Today, at long last, we’ll look at the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton Oilers – 249 goals for, 208 goals against (4th in the Western Conference, 2nd in the Pacific)
McDavid – Generational talent and may be more. Could be one of those rare players who re-shape the way the game is played by the sheer force of their skill. Every hockey fan alive should count their blessings they have the opportunity to see him live, even Flames fans.
Draisaitl – A slow-developing 1st line talent who has the great fortune to play behind McDavid. Otherwise his career would be in trouble already as fans and management would inevitably lose patience. Expected he’ll begin the gradual shift to 2nd line center this season.
Nugent-Hopkins – Reputation as a shut-down 1st line player who posts 5v4 offense still has enough gas left to be worth considering, but the salary cap and Chiarelli’s own signing of Sekera and Russell to NMCs means he may be living on borrowed time here in Edmonton. Chance he centers the 3rd line could open up terrific opportunities.
Lucic – Has a history as an effective 1st line W, but overshadowed by Maroon in the role, the contract is divisive amongst fans because of circumstances surrounding it, but if Milan Lucic is your 2nd line left-winger, things likely aren’t so bad. He has a long career to look back on and everything in it suggests last season was the outlier.
Jokinen – Pouliot replacement, effective from the 2nd line down.
Strome – The Flames have Lazar and the Oilers have Strome. Strome posts better offense and the Flames didn’t give up a proven NHL asset. He’ll have a chance to prove himself this season and I expect he’ll be given lots of time to adjust.
Maroon – His WOWYs suggest he can drive play reasonably well by himself, though his effectiveness with McDavid would allow McLellan to give Draisaitl his own line.
Letestu – Effective 4th line C who comes off the books this coming summer and should not be re-signed.
Caggiula – Best deployment was in a depth role, but he can capitalize when playing with skilled players in limited minutes. Ideal in a 3rd line role.
Kassian – Ideal depth winger, should not be deployed higher than 2nd line, excellent on the 3rd line and below, PK work will lengthen his career.
Puljujarvi – Excellent showing in limited minutes, by these possession standards. This season will provide more information and improved possession numbers vs elite competition, regardless of offense, is what is needed here.
Slepyshev – Like Caggiula, good depth forward.
Khaira – Depth forward expected to receive a push this season, provided he can remain healthy.
Klefbom – He’s entering his draft +6 year and establishing himself as a clear 1st pairing defender. Injuries have delayed his arrival, but he’s beginning to be noticed around the league.
Larsson – A good foil to Klefbom’s skill set, Larsson, like Klefbom, is entering a more stable, effective range.
Nurse – Visually, Nurse impresses with his speed, skating and physicality. His possession numbers – never the best way to solely judge a defenseman – need improving but he appears to be headed in the direction of being a capable 2nd pairing player.
Russell – An effective 3rd pairing defender typically deployed in a 2nd pairing role. The die is cast, nothing to do now but watch.
Auvitu – An interesting bet by the organization, but the same size for this player is quite small. I’d suggest he’s a fair bet as a bottom pairing player for the time being.
Benning – Intriguing range of numbers suggest the Oilers may have stumbled upon a smaller, skilled, right-handed defenseman with 1st pairing potential. As Lowetide would say, if we didn’t have him we’d have to make him up.
Sekera – Solid 2nd pairing player who excels when sheltered by a strong 1st pairing. He’s all the good things Steve Staios was.
Gryba – Dependable 3rd pairing player with surprisingly positive possession numbers in his ideal role. Best suited to rotation on the bottom pairing at around 40 games a season.
Talbot – His acquisition by Chiarelli set the bar for what teams are trying to do now to address goaltending issues. He’s a starter and some are already ringing the bell about the cap issues involved with re-signing this player.
Brossoit – Drafted in 2011, six years on he is finally entering the phase of his career where he will be given the opportunity to become a backup. I’ve watched Brossoit from his rookie WHL season and while he has potential and often makes big saves, it is the consistency and details that have at times been his undoing. He’s had plenty of time to develop over the years and I hope to see a more refined player this season.
Edmonton goes to work each night knowing they have the best player in the league playing for them. That counts for something. By the same token, it means that rather than hiding behind this talent, the rest of the team, management included, owes it to him to perform to their best in pursuit of championships. Anything less during McDavid’s brief time here would be a waste. They dominate the opposition during those minutes when McDavid is on the ice. If they can be a top-ten team 5v5 when he’s off the ice…well, then the sky is the limit.