locking anyone down. It gets worse when you scroll down and see that Peter Chiarelli “reinforced” the second pairing by locking up Kris Russell, who’s the definition of “the suck.” We are unabashed Darnell Nurse fans, but he’s got to flash as well at some point. Because this team desperately needs him to grab the top pairing role around the throat like he’s threatened at times. If he doesn’t, then this unit is not going to be able to hold the Ducks, or Flames, or Predators, or whoever else out in a series and the forwards might not have enough depth to outscore that. Andrej Sekera will be out until December, but what’s he saving here?
Forwards: Well, after handing The Federal Reserve to both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, you can’t really ask for a better 1-2 down the middle. Ryan Strome was brought in to ride shotgun for McDavid this year, though after turning Patrick Maroon into a 30-goal scorer we know that Run CMD can turn any stoned hipster on a Razor into a weapon. RNH is manning the third line, and though we’ve never been able to figure out what it is Nugent-Hopkins actually does, for a third center that’s pretty sweet. The issue is that the Oilers are short on the wings. Milan Lucic is a rich, overhyped bum. Drake Caggiula is a guy. The Oilers need a breakthrough from Jesse Puljujarvi, who at least has the pedigree. Jussi Jokinen came aboard, and he’ll grab them some points in the shootout and drive possession. But is there enough there on the wings? Would you rather have Calgary’s or Anaheim’s here?
Outlook: Todd McClellan is hardly an idiot, and he’ll get whatever there is out of this roster. But the questions about backup goaltender, the defense, and on the wings seem awfully large. They have the best player in the league, but Draisaitl, as good as he might be, hasn’t been a dominant force at center yet for a full season. He’s going to have to be to get anything out of the wingers he’s going to be saddled with. As much firepower as they have down the middle, what are they gonna do if McDavid is subdued in a series? I’m here for a Battle Of Alberta series either in Round 1 or two, but the Flames are strong where the Oilers are not. So are the Ducks. McDavid might be enough to overcome anything. For the Oilers to go farther this year, he’s going to have to be.
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