We all have seen the comments. “McDavid makes Chiarelli look competent” or, “McDavid is the only reason the Oilers are in a playoff spot”, but is it true?
The short answer is no.
The best lies, the most believable ones, are made partially of truth. This, of course applies in this scenario as well; McDavid is leading the NHL in scoring after all and the Oilers are 2nd in the Pacific division after miles of road at the bottom of the league. In reality, however, these are not mutually exclusive and it may not even be the biggest reason for the leap forward.
Last year the Edmonton Oilers were 26th in goals against and a -42 goal differential as a team. This year the team is 10th in goals against and have improved the goal differential by 58 goals. Good for an average of almost an entire goal per game through the first 64 games played.
It was no secret that the Oilers biggest weakness last season was the right side of their defense and something needed to be done. All 3 of the Oilers regular Top 6 right side defenders, namely Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, and Matt Benning are new to the team. The #1, #2 and #3 right side defenders have been replaced leaving Eric Gryba as the lone holdover. Add this to the progression on the left side of Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse, a better D partner for Andrej Sekera and you get significant improvement at all 6 defensive slots.
Is the reason behind the Oilers regular season progression even the most important question anymore? Perhaps it’s shifted to how well equipped they are for the post season?
Luckily, Chiarelli has come through again with forethought and an answer for this next question before we even got around to asking it. Peter is a humble guy, he tempers expectations, sets the bar low, however; this team appears to be well equipped for playoff hockey. It would have been easy with intense pressure from ownership and fans to just make it back to the playoffs to focus on that goal alone. What he has done instead is set the team up for long-term, sustainable success through the regular season and playoffs.
If you want to know why the Oilers invested $6 Million long-term in Milan Lucic wait for the playoffs.
If you still question why they traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson instead of Kevin Shattenkirk, PK Subban or Tyson Barrie you’re set to find out in April.
If you question why Eric Gryba is the 7th defender instead of Brandon Davidson, you’ll get your answer in the grinding Pacific division playoffs.
If you don’t understand why the Oilers didn’t pick up PA Parenteau for cheap at the deadline and instead seem ready to push Zack Kassian up the lineup you’re going to see who comes out of the corner with the puck really soon.
It’s been a long road Oiler fans, I know you’ve enjoyed the season and are still white knuckling it down the stretch drive. Let’s sit back and appreciate the view of the top of the standings and realize that most of the criticism coming at the Oilers this season is questioning why they are so good, instead of why they are awful.
The Oilers are coming. This statement has a whole new meaning.
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