‘Tis here everyone. The first real day of the NHL regular season. Day one in Connor McDavid’s assault on the NHL scoring records. Day one in the journey to the Stanley Cup Final for every NHL team. Day one for a new crop of NHL rookies. Day One for a new generation of hockey fans.
Let the hockey wash over you and help forget all of your problems and the problems of the world.
HOW THE OILERS ARE GOING TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP
Well, this is going to be an off the cuff prognostication if we’re being honest. But I’m fairly confident that what you’re about to read will be agreeable amongst the general tier 2 + 3 Oilers fanbase. I could go into the numbers with you and wax poetically about the team’s possession numbers when down by 1 on the road on the latter end of a back to back but let’s be real here. There are folks out there like G Money, Rob Vollman, and Woodguy who do a helluva lot better at that than I. Plus they’re the few guys who can do it without being complete assholes about it.
So this is a fan’s (wishful?) look at the Oilers upcoming season. But first, you HAVE to watch this wicked video from our Beer League Heroes Youtube Channel (Please subscribe!!!)
One thing that I noticed last year that really helped the Oilers move up 30+ points in the standings and make it to the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the season previous is the injuries that didn’t cripple their roster but the injuries that did put a dent in other teams’ rosters. Like Jonathan Quick for example and Joe Thornton/Logan Couture.
Now going into this new season other teams in the Pacific are starting the year hurt and this is a huge help to the Oilers drive to the playoffs. I mean the Oilers aren’t immune to the injury bug as Sekera is out and there are suspicions that Klefbom was battling something in training cup but I reckon the Oilers are in a better position that some of the other teams in the Pacific to start the year.
Minus Calgary and San Jose of course but I heard their order of Rollator Walkers are set to arrive any time now.
The Ducks have major players hurt to start the year in Kesler, Lindholm, and Vatanen. Even Getzlaf is questionable to start the year. I’d say Anaheim is the Oilers biggest threat for first place in the Pacific. The Coyotes are down Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, and according to Rotoworld, their new goalie Antti Raanta is sidelined. LA is down Marian Gaborik (when aren’t they though). I see that James Neal is dinged up too for Vegas.
PACIFIC RIM JOB
The Oilers went 20-6-3 in their own division and if I were a betting man, I’d say they are well positioned to do that again. It’s imperative that they do because I really believe that a GM’s job is simply to get his team to the playoffs. Everybody knows that anything can happen in the post-season and it’s really anybody’s Cup when the playoffs start.
If the Oilers are to make it a 6th Stanley Cup in franchise history, destroying the competition within its division is a good start.
AN UNSTOPPABLE TOP 6
The emergence of what might be turning into one of the most powerful top 6s in the NHL today will most definitely go a long way in taking the Oilers to the Cup final. Pat Maroon, Connor McDavid, and Leon Draisaitl were nearly impossible to stop in 2016/17 when put together but now we’ve got Leon taking charge of his own line.
And if it’s not that combination of 6 it’ll be this:
Maroon/McDavid/Draisaitl (Good Luck…)
Lucic/Nugent-Hopkins/Yamamoto (For nine games at least or until Slepyshev is ready)
And eventually it’ll look like this:
That said, Leon Draisaitl is a top 15 centre, if not top 10, in the NHL now and what he did to the Anaheim Ducks last year was phenomenal. They really had no answer for him and if the pre-season is any indication of what we may see this season, there’s no doubt in my mind that having McDavid at 1C and Draisaitl at 2C along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 3C, the Oilers will be a very difficult team to stop let alone slow down.
SMART, CONSISTENT, AND GRIT FACTOR HIGH
Maroon, Lucic, Kassian, Khaira, Nurse, Gryba, Larsson… These players are going to have to watch it with the penalties this year. It’s already apparent that the officials will be clamping down on those little “love taps” to the hands that are the norm in competitive hockey. The other thing these players are going to have to do is keep the compete at a consistent level but not be afraid to really lay into a guy now and then. It doesn’t have to be all of the time but the league will have to be reminded that this isn’t a team you can take liberties with.
GOALS FROM THE SUPPORT CAST
Goals from unlikely sources. The Oilers traded perennial 25 goal scorer Jordan Eberle this summer for Islanders underachiever Ryan Strome and if his training camp was an indication of what we’re in for, the Oilers could be in trouble. Now, he doesn’t have to score 25 goals this year, I think that’s unfair to put that expectation on him but we do need a solid 12-15 from him, a solid 10-12 from Drake Caggiula, another 15 from Anton Slepyshev, and boy would it be a pleasant surprise if Jussi Jokinen could toss up double-digits in goals. Add to those the 25 or more from Lucic and Maroon as well as the 20 from RNH and the team should be set for secondary scoring.
Basically, the wingers have to contribute. It can’t all be on Leon and Connor.
Be it Kailer Yamamoto or Jesse Puljujarvi, I’m not overly concerned. If one of them or both of them can help the team and be impactful either on offense or defense, that would be dandy! From what we’ve seen, it seems Moto might be the flash and dash that the average fan will enjoy whereas Pulju may be the player that a more discerning hockey eye takes a liking to.
I don’t believe Yamamoto or Puljujarvi can be that impactful this year. Now after a full season in the minors in Pulju’s case or in juniors in Yammo’s case, I think they could definitely make a difference in the playoffs. Fresh blood with that kind of skill can offer a shock to the system to the opposition.
I just want both players to be done right and I think they are but I wanted to comment on them regardless.
AN IMPROVING BLUELINE
The defense this pre-season looked shaky at best and between it and the RW, there lies the Oilers potential weakness. I’m not sure if that is because certain players weren’t healthy or were learning to play with some extra/less weight. Whatever the excuse, for the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup these players will need to do the following:
- Oscar Klefbom – Keep the PP goals coming. He’s the only one with a bomb from the point.
- Adam Larsson – Clean up the slashes, replace them with stiff checks and excellent positional play.
- Kris Russell – Keep doing what he was doing in training camp. Keep showing us the Russell with balls of steel but let us see a bit of throwback Russell when he was an offensive dman.
- Matt Benning – Smarten up. The pre-season wasn’t great. Increase the sandpaper and work on the positioning.
- Darnell Nurse – This is the last year I imagine the Oilers will want to see those brain farts that lead to the puck ending up behind Cam Talbot. I’m not worried about the physical aspect of his game, I am worried about his hockey IQ though. Shore that up and we’re good.
- Eric Gryba – I’d like to see Gryba pick his spots a bit better and be a bit smarter with the positioning. It’d go a long way in not losing his spot to Yohann Auvitu.
- Andrej Sekera – We need him back and as close to 100% as possible when said return does take place. The Oilers are really going to feel the brunt of his absence starting in the final two weeks of October when they play a game every other day. Not sure if Auvitu will be able to cover what Sekera brings to the table…
CAM HE KEEP IT GOING?
Cam Talbot’s health is probably the most important piece of the Oilers Stanley Cup winning puzzle. Laurent Brossoit started slowly in training camp (as he usually does) but gained a lot of steam by the end. Even with that I’m not convinced he could take the ball and run if Talbot was forced to miss some time due to injury.
But what about a Nick Ellis, who I saw good during training camp, and Brossoit tandem if the predicament should arise?
FOCUS ON THE DOT
Let’s talk about faceoffs for a moment. Some might say they are of the utmost importance and some may say they aren’t important at all. The Oilers were the worst team in the NHL last year on the dot, yet they nearly made it to the Western Conference Final. Could they have made it even further if they were more successful off of the draw?
Go back to that epic collapse in game 5 of the Western Semis against Anaheim. The first two goals in the Ducks comeback were results of lost faceoffs by the Oilers. Had they won those draws, perhaps we’d be having a different conversation.
Either way, I believe faceoffs are important and one truth that rings true is that young players often struggle to win them. Three out of the four centremen the Oilers had last year were under the age of 25… Just saying. I expect Draisaitl to improve considerably this year due to his size and strength though. So at least the Oilers won’t have to rely on Mark Letestu all year when the time comes and a critical draw needs to be won.
Therefore, I don’t believe Edmonton will be the worst team in the faceoff category this season.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES WHEN GIVEN
Lastly, I believe that the teams in the Central are simply going to kick the shit out of each other and not have anything left in the tank when they eventually meet up with Edmonton in the Western Final. As for the Stanley Cup Final, I pray to the hockey gods that they allow the Penguins to make it one more time.
Sid vs. Connor… Leon vs. Evgeni… Phil vs. The Bobby Nick’s Burger… EPIC!!!
It’s there where you’ll see the youthful legs of the Oilers outrun those of the banged-up reigning champions. It won’t be like when the Oilers met the Islanders in ’83 and they were swept but as they left the arena they passed New York’s dressing room and instead of seeing celebrations, they saw ice bags and bruised up bodies…
What you’ll witness is something more akin to what the Penguins went through when they met the Detroit Red Wings for a 2nd consecutive year in 2009. A 7-game knock ’em down, drag ’em out battle to the end but with the upstart Oilers lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup at series end.
*Random Stat: Edmonton demolished the Penguins on the faceoff dot in 2016/17 to a tune of 65/39*
That’s kind of a homer’s view of how the Oilers will win the Cup but if I were to be realistic about it, I’d probably still say the Oilers are poised to at least make it to the Western Final at the very least because I don’t know which team is in a better situation to do it in out of the West in 2017.
As I said earlier, the Central division teams are going to kill each other, it’s far too competitive now that Dallas has improved so much and Winnipeg HAS to make it to the playoffs this year… It’s getting ridiculous. Maybe the Blues miss out this year and that allows the Jets to sneak in?
The Pacific division isn’t what it used to be, Anaheim is aging and hurt and the Oilers are primed to take advantage of the turnover in divisional power. Calgary is there too but they f*cked up right good with their choices in net. I don’t mind them adding Hamonic and Jagr but they should’ve done something to get Fleury or Bishop. They’ll get the odd good game from Smith but at his age, it won’t be consistent and bet the over if Lack is in net.
I don’t see LA climbing back into the top 3 nor do I see Arizona doing anything of value this year. They’ll be better but not enough to make a difference. San Jose… I’m up in the air with the Sharks. They could be better or they could be worse… I really don’t know.
What I do know is that San Jose isn’t as good as Edmonton and the Oilers are an NHL powerhouse again.
Now, I don’t subscribe to the theory that this is the best window for the Oilers to win. The idea that since McDavid is on his entry-level contract still and that allows the Oilers some leverage in the standings doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t know if there’s any historical evidence to support that theory either.
In my opinion, every year that Edmonton has a healthy Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is a wide open window for them to win the Stanley Cup and it’s not a case of IF but WHEN.
Big game tonight! Let’s Go Oilers!!!