2013-14 Division Rivals: Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings

Jonathan Willis
August 15 2013 10:21AM

Nail Yakupov found some magic against the Kings last year - but how do the Oilers as a team look to matchup against Los Angeles this coming season?

As with previous looks at the Anaheim and Vancouver, 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 should not be seen as definitive.

Forwards

The Kings’ top line, despite less than overwhelming offensive totals, is a superb group. Anze Kopitar is the complete package at centre, while Dustin Brown is a physical presence, a competent scorer, and the league’s most efficient penalty-drawing machine. Justin Williams is simply an outstanding hockey player – particularly at even-strength – and contributes in all areas. In terms of flash, Edmonton’s top line outshines them, but they don’t bring the complete game the Kings’ group does.

Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are both capable of playing first-line minutes; they’ll likely play together on a second line with a winger yet to be determined. Regardless of whether that winger is Frattin or Toffoli or Pearson or Clifford or King, this line should fare well in an auxiliary role.

The Kings’ bottom stands up pretty well too and certainly outshines the Oilers’ group. Jarret Stoll has morphed into a defensive workhorse over the course of his career, and he, Dwight King and Trevor Lewis have formed an effective third line in recent years. Pearson and Toffoli give the Kings offensive options, Clifford’s a physical presence who can play and the rest aren’t asked to do more than they’re capable of doing.

It’s almost the same group that won the Stanley Cup two years ago, and there’s a lot to like about it. The Oilers don’t have any reason to be ashamed of their collection of forward talent but their group needs more depth, better defensive play and probably an infusion of some size and pugnacity to match the Kings.

Defence and Goaltending

The Kings’ blue line isn’t really all that different from the Oilers – it has a good, competent group at the bottom and some question marks in the top-four. The difference is Drew Doughty, who is in the conversation as the game’s best defenceman; he makes the entire group better. The presence of Doughty and a good depth group is why the Kings feel they can take chances with a past-his-prime Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell (who didn’t play last year).

Minus Doughty, and the Oilers might have a slight edge defensively. Add Doughty to the mix, and it isn’t close.

In net, Jonathan Quick is likely neither as good as he looked in 2011-12 (prompting Los Angeles to sign him to a decade-long contract) or as bad as he looked during the 2013 regular season, where he posted a miserable 0.902 save percentage and was a key reason the Kings didn’t enter the playoffs with home ice. In my opinion, the goaltending matchup between Los Angeles and Edmonton is closer than the respective reputations of Quick and Dubnyk would suggest, but I would still give the Kings the edge.

Overall

Last year, the Kings weren’t among the West’s elite largely thanks to the struggles of Jonathan Quick. Quick’s likely to bounce back, and the core of the 2012 Stanley Cup champions remains in place.

Either a lot has to go right, a lot has to go wrong, or both for the Oilers to have a realistic shot at surpassing Los Angeles this season.

Recently around the Nation Network

Does a big step forward - or, conversely, a step backward - in a player's first year after being drafted give a strong indication of his NHL future? At Flames Nation, Justin Azevedo argues that it does:

Taking a step back in a +1 year might not mean a given player is significantly less likely to make the NHL, but it does suggest that he is a lot less likely to be elite and/or will probably be replacement level. To me, it seems there is enough evidence to suggest that the bigger the step forward, the better chance a player has to join elite company. There also seems to be a correlation between an increase in NHLE in a player's +1 year and the quality of the player overall. Of course, there are exceptions, but if you're drafting players and expecting exceptions you're probably doing something wrong.

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, Sportsnet, 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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#1 2004Z06
August 15 2013, 10:32AM
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What the stats don't show is work ethic, commitment and experience. LA has this in spades. The Oilers have a long way to go to even be in the same conversation.

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#2 Supernova
August 15 2013, 10:52AM
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Jon,

Question for you.

How do you think Slava Voynov and Justin Schultz compare?

Seems to be a close comparable for a contract maybe.

LA is the class of the division, if Doughty went down they would be vulnerable on D but so would any team that lost its top D, LA's biggest weakness was speed and offensive creativity. With toffoli likely being a top 6 player that helps to address that.

For so,e reason I always felt if LA lost Williams they would want Hemsky. He is so much different then what they have, it might be a really good thing.

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#3 Geoff
August 15 2013, 10:53AM
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I love that goal that yakupov scored. So much frustration leading up to that point then BAM.

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#4 Mantastic
August 15 2013, 10:57AM
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i'm surprised how well we compare against LA because i forgot how bad their offense was even though their corsi was elite.

i still think LA and SJ will be the class of the division based on good depth and style of play.

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#6 Where's Your Towel
August 15 2013, 11:13AM
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I'd put the ceiling at winning the season series vs LA and that's quite wishful.

This is what a team that has identified its core and filled the holes looks like.

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#7 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
August 15 2013, 11:18AM
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Yak had to be nimble, and yes he did beat Quick.

Unfortunately, that was the end of the highlites for that shortened season.

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#8 They're $hittie
August 15 2013, 11:23AM
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HAs anyone gone back to the beginning and seen what DSF's Dakin rating is. Im going to guess - 428

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#9 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
August 15 2013, 12:44PM
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Frankly autocorrect, i'm getting a little tired of your shirt!

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#10 RomZ
August 15 2013, 12:55PM
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I was at that game vs LA. The only way to replicate that kind of electricity in the building would be a playoff berth. I get chills every time I see that goal by Yak. I've not been to an oiler playoff game but that is the best game I've ever witnessed live, and I was also at the 9-2 drubbing we gave Chicago a couple years ago.

Jon, after your analysis I didn't realize we compared quite well vs the Kings outside of overall size, and strength. Just like Vancouver the kings are pretty slow out of the gate to open the season, and tend to hit their stride as the months go by.

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#11 The Last Big Bear
August 15 2013, 01:26PM
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I think LA is willing to gamble on guys like Regehr and Mitchell because they have Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, or Jarret Stoll as the 3rd man in to any defensive zone battle.

Thus illustrating the most important rule of "Defence by committee", which is:

Your centremen are part of the committee.

I expect Edmonton will struggle to achieve the same effect with a line-up of a Recovering-from-injury RNH, Sam Gagner, and Boyd Gordon.

But overall I agree with essentially this entire article.

The only thing it's missing is a photoshop of Regehr standing at the sidewall during warm ups with a big sign for Hemsky saying "DID YOU MISS ME??"

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#12 Lochenzo
August 15 2013, 02:26PM
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On paper, this team scares me more than the other two presented so far. However, the Kings have not really been overly impressive during the regular season over the past couple of years. So maybe the Oilers can catch them napping a couple of times during the regular season. Losing Scuderi may hurt Doughty more than people may think. But this LA team will play like a Stanley Cup contender come playoff time. It'd be nice for the Oil to match up against an LA or Chicago in the playoffs next year, just so the Oil kids learn where the yardsticks are.

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#13 Supernova
August 15 2013, 02:39PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Off the top of my head, I'd say Voynov's more polished and Schultz is more dynamic. Last season I'd rather have had Voynov on my blue line; long term I suspect Schultz has a higher ceiling.

I really like both players.

Voynov signed for 6 years and 25 million.

do you think a fair estimate for Schultz might be 5 years for 25 million or 6 for 30 million?

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#15 Rod from Viking
August 15 2013, 03:18PM
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Belanger won that draw so clean, too bad his attitude was so brutal, that was exactly the situation he was signed for, last minute crucial face-offs

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#16 DSF
August 15 2013, 05:17PM
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JW...you are severely under rating LA's defense.

The Oilers have ONE defenseman with offensive chops...LA has THREE.

P/60 5V5

Doughty, while having a puzzling low point total last season, is a given but Voynov and Muzzin were very, very good.

Muzzin finally got significant PP time and it paid off.

P/60 5V4:

* J Schultz 5.06

Voynov 4.80

Muzzin 4.16

Doughty 3.39

* Potter 1.69

* Petry 0.00

Considering Doughty, is only 23, Voynov 23 and Muzzin 24, the Kings D is spectacular.

Perhaps Klefbom and Nurse will close that gap in the years ahead but it's highly likely LA's young studs keep improving too.

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#17 YFC Prez
August 15 2013, 06:04PM
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I love that clip. The night the kings paid the price and I fell desperately in love with Nail Yakupov.

That and his reaction when steeping on the ice for the first time at rexall in an episode of oil change.

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#18 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 15 2013, 06:05PM
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@DSF

what's the year over year fluctuation of D with PP points?

I genuinely don't know the trends, but instinct says it is something that hops up and down a lot and best not to bank on.

That said, I don't think JW is underestimating LA's D. He gave them adequate props. That's a damn good team. Damn good.

But they aren't Van on the D.

Also, D and points are important but hardly all that matters. Doughty had a down year, but only people not paying attn. would claim he isn't amazing because of it.

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#19 DSF
August 15 2013, 06:22PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

what's the year over year fluctuation of D with PP points?

I genuinely don't know the trends, but instinct says it is something that hops up and down a lot and best not to bank on.

That said, I don't think JW is underestimating LA's D. He gave them adequate props. That's a damn good team. Damn good.

But they aren't Van on the D.

Also, D and points are important but hardly all that matters. Doughty had a down year, but only people not paying attn. would claim he isn't amazing because of it.

Oh, I agree PP points can be a bit sketchy year over year and that's hardly the only way to assess a defenseman.

But it should be remembered that also applies to Schultz.

EV points last season:

Voynov 17

* Schultz 12

Doughty 12

* Petry 11

Muzzin 9

* N. Schultz 9

JW asserted that the Kings D (minus Doughty) is pretty similar to the Oilers but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Voynov, at this point is better than J. Schultz (and the same age) while I would take Muzzin in a heartbeat over any Oilers defenseman not named Schultz.

It's difficult to suss out their defensive abilities due to team effects, but every indication is that Doughty, Voynov and Muzzin are very good defenders while Schultz and Petry are an exercise in wishing and hoping.

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#20 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 15 2013, 06:40PM
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DSF wrote:

Oh, I agree PP points can be a bit sketchy year over year and that's hardly the only way to assess a defenseman.

But it should be remembered that also applies to Schultz.

EV points last season:

Voynov 17

* Schultz 12

Doughty 12

* Petry 11

Muzzin 9

* N. Schultz 9

JW asserted that the Kings D (minus Doughty) is pretty similar to the Oilers but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Voynov, at this point is better than J. Schultz (and the same age) while I would take Muzzin in a heartbeat over any Oilers defenseman not named Schultz.

It's difficult to suss out their defensive abilities due to team effects, but every indication is that Doughty, Voynov and Muzzin are very good defenders while Schultz and Petry are an exercise in wishing and hoping.

I think you over-rate the LAK here and under-rate the Oil.

Everyone agrees Voynov is better "right now." Great player. One of those that EDM fans would hate for his lack of size and crushing hits.

Muzzin looks great too. But I don't know if he's better than all the Oil not named Schultz. I think you have to blue-sky his next 5 years to reach that conclusion. Right now, he's a very good player with upside.

Not sure why Petry is getting the diss from you.

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#21 Citizen David
August 15 2013, 07:18PM
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Petry Smid Ference and Justin Schultz give us a top four that I'm ok with. We also don't know what Belov will bring. I don't think Defence will be the glaring problem this year that it was last year.

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#22 DSF
August 15 2013, 07:25PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

I think you over-rate the LAK here and under-rate the Oil.

Everyone agrees Voynov is better "right now." Great player. One of those that EDM fans would hate for his lack of size and crushing hits.

Muzzin looks great too. But I don't know if he's better than all the Oil not named Schultz. I think you have to blue-sky his next 5 years to reach that conclusion. Right now, he's a very good player with upside.

Not sure why Petry is getting the diss from you.

Didn't diss Petry at all.

But he would be a bottom pairing defenseman on the Kings.

Doughty-Voynov

Muzzin- Regher

Greene-Scuderi/Mitchell/Martinez

The numbers indicate he's a pretty pedestrian defenseman.

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#23 DSF
August 15 2013, 07:34PM
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Citizen David wrote:

Petry Smid Ference and Justin Schultz give us a top four that I'm ok with. We also don't know what Belov will bring. I don't think Defence will be the glaring problem this year that it was last year.

Petry and Smid were dreadful last season.

Smid's Corsi ON was -13.27

Petry's was -12.29.

That's really, really bad.

Jake Muzzin had the best Corsi ON of all defensemen in the NHL at +27.59

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#24 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 15 2013, 07:55PM
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DSF wrote:

Petry and Smid were dreadful last season.

Smid's Corsi ON was -13.27

Petry's was -12.29.

That's really, really bad.

Jake Muzzin had the best Corsi ON of all defensemen in the NHL at +27.59

The year before, a full 82 game season, Smid and Petry were great.

They weren't dreadful last year either. They simply weren't great, were playing up the depth chart too far, with a crappy system and on a crappy team.

I think Petry is a two shades above "pedestrian" and still has upside. But, if we are arguing whether he is amazing or dreadful we aren't having a very good conversation about Petry.

He's better than pedestrian, much better than dreadful and far behind amazing. good place for a #3 or 4 to be.

ps. you're using corsi again. weird.

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#25 DSF
August 15 2013, 08:25PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

The year before, a full 82 game season, Smid and Petry were great.

They weren't dreadful last year either. They simply weren't great, were playing up the depth chart too far, with a crappy system and on a crappy team.

I think Petry is a two shades above "pedestrian" and still has upside. But, if we are arguing whether he is amazing or dreadful we aren't having a very good conversation about Petry.

He's better than pedestrian, much better than dreadful and far behind amazing. good place for a #3 or 4 to be.

ps. you're using corsi again. weird.

Well, you can blame individual performance on a "crappy team and crappy system" forever and a day but good players have an effect on both.

Petry has now played for Renney and Kreuger and has done very little to indicate he's a top pairing defenseman.

And, while you may think he has upside, he's about to turn 26, and is likely more in the Keith Ballard range than the Jake Muzzin range.

I'd be interested in some evidence that he is more than I think he is.

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#28 DSF
August 15 2013, 08:59PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The other way to look at that last comment is to imagine what the Oilers blue line would look like if they added a Doughty or Pietrangelo or Weber or Letang or Subban on the right side; even nixing Petry that's a pretty good looking group:

Smid - LEGIT #1

Ference - J. Schultz

D. Grebeshkov - N. Schultz

Does anyone here doubt that Ladislav Smid would excel if he were playing beside Doughty in Los Angeles? I don't - given that he held his own in the last half of 2011-12 in tough minutes beside Jeff Petry, a fine defenceman but not an elite one.

One elite defenceman covers for a multitude of other sins.

Do you really think LA would employ Smid to play with Doughty under any circumstances?

I guess if you think he is superior to Regher, you may have a point.

Show your work.

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#29 madjam
August 15 2013, 09:05PM
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L.A. not a great regular season team . Big and tough , but vulnerable to speedy teams like the Oilers . San Jose also vulnerable to speedy teams . I doubt either will have much success against us trying to slow the game down to their comfortable level .

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#32 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 15 2013, 09:39PM
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DSF wrote:

Well, you can blame individual performance on a "crappy team and crappy system" forever and a day but good players have an effect on both.

Petry has now played for Renney and Kreuger and has done very little to indicate he's a top pairing defenseman.

And, while you may think he has upside, he's about to turn 26, and is likely more in the Keith Ballard range than the Jake Muzzin range.

I'd be interested in some evidence that he is more than I think he is.

I don't recall claiming he was a top pairing defensemen.

I also didn't "blame individual performance on a "crappy team and crappy system" forever and a day"

In fact, I did the opposite. I explicitly stated "they simply weren't great" and then went on to list a series of other relevant factors: "were playing up the depth chart too far, with a crappy system and on a crappy team."

If you have some insight into how those other factors in fact aren't relevant to performance, please explain.

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#33 Alsker
August 15 2013, 10:27PM
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Sorry,off topic, for a laugh check out Ross Smith's article at Jetsnation on stats for comparing greatest players ever, if for no other reason than the photo of Gretz back in the day, its epic...lol

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#34 Sliderule
August 16 2013, 07:51AM
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The top line for the oilers outscored Kings top line by a bunch yet we can't beat anyone.We even had a goalie with a better save percentage.

I think the much maligned plus minus tells the tale.Kings top line was combined plus 35 while the oil was plus 4.Until the oiler kids learn how to play in their own end we are still in a world of hurt.

Eakins has his work cut out for him.

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#35 madjam
August 16 2013, 08:22AM
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With a hardened commitment from coaches and players alike away from soft play of last few years , the Oilers will be a force this year . Team play will thus pick up tremendously . Book it . The "shoes going to be on the other foot " this season , with teams wondering how to beat the Oilers rather than Oilers trying to figure out how to beat the other team .

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#36 madjam
August 16 2013, 08:44AM
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Time to get out of the loser funk On has worked themselves into the last few years . Take your negative stats and chuck them in the basket , this is not going to be another negative season of depressing stats from last seven years . Wake up and take the callouses of your eyes , and put your rose glasses back on and enjoy this breakout season . How can anyone enjoy next season if your crippled and still hanging on to negative stats - what a depressing way of viewing hockey if that's your stick .

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#37 DSF
August 16 2013, 11:17AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I don't work for you and it should be self-evident that 27 year-old Smid is better than 33 year-old Regehr, but what the heck.

Let's look at how Regehr's partners last year fared with and without him, in terms of Corsi%. Here are the three guys who played at least an hour on the same pairing last year:

- Andrej Sekera: 36.5% w/, 46.4% w/o

- Drew Doughty: 51.5% w/, 59.2% w/o

- Tyler Myers: 42.0% w/, 47.2% w/o

Now, you can argue that Regehr took on tough minutes, but we're talking huge drops in effectiveness for all of his regular partners.

What about 2011-12?

- Andrej Sekera: 46.1% w/, 52.8% w/o

- Jordan Leopold: 46.5% w/, 49.1% w/o

- Mike Weber: 42.8% w/, 49.6% w/o

- Tyler Myers: 40.7% w/, 47.9% w/o

Hmmm. What about 2010-11?

- Jay Bouwmeester: 47.5% w/, 55.6% w/o

- Ian White: 50.9% w/, 51.0% w/o

- Cory Sarich: 50.7% w/, 52.4% w/o

Now, I don't think Regehr was *that* bad in 2010-11 - the other defenceman that Sarich and Bouwmeester most often played with was Mark Giordano, who even at that point was pretty good, while White bounced between teams making this a difficult comparison - but he's certainly struggled over the last two seasons in Buffalo.

In his prime, Regehr was a guy who could take on the best no problem - a heck of a defenceman. But he's on the other end of his career now, and he isn't the guy we got used to seeing in Calgary. He's still an awfully useful NHL player but if I were L.A. I'd feel worlds better with him on my second rather than first pairing.

And if Craig MacTavish were silly enough to offer me Ladislav Smid in trade I'd take it in a heartbeat.

The mistake you are making is think Regehr is a long term answer on the Kings blue line when clearly he is not.

The real question should be would you trade Muzzin for Smid if that deal was proposed.

Considering Muzzin bring infinitely more offense to the party than does Smid, it's pretty much a no brainer.

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#38 OilLeak
August 17 2013, 02:28AM
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DSF wrote:

The mistake you are making is think Regehr is a long term answer on the Kings blue line when clearly he is not.

The real question should be would you trade Muzzin for Smid if that deal was proposed.

Considering Muzzin bring infinitely more offense to the party than does Smid, it's pretty much a no brainer.

The original discussion started with you implying that Reghr was better than Smid. Jon showed you his evidence and suddenly you shift the focus from Reghr to Muzzin? Oh DSF, those goalposts, how you move them.

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#39 Mumbai Max
August 18 2013, 02:19PM
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madjam wrote:

Time to get out of the loser funk On has worked themselves into the last few years . Take your negative stats and chuck them in the basket , this is not going to be another negative season of depressing stats from last seven years . Wake up and take the callouses of your eyes , and put your rose glasses back on and enjoy this breakout season . How can anyone enjoy next season if your crippled and still hanging on to negative stats - what a depressing way of viewing hockey if that's your stick .

Shtick

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