It’s hard to believe that the Oilers are where they are today. Sitting in a playoff spot with a 10 point cushion. 1 point out of first place in the division and 5 points out of first in the conference. 10th in the league. When the lineup was finally set for opening night, I felt that the team could push for a playoff spot. The team is better, stronger, tougher, more defensively responsible and scoring at a clip that is hard to believe since we are not getting much in the way of secondary scoring. This team is built for a playoff push and it’s exciting.
The Oilers sit atop the Pacific division after two back-to-back road wins. They hold a 5 point lead over the second place Anaheim Ducks and are one of the only two teams with a positive goal differential. The Sharks have lost 3 in a row and after two wins in a row the Kings are tied for third in the division. The Oilers have one more road game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They have collected 5 points in four games and are heading in the right direction.
I made a bet last night with someone last night who is still mad about the Hall trade and critical of the Russell signing. I bet that Lucic would get more points than Hall this season. Do I really think that’s the best bet I have ever made? No, not at all. It was a total fanboy bet – you know why? Because I am a fan. I like to play pretend GM and when the Oilers had 374 glaring holes it was easy. No team is complete and the moves Chia has made, while widely polarizing, have provided a more complete team.
This may not be what any Oiler fan wants to hear but…I think this offseason tinkering is done.
The Oilers got fleeced. They got their man, but they paid dearly. But, clearly that is what the market was for a minute-munching right-handed defenseman capable of handling that kind of workload. I trust that Chiarelli dangled Hall in front of the 16 GMs out East and came to the conclusion that this was the best he was going to get. Need for need, the deal makes sense. But, when I first heard it was Larsson, I was expecting Smith-Pelley, a draft pick or Sevenson to be the rest of the package. Even when the dust settled yesterday I was still expecting the Oil to get a sweetener out of it. I had heard NJ was a possible trade partner but I thought it was going to be a lesser deal. Certainly not one that involved Hall.
Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers entered this past draft weekend ready to wheel and deal. It was common knowledge that the Oilers’ brass were looking to land their top 4 defenseman and that the #4 pick was in play. That all changed when ChiaPete and his Merry Men gauged the draft floor and came to believe that Puljujarvi would fall to them at 4. It is believed that the big, fast, right shot will be able to step in right away and play at the NHL level. This is a player that is the second-highest scoring under 18 player at the WJC behind only Jagr. A player that lead that tournament in scoring as a 17 year old and that was also named tournament MVP. I put a lot of stock into the WJC performances. Maybe too much, but I have been watching the tournament since I was a kid and there are few names that go on to the big show that pass through this tournament that I do not recognize. If you would have told me after this tournament that Puljujarvi would be an Oiler, I would have been excited. January-May ISS rankings had him at #2. Not until the final rankings came out did Laine overtake him. This is an exciting development for the Oilers forward group.
Can the Oilers beat the Sharks tonight? A quick poll of a few friends would say no. The Sharks are coming off an overtime win last night down Highway 2 against the lowly Flames. The Flames outshot the Sharks 48-23 last night and Martin Jones stole the game enough to get it into OT for Pavelski to end it for the Sharks. Tonight, the Sharks will likely start James Reimer. In his past 4 starts, he has posted the following save % numbers:
You know what I liked about the Leafs last few moves? They aren’t hanging onto a losing culture. They traded away a 40 goal scorer and perennial top 20 point getter and their captain with no regrets. They moved on. The management didn’t get attached to the players and made the moves they had to make in order to put the plans in place to sign their own players and build the team the way they want it built.
What if the Oilers can put together a string of wins and points to make a serious playoff push to end out the season in the final days of Rexall Place? Why not? The Sens did it last year at the end of the season, finishing 23-4-4. They did it on the back of amazing goaltending by the Hamburgler and some good bounces and solid team play. The Oilers made a late surge in 2006 to squeak into the playoffs and it was magic. What if?
A guy can dare to dream, but there was one point of view that struck a chord with me last night while I was scrolling through the Twitterverse. What if the Edmonton Oilers change the way the game is played? What if we don’t need another defenseman? What if we are just able to keep scoring so many goals that it doesn’t matter? I know that this flies in the face of everything that the 90’s to 2000’s have taught us…but, what if? What if we are watching the team that is about to change the way the game is played? What if we don’t need to trade Eberle or RNH or anyone, for that matter? What if this is the system where spare parts like Teddy Purcell can thrive? Every generation in every sport has a team that changes the way the game has been played. What if we are watching the beginning of something special? What if we are watching the reinvention of the game?
If a team is facing Draisaitl and Hall followed by McDavid followed by RNH and Eberle…does it really matter who is playing defense? Of course the answer is yes, but…what if? What if a D corps that features Nurse, Sekera, Klefbom and my drunk uncle is good enough to get it done with those forwards? What if?
In the NFL you are supposed to play good defense and run the ball. That’s how you win. Tell that to Tom Brady and Bill Billichek, who haven’t had a consistent running game in a decade yet have won more than any other team in that time. Sometimes, the right people can make it work. What if it’s Edmonton’s time?
Connor McDavid made his return to the Oilers’ lineup last night and he did not disappoint. He scored the nicest goal that I have ever seen live tonight when he fought off two defenders with the puck seemingly on a string, then pantsed the goaltender before tucking it home. He drove the play all game and every time he touched the puck he was a danger to score or create something incredible. He played on a line with Eberle and Pouliot and while they both had decent games on the scoresheet, I wasn’t overly impressed by either of his wingers. I am of the firm belief that you can take any two capable NHL players that can get the puck off the wall and make a tape-to-tape pass and they will fit in just fine with 97.