August 12 2013 08:31AM
The Edmonton Oilers have moved to the new Pacific Division, and with the summer free agent splurge all but over it’s a good time to see how they stack up against their rivals. We start with the Anaheim Ducks, who with 66 points last season would have led all teams in the new division.
For forwards, I’ve used points from last season projected over an 82-game schedule, for defencemen time on ice per game in 2013, and for goalies their 2013 save percentage. Players in italics did not play a significant number of games in the NHL in 2012-13; red indicates numbers come from the AHL or Europe while green indicates a previous NHL season.
The exact combinations obviously involve a bit of guesswork, and the Ducks combos in particular are a little more difficult because I’m not as familiar with them. I’ve left last year’s successful Cogliano/Koivu/Winnik trio together, and plugged in Dustin Penner on the top line for now – though of course newcomer Jakob Silfverberg may get the job, or Kyle Palmieri or Matt Beleskey (both of the latter saw some time with Perry and Getzlaf last season).
There are two obvious things that jump out about the chart above. First, the Oilers have seven players who were on pace for 40+ points last season; the Ducks have only four (though we’re splitting hairs a little given Cogliano and Bonino). Second, the bottom half of the Ducks roster looks a lot more potent than the same part of the Edmonton depth chart.
Assuming head-to-head matchups with these lines, I like the Getzlaf trio a little better than the Oilers’ kids right now, but not a lot better. For the second line matchup, I think Edmonton’s group is a better bet – Cogliano’s coming off a career-best season, Daniel Winnik has never hit 30 points in the NHL and Saku Koivu turns 39 in November. If all goes well, the Ducks have a solid group there, but a lot could go wrong. Luckily for Anaheim, they have bottom-six depth the Oilers can’t match – while I wouldn’t especially want to bet on Bonino and Beleskey, the other four guys in the group are all young and have significant upside. Anaheim’s been top-heavy for years, but they finally have a young NHL group that can address that problem.
Overall, Edmonton doesn’t match up terribly in the top-six but their depth group doesn’t look particularly good compared to the Ducks.
Defence and Goaltending
On defence, the Oilers match up pretty well in the two through eight slots; I would even be inclined to give them the edge in the depth game. The difference is in the number one slot: Francois Beauchemin is a fantastic defenceman and until they show otherwise the Oilers don’t really have a comparable all-round rearguard on their roster.
In net, I’m not convinced that Devan Dubnyk is worse than any of the goalies on the Ducks’ roster, but backups don’t come much better than Viktor Fasth and Frederik Andersen is an incredible prospect with upside that Richard Bachman simply doesn’t possess.
Again, it’s competitive but the Ducks have a lead overall in my view.
I’m not convinced that the Ducks will end up winning the Pacific Division; they rode the percentages last season and weren’t able to consistently out-shoot the other team. In the three full seasons leading up to last year, the Ducks fired at an 8.6, 8.4 and 8.2 shooting percentage at even-strength; last season they fired at a 9.4 percent clip. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but over a full season that alone works out to roughly 15 goals. Still, I feel comfortable guessing they’ll likely outperform the Oilers next season.
This is a team that the Oilers could catch with a strong season.
Recently around the Nation Network
At NHL Numbers, new writer Travis Yost breaks down every Western team's Corsi - that's shots, missed shots and blocked shots, which gives us an idea of which team controls possession - and the Edmonton Oilers in particular don't fare so well. Click the link for the shiny graph, though this segment from his conclusion may discourage our readers:
Just stare at it. Don't look away. Don't even blink. If you're an Oilers fan who watched even-half of last year's circus, you are a masochist for awful hockey. And if you made it through the entire season, you deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff: