2013-14 Division Rivals: Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks

Jonathan Willis
August 17 2013 09:48AM

The Sharks are the last of the Oilers’ new division rivals to qualify for the playoffs last year, and they’re one of three teams (along with Los Angeles and Vancouver) I see as real quality in the new Pacific Division. How does Edmonton stack up?

Again, 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

Less than six months ago, the story was that the Sharks had blown their window to win and needed to rebuild. Looking at their forward corps, it’s difficult to get behind that theory. Sure, Joe Thornton just turned 34 and Patrick Marleau is 33, but Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are the next generation – Couture has his whole career ahead of him and Pavelski’s still in his prime.

More than that, this is just a deep, balanced group. The center depth one through three is fantastic, Marleau is a top-end winger and Brent Burns sure looked like one last season. Martin Havlat’s injuries and top prospect Tomas Hertl’s experience are question marks, but with Torres, Kennedy and Wingels the Sharks have solid depth options that can move up if necessary.

In the top-six, Edmonton compares decently. That Sharks’ top line outplayed the Oilers’ version last year, but depending on the youth’s development curve and how Thornton/Marleau decline they’ll probably catch up in the next year or two. On line two, I prefer the Yakupov/Perron combination to Hertl/Havlat and I think it’s enough to saw off the difference between Gagner and Couture and put those lines on semi-even footing. Beyond that, the quartet of Torres, Pavelski, Kennedy and Wingels is significantly better in my view than the Oilers equivalents of Hemsky, Gordon, Jones and Smyth, and both teams have a couple of iffy guys and no real standouts in the minor league forward group after that.

Defence and Goaltending

In recent years San Jose has chosen to split up their two top-end defencemen – Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic – in order to add some dimension to their defence corps; that has allowed them to use younger players like Matt Irwin and Justin Braun in key roles. That top-end talent is the difference – from three through eight the Sharks and the Oilers match up well but Vlasic is a superior defenceman to Ladislav Smid and the Oilers simply don’t have a player like Dan Boyle, even at his age.

The Sharks will need to replace Boyle in the next few years (he turned 37 this summer), but given that Brent Burns can always be moved back to defence that wouldn’t seem to be a major problem.

In net, Antti Niemi has emerged as a pretty good start, near the bottom end of the NHL’s top-third the last few years, and he’s likely a little ahead of Devan Dubnyk. In the regular season, the Oilers probably knot up the goaltending battle by having a massively superior two and three goaltender (Stalock and Sateri are one of the weaker 2/3 combos in the NHL) but in a playoff series Niemi should give the Sharks the edge.

Overall

Reports of the death of the Sharks have been greatly exaggerated; they retooled on the fly last year by moving out underachieving veterans (Douglas Murray, Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus) in favour of draft picks and while there are some older players in key roles San Jose has a young group ready to step in and replace them as soon as the need arises.

They look to be likely outside the Oilers’ reach next year, though Edmonton can always hope than Antti Niemi spends drinking beer and playing video games.

Recently around the Nation Network

Ross Smith looks at the greatest players of all time - his choice for the top title may surprise - but for Oilers fans this Jets Nation piece is worth looking at for the first picture alone.

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 DSF
August 17 2013, 12:39PM
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@RexLibris

I believe you live in Calgary Rex.

Is there any indication in the local media what is going on with Kiprusoff?

Everyone is expecting him to retire but I haven 't heard anything official.

Also, how will you react if the Flames finish ahead of the Oilers in the standings?

Considering they were only 3 points apart last season even after the Flames blew things up, it's not inconceivable that things might be pretty close again.

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#2 DSF
August 17 2013, 04:55PM
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Wax Man Riley wrote:

Remember when everyone said Minnesota has the best prospects in the league and will be at the top of the western conference and are guaranteed 60 home playoff dates in the next 10 years?

Wait, that wasn't everyone that said that...

No. Just the smart guys.

Watch.

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#3 DSF
August 17 2013, 04:36PM
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DieHard wrote:

The implication is ALWAYS there with your comments. That's how it comes across all the freakin time.

Perhaps your view is being distorted by those goggles.

Remember when everyone predicted the Red Wings would crash and burn when Lidstrom left?

Didn't happen.

Smart GM's adjust.

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#4 DSF
August 17 2013, 12:02PM
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Lexi wrote:

I realize the Sharks have been a really well-run team, but I can't help thinking they will be falling off a cliff in the next two or three years.

In the games between the two teams in 2011-12, it looked like the Oilers were already close to passing them, but last year it look like every move Wilson made was a smart one. That said I can't help but think that Pavelski's contract will become to the Sharks what Horcoff's was to the Oilers, and Courture will become a lone wolf in three years like Hemsky was here in the late 2000s. Other than Hertl, they have nobody under 24 who remotely projects as a top 6 forward, and when Thornton and Boyle either decline or leave there is no easy way for them to replace how valuable they have been.

The Oilers probably will not pass them next year, but I can't see any way that they are not better than the Sharks in 2014-15, other than catastrophic injuries.

Wilson, typically, has used trades and free agency to build his team rather than rely on the draft.

As evidence of this, these players were acquired through that process:

Thornton, Burns, Burish, Desjardins, Havlat, Kearns, Kennedy, Sheppard, Torres, Boyle, Hannan*, Irwin, Stuart*, Tennyson, Niemi.

He has also been very successful finding players later in the draft.

Your assumption that the Oilers will be "better than the Sharks" in 2014/15 has to be predicated on the assumption that Wilson will sit on his hands and watch his team go onto a death spiral.

There is no evidence to support that kind of thinking.

Thornton($7M), Marleau ($6.9M) and Boyle ($6.7M) become free agents that season freeing up huge amounts of cap room for Wilson to work with.

By that time, the Sharks will be Couture's team and you can count on Wilson making some very smart moves to fill out his forward roster.

There is more than one way to run a railroad.

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#5 DSF
August 17 2013, 05:48PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Those were the same smart guys that had them as Western Conference finalists last year, right?

A lot of things can happen on the way to Grandma's house.

Like losing Granlund, Heatley, and Harding to injury.

That the Wild turned over 40% of their roster, had no training camp and some keys injuries, they did very well.

They're on their way.

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#6 DSF
August 17 2013, 04:10PM
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DieHard wrote:

So therefore, the Oilers will never ever be better than the Sharks. iamright! You also say - Book It.

Well, of course not and no one said that.

However, suggesting that will happen in 14/15 without knowing what the Sharks lineup will look like is just dumb.

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#7 DSF
August 17 2013, 04:13PM
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Kodiak wrote:

The thing about being a "dealing" team is you can only do it for so long. It's tough to deal when the prospect cupboard is bare. The Sharks main core is aging and likely unable to get substantial return soon, and with few prospects they won't have much to give up to acquire anything decent. Free agency is a very tough place to find players in a cap world.

Did you read the part about the Sharks making the playoffs 9 years in a row using that approach?

Or the part about the Sharks being vey successful finding undrafted NCAA players?

Take a closer look at their roster and you'll see a number of high quality players who weren't drafted in the first round.

And free agency is a great way to acquire players in a cap world.

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#8 DSF
August 17 2013, 05:44PM
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DieHard wrote:

You're dodging.

Dodging what?

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#9 DSF
August 17 2013, 12:31PM
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Just further to my earlier post, some thoughts on Wilson's team building strategy from NHL.com:

"In the NHL, some teams draft and others deal.

For the past few seasons, the San Jose Sharks have fallen primarily into the latter category, trading picks for established professionals.

Logan Couture, drafted in 2007, represents the most recent NHL star taken by the Sharks.

Since then, San Jose's development program has ranked near the bottom of the League even as the Sharks clinched their ninth consecutive postseason appearance in 2012-13.

That's still the case heading into the 2013-14 season as the pool of future NHL stars looks shallow, but San Jose is making strides.

The organization continues to be one of the best at drafting and developing NCAA prospects, and this year's batch features a healthy mix of two-way centers, physical defensemen and a couple of explosive forwards, many of whom have the tools to make an impact for San Jose in 2013-14.

http://sharks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=679664

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#10 RexLibris
August 17 2013, 10:00AM
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San Jose, Anaheim, Vancouver...

Just a guess here, Jonathan, but you wouldn't be saving Calgary (ie: the best) for last would you?

That is a comparison that I eagerly await - in one corner we have a 1967 Aston Martin, in the other a 1980 Dodge Aries...

;-)

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#11 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
August 17 2013, 01:04PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Well, we started at the tough end - to me, there's a pretty big drop-off after L.A., VAN and S.J.

~im sure you meant to add Minnesota to that list as well and just forgot~

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#13 Lexi
August 17 2013, 11:04AM
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I realize the Sharks have been a really well-run team, but I can't help thinking they will be falling off a cliff in the next two or three years.

In the games between the two teams in 2011-12, it looked like the Oilers were already close to passing them, but last year it look like every move Wilson made was a smart one. That said I can't help but think that Pavelski's contract will become to the Sharks what Horcoff's was to the Oilers, and Courture will become a lone wolf in three years like Hemsky was here in the late 2000s. Other than Hertl, they have nobody under 24 who remotely projects as a top 6 forward, and when Thornton and Boyle either decline or leave there is no easy way for them to replace how valuable they have been.

The Oilers probably will not pass them next year, but I can't see any way that they are not better than the Sharks in 2014-15, other than catastrophic injuries.

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#15 DieHard
August 17 2013, 04:34PM
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DSF wrote:

Well, of course not and no one said that.

However, suggesting that will happen in 14/15 without knowing what the Sharks lineup will look like is just dumb.

The implication is ALWAYS there with your comments. That's how it comes across all the freakin time.

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#16 Wax Man Riley
August 17 2013, 04:53PM
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DSF wrote:

Perhaps your view is being distorted by those goggles.

Remember when everyone predicted the Red Wings would crash and burn when Lidstrom left?

Didn't happen.

Smart GM's adjust.

Remember when everyone said Minnesota has the best prospects in the league and will be at the top of the western conference and are guaranteed 60 home playoff dates in the next 10 years?

Wait, that wasn't everyone that said that...

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#18 TayLordBalls
August 17 2013, 09:53AM
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good read

there is such a fine line between winning and losing in the NHL

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#19 106 and 106
August 17 2013, 10:44AM
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Yo JW,

We going to beat anyone in this division? On paper, its looking like time and time again that depth is beating our heads against a wall.

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#20 Rocket
August 17 2013, 11:06AM
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JW is the truth. Once again letting us all know how difficult it will be for The Oilers this upcoming season. I can only hope they start strong before some of the contending teams really wake up.

Teams like Anaheim & Vancouver are slow starters so maybe that will help The Oilers early. Then again, that also depends on RNH's shoulder.

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#22 Rob...
August 17 2013, 12:19PM
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Lexi wrote:

I realize the Sharks have been a really well-run team, but I can't help thinking they will be falling off a cliff in the next two or three years.

In the games between the two teams in 2011-12, it looked like the Oilers were already close to passing them, but last year it look like every move Wilson made was a smart one. That said I can't help but think that Pavelski's contract will become to the Sharks what Horcoff's was to the Oilers, and Courture will become a lone wolf in three years like Hemsky was here in the late 2000s. Other than Hertl, they have nobody under 24 who remotely projects as a top 6 forward, and when Thornton and Boyle either decline or leave there is no easy way for them to replace how valuable they have been.

The Oilers probably will not pass them next year, but I can't see any way that they are not better than the Sharks in 2014-15, other than catastrophic injuries.

The only thing that could save the Oilers from the Sharks this season is consistent and accurate reffing, something I doubt the league will ever achieve.

I believe in what the Oilers top 6 can do, but only if the league clamps down on interference.

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#23 Kodiak
August 17 2013, 02:56PM
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DSF wrote:

Just further to my earlier post, some thoughts on Wilson's team building strategy from NHL.com:

"In the NHL, some teams draft and others deal.

For the past few seasons, the San Jose Sharks have fallen primarily into the latter category, trading picks for established professionals.

Logan Couture, drafted in 2007, represents the most recent NHL star taken by the Sharks.

Since then, San Jose's development program has ranked near the bottom of the League even as the Sharks clinched their ninth consecutive postseason appearance in 2012-13.

That's still the case heading into the 2013-14 season as the pool of future NHL stars looks shallow, but San Jose is making strides.

The organization continues to be one of the best at drafting and developing NCAA prospects, and this year's batch features a healthy mix of two-way centers, physical defensemen and a couple of explosive forwards, many of whom have the tools to make an impact for San Jose in 2013-14.

http://sharks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=679664

The thing about being a "dealing" team is you can only do it for so long. It's tough to deal when the prospect cupboard is bare. The Sharks main core is aging and likely unable to get substantial return soon, and with few prospects they won't have much to give up to acquire anything decent. Free agency is a very tough place to find players in a cap world.

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#24 DieHard
August 17 2013, 05:31PM
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DSF wrote:

Perhaps your view is being distorted by those goggles.

Remember when everyone predicted the Red Wings would crash and burn when Lidstrom left?

Didn't happen.

Smart GM's adjust.

You're dodging.

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#25 Citizen David
August 17 2013, 07:48PM
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San Jose looks better than Vancouver to me. I still remember that thrashing they gave us last season. We looked like scrubs.

As for us passing them in 2014-2015, the sharks may indeed be good at adding players through trade or free agency but it will be very unlikely they'll land any elite players. They Oilers have the most insane cluster of developing superstars in the league. To have three first overall picks! Nobody has that. Throw in Eberle, Gagner, Shultz, Klefbom, and Nurse and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with very soon.

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#27 RexLibris
August 17 2013, 12:34PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I'm rolling through them in order of last season's finish. Phoenix is up next, and Calgary last.

Sorry, I think my internet is breaking up...

Could you repeat the last part of that sentence?

hehehe

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#28 DieHard
August 17 2013, 02:22PM
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DSF wrote:

Wilson, typically, has used trades and free agency to build his team rather than rely on the draft.

As evidence of this, these players were acquired through that process:

Thornton, Burns, Burish, Desjardins, Havlat, Kearns, Kennedy, Sheppard, Torres, Boyle, Hannan*, Irwin, Stuart*, Tennyson, Niemi.

He has also been very successful finding players later in the draft.

Your assumption that the Oilers will be "better than the Sharks" in 2014/15 has to be predicated on the assumption that Wilson will sit on his hands and watch his team go onto a death spiral.

There is no evidence to support that kind of thinking.

Thornton($7M), Marleau ($6.9M) and Boyle ($6.7M) become free agents that season freeing up huge amounts of cap room for Wilson to work with.

By that time, the Sharks will be Couture's team and you can count on Wilson making some very smart moves to fill out his forward roster.

There is more than one way to run a railroad.

So therefore, the Oilers will never ever be better than the Sharks. iamright! You also say - Book It.

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#29 Pucker - B class
August 18 2013, 08:58AM
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I trashed all replies to DSF and all DSF's replies. It gets to be like a playground argument with.

I don't mind him posting and my ignoring his comments. It just gets ridiculous at times with all the back and forth taking over the thread.

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#30 Romulus' Apotheosis
August 17 2013, 12:56PM
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@DSF

http://www.fearthefin.com/2013/7/31/4575152/sharks-use-corsi-to-evaluate-junior-players-brian-gross-mirco-mueller-analytics

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#31 Oiler Al
August 17 2013, 05:16PM
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Who are the Oilers planning on matching up against Torres and Burish?

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#32 Doogie2K
August 18 2013, 09:49AM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:

~im sure you meant to add Minnesota to that list as well and just forgot~

Minnesota is in the Norris Division.

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#33 G Money
August 18 2013, 10:20AM
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Pucker - B class wrote:

I trashed all replies to DSF and all DSF's replies. It gets to be like a playground argument with.

I don't mind him posting and my ignoring his comments. It just gets ridiculous at times with all the back and forth taking over the thread.

Yes, I'm not sure why it is that people keep feeding the troll.

DSF posts are like a fake plastic turd in a swimming pool - they get a reaction, but they're always the same and there is no substance (good or bad) there.

I find San Jose a really tough team to assess (both my sisters and a lot of my friends live in Silicon Valley, so SJS are one of my 'third tier cheer for' teams).

They went 25-16-7 which makes them a decent mid-upper-tier team.

However, 14 of those wins came in two 7-game winning streaks, which I suspect makes them one of the streakiest teams in the league (no stats, just a hunch). The Oilers of course had the good luck to play them twice during the first of those streaks.

So which is the "real" team, the one that went 14-0 or the one that went 11-16-7 the rest of the time?

I'm inclined to believe the cliff for Thornton and Marleau is quite close at hand (just from watching the team last year). The hot streaks will get shorter, the mediocre streaks longer.

I doubt this is the year that the Oilers are better than the Sharks, but I think its getting close.

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