It’s mid-August and we inch closer to the new hockey season. Publications are releasing their fantasy magazines and hockey yearbooks with predictions.
The NHL Network and various websites have been doing an analysis of every team in the NHL, including our Edmonton Oilers.
I will be looking at exclusively with some
extremely bold predictions regarding the Edmonton Oilers.
5. Connor McDavid will be Captain
There’s practically a 99.5% chance of Connor McDavid entering the 2016-2017 season as the latest Edmonton Oilers captain. I wrote about the eventual move happening a few weeks ago.
My stance on this has not changed: Connor McDavid is the face of the franchise. McDavid was the face of the franchise before even stepping on the ice as a member of the team! Yes, he would be the youngest captain in NHL history but that does not change the fact that McDavid is all but ready for the next step.
McDavid is already a leader in the dressing room and is a key reason for Andrej Sekera and Milan Lucic signing with the club. Veterans already regard him as the guy in the dressing room. No, he’s not your Mark Messier type captain but more like (gasp) Wayne Gretzky. McDavid will let his leadership be shown by the way he plays on the ice.
4. Milan Lucic wins the fans over quickly
I had Milan Lucic being number three for feeling the pressure this upcoming season in another post. That said, Lucic will quickly win the fans over with the type of game that he plays. Finally, the days of trying to draft a Milan Lucic (with a slew of wasted draft picks) are over as the Oilers signed the prototype himself.
Sure, Lucic steps in to take over Taylor Hall’s spot as number one left wing but by November, Lucic jerseys will be flying off the shelves. He will win the fans over with some huge hits, a surly attitude when another player attempts to hit McDavid, and his constant work ethic. Oilers fans love their lunch pail players and Lucic is one of those and then some.
3. Jonas Gustavsson struggles; Brossoit plays more games
The Jonas Gustavsson signing is one I am still not a fan of. Of all the off season moves, this is the one I hate the most.
Yes, even more than trading Taylor Hall away. With the Hall trade, the Oilers lost it, but filled a need and made the team more balanced. I can get behind that.
Gustavsson, on the other hand, is a mediocre backup goalie. There were way better options out there: Chad Johnson was the best backup available and he’s in Calgary; Al Montoya played decent in Florida, he’s now in Montreal; Jhonas Enroth is still available and posted better stats than the goalie known as “The Monster.”
There are some very valid concerns around Gustavsson the goalie. For example, Anders Nilsson posted a slightly worse save percentage than Gustavsson (0.901 SV% vs 0.908 SV%). Gustavsson has never posted a save percentage north of 0.914, which is considered a league average.
I have few expectations for the back up goalie and I think Brossoit will over take him at some point this season. Jonas Gustavsson is more like Jason LaBarbera than Mathieu Garon, and I think he loses his job at some point this season.
2. Jesse Puljujarvi plays for the Oilers from the get go
There is some debate whether Puljujarvi should start in the AHL or not, but the Oilers have shown a history of slotting their top picks into the lineup. However, this time around, Puljujarvi should be playing on the third line with some soft minutes with Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl. My forward depth chart looks like the following:
This really depends on Yakupov not struggling or not. If Yakupov can produce with either McDavid or Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi should be fine on the third line. I have Puljujarvi getting around 40 points this season, perhaps a hair lower.
1. The Pacific Division Standings…Oilers miss playoffs
The Pacific Division could look like this at the end of the 2016-17 season:
- San Jose Sharks
- Los Angeles Kings
- Anaheim Ducks
- Calgary Flames
- Edmonton Oilers
- Arizona Coyotes
- Vancouver Canucks
Bold are the teams who make the playoffs, although the 4th spot is a toss up depending on the Central Division. In the Central, I have Dallas, Nashville, Chicago and St. Louis making the playoffs but the Wild could also contend for the wildcard spot.
San Jose did not lose any major pieces this off season and added Boedker and Schlemko. They should be sitting pretty at the top of the Pacific. The Kings lost Lucic to Edmonton, but still have a solid core of Kopitar, Carter, Toffoli, Doughty and Quick. I was not impressed with the Ducks this offseason. They did little to fill their depth in the top six after losing David Perron. The big three of Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler are all north of 30 and the window is closing. The Flames addressed their biggest need in goal and should rebound nicely. I do not like Arizona’s forward depth at the moment and the Canucks I have no clue what they are doing as an organization.
The Oilers will be fighting for a playoff spot, which is a far cry from finishing in the basement. They will miss the playoffs but I feel the Pacific’s landscape is changing. The Sharks, Kings and Ducks are all getting older. The Sharks have Marleau, Thornton and Burns as UFAs after this season. The Kings have constant cap headaches with that awful Dustin Brown contract.
In a few years, the top three will be interchangeable between Calgary, Edmonton and Arizona. I think it’s a matter of when, rather than if.