So now that we have 41 games in the books, how has the Oilers’ season fared thus far? Some lists, as of this writing:
**BLH’s Note** – I was a bit slow (read as hungover) to get this post out before the Sens/Oilers game tonight but the gist of Mike’s post remains the same. Please enjoy! – BLH**
As I type this, the Edmonton Oilers are the 2nd best team in the Pacific Division, and the 9th (NINTH) best team in the NHL. Holy crap. When was the last time the Oilers were in the top-third in the league at the halfway mark of a season? I’m not even going to look that stat up because I know how depressing and awful it will be.
Wheel, snipe, celly, boys. We are officially basement-dwellers no longer. (Speaking of snipes and cellys, congrats to Matt Benning on his first career NHL goal tonight! Always stoked to see a newbie get his first. Here’s hoping to a long future with Benning on the Oilers blueline.)
Man, it’s been an emotional roller coaster of a season, hasn’t it? There’s something about being vaguely in playoff contention for most of a season make the highs feel really high, and the lows really low. There have been multiple points in the season where I’ve felt that we’ll never lose a game again, and just as many where it seems like we’ll never be able to squeak out a win.
There are consistency issues with this group, but, like this evening, they’re pulling it together and finding ways to win more often than not, and at this point in our team’s development, that’s a promising thing.
As we watch the Pacific play out, it’s seeming more and more likely that this is a good year for us to see some postseason play for the first time in over a decade, and if we can keep this general pace up through the second half of the season (which features a much more Oilers-friendly travel and game schedule), I don’t see why we can’t make it happen with this group, especially as some usual Pacific heavyweights struggle.
We need to take advantage of the situation we’ve been presented with and keep the pressure going into February and through April.
- McDavid is McDavid, that much goes without saying. He’s perfect and I love him.
- Draisaitl is a horse game in and game out, and I won’t even flinch if Pete gives him $6M this offseason.
- Larsson is a big, mean, minute-eating machine and hasn’t made me miss Taylor Hall once since the season began.
- Kris Russell — despite the continued and relentless naysaying from nerds on Twitter with their noses in stat sheets — has been good.
- Lucic I’m undecided on; I think he needs this season to get up to speed with the way he’s going to have to play going forward if he’s going to be on McDavid’s wing in the future.
- Thankfully, Patrick Maroon just continues to be a goddamn beauty and make up for Looch’s shortcomings so far this season. (And congrats to him on his first hatty a couple nights ago!) I’d be happy protecting Maroon for expansion and exposing Davidson with the way he and Benning have been playing, and in my little fantasy land where everything is happy and people get what they deserve, Maroon and Pouliot’s contracts would be straight swapped.
- Nuge has been clutch in a few key situations in the last month or so, but I think both he and Ebs need to get their lives together a little bit and start producing at-or-near where they were in seasons past. (Uh, hello, have these guys forgotten that they were our top line guys for like four years? They aren’t even really producing at a solid second line pace through 41 this season.)
- Puljujarvi needs to go to the AHL immediately and start playing big minutes. He needs seasoning and we are truly treating him even worse than we did Draistail in 2013. I’m quite concerned with how Chiarelli and McLellan are utilizing him, and why he hasn’t been sent down as of like last month is a mystery to me. We have a Finn in Bakersfield who can befriend the guy and help him out if it’s a language-barrier thing. I just want that big pizza-eating goof to turn into the stud we know he can be. :]
- Caggiula is great! (I told you guys he would be.) Sort of reminds me of an early-2010s Eberle back when he gave a shit, with regard to his agility and general skill in tight situations with the puck. He’s sneaky, unusually strong on the puck for a little guy, and has some pretty silky mitts. Give this kid another season or two of solid third line minutes and some PP time and I don’t see why he doesn’t become a 60-point scorer by his mid-20s.
- You’ll recall, dear BLH readers, I also predicted Mark Letestu as a regular in the lineup because of his good attitude and solid 3/4 line stats. The only thing I missed was neglecting to type his full name: Mark “Shootout and Overtime Specialist” Letestu.
We’ve got a good thing going here, boys. Keep it up.