2013-14 Division Rivals: Edmonton Oilers vs. Vancouver Canucks

Jonathan Willis
August 13 2013 09:26AM

Our stroll through Edmonton's new division continues today with a look at the Vancouver Canucks.

As with yesterday’s look at the Anaheim Ducks, I’ve included one basic statistic at each position on the depth charts below. For forwards, I’ve used points from last season projected over an 82-game schedule, for defencemen time on ice per game in 2012-13, and for goalies their 2012-13 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.

And again, the same caveat: these depth charts are my best approximation of each team and the line combinations are not intended to be chisled on stone tablets.

Forwards

It’s surprising how quickly the Oilers seem to have closed the gap with Vancouver up front. With an aging core and salary concerns cutting into their depth, the Canucks don’t look especially formidable on paper.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin form the nucleus of a strong top line, while Alex Burrows is a strong complementary player, but it isn’t a group that particularly overshadows the Oilers’ young trio. Ryan Kesler, if healthy, is a superb second line centre; he left a major hole in Vancouver’s lineup last season but now he’s back. Vancouver has less raw offensive talent on the wings of their second line than Edmonton, but with two strong two-way players and Kesler, that’s probably a better line overall.

The bottom six doesn’t look much different. The Oilers have Boyd Gordon and question marks at centre; the Canucks have a good fourth-line guy and question marks. Nothing is particularly inspiring about Vancouver’s third and fourth line wingers – if Chris Higgins bounces back and Zack Kassian steps forward they’ll be in good shape (particularly if Kassian can move into the top-six), but on the whole there are at least as many questions as there are with Edmonton’s group.

Given Edmonton’s blend of youth and the Canucks’ shoddy depth, it seems reasonable to project this as a close matchup.

Defence and Goaltending

Defence, on the other hand, isn’t close. Look at it this way: Jeff Petry was the Oilers’ number one defenceman last year, and while he may well be eclipsed by Justin Schultz this year he’s the incumbent. Where would he slot on Vancouver’s depth chart? To me, it looks like he’d be battling with Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev for the number four slot. The Canucks don’t have an overpowering number one defenceman, but they have a lot of very good players and a nice mix of skillsets on the back end.

Depth-wise, the Oilers can feel good on their blue line, but given the mismatch at the top end that’s little comfort.

Goaltending is an interesting position for the Canucks. Roberto Luongo is a superb goaltender, but he’s had a troubled relationship with the team. If he comes in and plays the way he can, than Vancouver looks good – Eriksson and Lack can fight for the number two role with little chance of hurting the team.

Overall

After years as one of the West’s dominant teams, cracks are starting to show in Vancouver, particularly up front. A team that once boasted high-end talent and exceptional depth at all positions still has the former but can seemingly no longer afford the latter. It’s a team that can still contend in the here and now, but could use some re-tooling up front. Barring a Luongo collapse, however, they should be near the top of the Pacific Division.

This is a team the Oilers can only catch if there’s a significant meltdown.

Recently around the Nation Network

And here's some news directly relevant to that depth chart above: the Canucks are having a lot of trouble getting Chris Tanev under contract, and now his agent is talking about the KHL. It sounds more to me like an agent deciding he has pretty much zero leverage and had better find something to push with, but Canucks Army's Patrick Johnston suggests it won't be a huge deal if Tanev decides to leave:

So he may go, he may not. Is he replaceable? Probably? Would it be a loss? Yes, it most certainly would. Solid NHLers on cheap contracts are very valuable, and his role on the team's back-end can't be overlooked. But it wouldn't be a disaster.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 A-Mc
August 13 2013, 12:35PM
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Has the season started yet??? *groan* I'm bored and all this speculation gets us no where!

We need more HOCKEY! PVR'd games are getting old now.

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#52 DSF
August 13 2013, 12:51PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:
In a cap world...it's very difficult to create a linear projection of how teams will fare two or three years from now.

yet it seems like only yesterday you laid out a 10 year projection for the Minnesota Wild

Big difference between "the ship is sinking" and positioning a team to be a playoff contender for a long time.

Minnesota is in great shape with a very solid core and one of the best prospect pipeline's in the NHL.

Like all good teams they are built from the back end out with solid goaltending, a stud #1D and great centre depth.

Still need some tweaks on D but otherwise a solid, solid team.

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#53 DSF
August 13 2013, 05:26PM
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French Toast Mafia wrote:

You actually think Bo Horvat can play in the NHL?

Always hard to tell with rookies but Horvat has a very well developed two way game and the size, 210 pounds, to maybe pull it it off.

Here's a scouting report from Corey Pronman:

Horvat is one of the most complete forwards in this draft. He is tough, hard working, and defensively skilled, with enough offensive ability to project as a scoring line player. He was a top player for one of the best teams in the CHL.

He is a good skater, with a technically sound stride, as he picks up speed quickly and easily. He is a strong, physical center who will lay the body, displaying the two-way work ethic NHL teams want to see. He is an aware penalty killer, good at faceoffs, and overall projects as a center who will start his shift in the defensive zone more often than not.

His creativity progressed throughout this season, and his puck skills, hand-eye coordination, and playmaking vision all rank as above average; he can flash high-end offensive skill. It is difficult to find a weakness in his game.

Submitted by: Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus.

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#54 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
August 13 2013, 07:52PM
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Until the management of the Oilers has the guts to move one of our top five young players for a little more size and grit this is team will continue to stay on the outside looking in. The silver lining to me is I think MacT has the vision to pull the trigger on a deal if it's the right fit.

The ebb and flow of the NHL off season is a great chance for all of us to play arm chair manager. I like change. There's nothing more exciting to me then seeing a new player in Oilers silk. I think as MacT's tenure gets into full swing we will at least get some player movement that "rolls the dice" instead of being scared to fail. This will be interesting

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#55 Alsker
August 13 2013, 09:44PM
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Mildly off topic(sorry) but Kent Wilson has an article up in cowpoke nation that claims we finish behind the shames...where the f#&k is that trash button option for articles..lol..

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#56 Rama Lama
August 13 2013, 10:36AM
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This may be a little off topic........I was trying to do an asessment on an individual Oiler player and went to the Oilers website.

It seems to me that all the weights atributed to players are grossly incorrect. In fact I'm starting to suspect that they do this intentionally. Am I missing something?

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#57 Rama Lama
August 13 2013, 10:55AM
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@Jonathan Willis

As an example they have Travis Ewanyk at 6 ' and 175 lbs.........that makes him way smaller than RNH at 6'1 and 185 lbs.

RNH to my eye does not even make 160 lbs? Too many inconsistencies to mention, especially on the prospect side.

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