The Oilers mid-term evaluation is a chance to see how far the team has come since the beginning of the season and an opportunity to see where they might be headed. Lucky for the Oilers, this year their division is the worst in the league thus making the previously unattainable goal of making the playoffs attainable.
Before the season started I was wary of how many young players the team was projected to begin with and how many more might get the call-up at some point before the All-Star break. I’ve been stunned by the quality of young players the Oilers have been employing this season and equally as surprised with how well they seem to be performing. McDavid, Nurse, and Draisaitl have all been nothing short of amazing! Older and lesser established players in Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson have been outstanding outside of their injuries.
And we can’t go on without speaking to the rising phoenix that is Taylor Hall. Leadership and maturity is oozing from him. He’s taking this team on his back and doing his damnedest to lead them through the stormy waters. Two things are contributing to his meteoric rise, his health and his complete game. They say focus on the defensive parts of your game and the offense will follow. Taylor Hall is as complete a hockey player as he’s going to be and I say FINALLY!
But on the other end of that spectrum are players like Nail Yakupov, who can’t seem to shake free from the shackles of the ever-growing opinion that he’s set to be a bust. There’s Griffin Reinhart whom we all thought would step right in to the Oilers line-up and contribute right away. Instead being sent down to Bakersfield and replaced by Darnell Nurse. Mark Fayne, Anton Lander and Justin Schultz definitely fall under the category of disappointment as well. You know, I’ve read that some believe Schultz’s defensive game has improved this season at the sacrifice of his offensive game and that’s fine but the team defense is still sh*tting the bed and now he’s not contributing at either end of the ice… But keep playing him 22 minutes a game because he’s still working out the kinks in his game…
The emergence or re-emergence of veteran Teddy Purcell has been a pleasant surprise to some but not me. It’s no shock to me that a player in his contract year is performing above par.
Speaking of players playing above par… Nuge and Jordan Eberle are not part of that group. I believe they’re playing par for the course. Nothing amazing but not really horrible either. Benoit Pouliot, Matt Hendricks, Lauri Korpikoski, Eric Gryba and Mark Letestu all fall into this category as well. We expected more out of 93, 23 and 14 but we can also be patient with them because they’ve got nothing to prove and we know what we have in them.
The goaltending has been up and down like a roller coaster at West Ed. But it looks to have stabilized for the time being under Cam Talbot. I had my doubts about him earlier in the year but didn’t panic because Anders Nilsson was playing well. Talbot’s bad days seem to be behind him now and I’m stoked for that. The impression he gives me is that he’s a bit like Dwayne Roloson. I think he’s cool under pressure and solid in net. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s exactly what the Oilers have been needing since they sold Devan Dubnyk down the river.
At the midway portion of the NHL season the Oilers still sit in the bottom three of the NHL and they’re last in the Western Conference… again. But they very well could luck out in the second half of the campaign and clinch a wild card spot due to the weakness of the Pacific Division and players returning from injury.
(A+) – Taylor Hall (41gp 16g 25a 41pts) All-Star. De-facto captain.
(A+) – Leon Draisaitl (31gp 9g 23a 32pts) Should’ve been an All-Star.
(A) – Oscar Klefbom (30gp 4g 8a 12pts) Swedish Tank.
(A) – Connor McDavid (13gp 5g 7a 12pts) Pure genius.
(B+) – Darnell Nurse (32gp 2g 5a 7pts) Best rookie defenseman in the league. Fought Lucic.
(B) – Teddy Purcell (41gp 9g 16a 25pts) Uptick in production conveniently timed.
(B) – Andrej Sekera (40gp 5g 10a 15pts) Rounding into form.
(B) – Brandon Davidson (26gp 2g 3a 5pts) Very pleasant surprise. Edmonton’s version of Jason Demers?
(B-) – Jordan Eberle (28gp 10g 7a 17pts) Minus 11… Worst on the team.
(B-) – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (40gp 8g 20a 28pts) No.3 centre now? Not that that is a bad thing but still…
(B-) – Matt Hendricks (31gp 2g 4a 6pts) All heart.
(B-) – Cam Talbot (22gp 7W 11L .910SV%) Cool runnings.
(C) – Benoit Pouliot (32gp 8g 9a 17pts) OZ penalties, benchings, and getting called out by the coach already?
(C) – Mark Letestu (41gp 5g 6a 11pts) solid if not unspectacular.
(C) – Eric Gryba (36gp 0g 4a 4pts) Masher of bodies. Breaker of cycles.
(C) – Anders Nilsson (22gp 10W 10L 1OT) Swedish roller coaster.
(D) – Lauri Korpikoski (33gp 6g 4a 10pts) Not really sure what this guy does out there. He just is.
(D) – Iiro Pakarinen (30gp 3g 2a 5pts) Where’s the offense?
(D) – Luke Gazdic (27gp 1g 0a 1pt) Where’s the muscle?
(F) – Justin Schultz (27gp 1g 3a 4pts) A million dollars for every point! Money well spent… Elsewhere.
(F) – Nail Yakupov (22gp 2g 10a 12pts) Nice guys finish last.
(F) – Anton Lander (40gp 0g 2a 2pts) Time’s up! Say hi to Omark when you see him.
(F) – Mark Fayne (29gp 0g 1a 1pt) Can’t get him out of Edmonton fast enough.
I think overall the team has been unlucky with injuries and that’s a tough pill to swallow due to the way the Pacific Division has been playing out so far. We can only dream of where the Oilers would be if they’d all been healthy up till now.
Going into the 2nd half of the year I expect a trend upwards in the standings when McDavid and Klefbom return from injury and February’s schedule looks to be one that favours a healthy Oilers squad and if the Pacific continues to go the way it has been going, we might see a very exciting month of March. One we haven’t seen in a very long time.
Do you agree with my evaluations? Let me know in the comments below!
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