Over the last three weeks, I’ve seen people talk about how the Edmonton Oilers have finally turned the corner and begun to rebound after a nightmare season. It’s a line of thinking that has bothered me because, quite frankly, it isn’t true. Sure, I’m picking a very opportune time to post this article, but Oiler fans shouldn’t take the cheese when it comes to the club’s record in recent weeks.
Sure, there have been wins on the board, but the team really hasn’t been playing well. Only two things have changed as of late, and neither reflect well on Peter Chiarelli, Todd McLellan or 90% of the players on the roster.
This is All Connor McDavid:
In his last 27 games played, including last night, Connor McDavid has amassed a total of 47 points. That’s the best in the NHL over the span, and is basically the human equivalent of going supernova. Right now, when he is on the ice, there is no one in the NHL that can stop him. Basically on his line alone, the Oilers are scoring three-to-four goals per game.
He’s been insane, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has looked terrific with him. While no stud, Ty Rattie has looked good on the line too, and works hard each night to be in the right place and at least cash in on a few of McDavid’s unbelievable setups.
When McDavid isn’t on the ice, however, things are REALLY bad for the Oilers. Leon Draisaitl has played well, but that’s really about it. Jesse Puljujarvi looks lost most nights, Ryan Strome simply cannot produce offense consistently, and Milan Lucic has been a lost cause since Christmas. Seriously, Lucic has one goal in his last 41 games. Sure, bad luck plays a part, but he’s played horribly and simply doesn’t look interested most nights.
Edmonton’s depth players simply don’t score much. That has not changed since October and it likely won’t magically change over the summer either. Don’t get fooled by the wins lately, those are basically a product of Connor McDavid and his line doing things that no one else in the league can do or can stop. That’s the difference between right now and the rest of the season.
As Oilers’ play-by-play voice Jack Michaels tweeted out on Monday, Edmonton’s points % when McDavid doesn’t register a point is flat out bad. When number 97 doesn’t hit the scoresheet, the Oilers collect .182 % of the standings points available to them. Without McDavid, even right now, Edmonton is one of the worst teams in hockey.
Put another way, here’s some MVP candidates and their teams’ respective points % when they do NOT have a point…
— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) March 26, 2018
Don’t Forget About Cam:
The one other thing that’s been going right for the Oilers outside of the McDavid line? Cam Talbot is starting to look like his normal self again. Talbot was simply not good enough from game two of the season until the All-Star break, giving up bad goals, failing to make the big save for his team and giving the Oilers’ sub-par goaltending that cost them points.
Since February, Talbot has been digging out of his hole and playing good hockey for the most part. He’s not perfect, last night against Columbus proves that, but Talbot got his save percentage back up to .909 heading into last night’s game.
He’s been playing like the goalie that posted a .919 SV% last season, and it’s a big reason why Edmonton has been collecting points lately.
People should enjoy the show that Connor McDavid is putting on right now with Nugent-Hopkins and Rattie. Oiler fans take it for granted because McDavid is under contract for eight more years after this, but don’t. This is special, and it’s worth tuning in each and every night to see him play. He’s special and what he is doing right now is amazing.
That said, don’t get fooled by what he is doing. McDavid’s current performances are carrying the offense, while Cam Talbot is bailing out the defense and making enough saves to push games over the finish line. The Oilers aren’t winning hockey games right now because they magically figured things out, they are winning games because of the McDavid line and Talbot.
If last night’s 7-3 drubbing by Columbus, where Talbot simply couldn’t hold the fort and no one off the McDavid line had even a minimally positive impact, doesn’t prove that, then I’m not sure what will.
This recent stretch of play where the record has been good shouldn’t save Todd McLellan and his staff from losing their jobs. It shouldn’t save Peter Chiarelli from losing his job (Although I suspect he won’t be going anywhere). Nothing should change because McDavid and Talbot are carrying a woefully incapable roster to garbage time victories.
The Oilers have the potential to be a great organization again, a team that competes for the Cup on a yearly basis. Taking the cheese on this recent stretch can only hurt, not help moving forward.
The Oilers still have a lot of work to do if they actually want to turn a corner.