How many goals should we expect from Justin Schultz and Co. on the Oilers’ blue line next season?
More importantly, how do reasonable (your mileage may vary) projections for both the defence and the team as a whole compare to the results posted by last year’s playoff teams in the West?
- Justin Schultz leads the pack, and that’s no surprise. Despite his struggles generating goals from the point on the power play last year, he has a brilliant offensive record in previous seasons. I also have him pegged for less strenuous duty at even-strength this season (due largely to the arrival of Mark Fayne on the right side) but also expect him to lead the Oilers in total per-game time on ice.
- On the left side, Nikita Nikitin looks like the best option to take significant minutes next season (seriously, consider the competition). I have him playing in all situations and being the Oilers’ No. 2 choice on the penalty kill.
- Martin Marincin didn’t score an NHL goal last year, but he has been a pretty reliable producer at previous levels in the past. He could well get more of a push than I have him ticketed for here; heck, he could be on the top pairing coming out of training camp and if he gets power play time that will impact this projection.
- I’ve projected the Oilers’ three veterans as scoring a grand total of nine goals, three each. There is a gap in style, performance and likely also in usage (i.e. zone starts, quality of competition) between Jeff Petry, Mark Fayne and Andrew Ference, but all three will be counted on at evens and on the penalty kill, and none of the three should generate all that many goals for Edmonton.
- The Oilers likely have a bigger role for Keith Aulie than I’ve pegged him for here, but he’s going to be hurt by Oscar Klefbom’s position as the team’s likely first recall. If Klefbom is called up, it won’t be to sit in the pressbox. That leaves Aulie without a lot of playing time. For our purposes it doesn’t matter much; neither player is a scorer.
- On the cup of coffee side of things, the quartet of Brad Hunt, David Musil, Brandon Davidson and Martin Gernat are all decent bets to get some NHL time (and I’d personally put them in that order, with Davidson potentially ahead of Musil). Dillon Simpson could well work his way into the mix, too, but for the time being I’ve left him behind those four because he’s a rookie professional.
Total Goals & the Best in the West
Total non-empty net goals from Oilers defencemen: 30.
Total non-empty net goals from all Oilers: 224.
- Anaheim: 31 goals from D, 255 in all
- Chicago: 31 goals from D, 253 in all
- Colorado: 47 goals from D, 232 in all
- Dallas: 30 goals from D, 223 in all
- Los Angeles: 35 goals from D, 189 in all
- Minnesota: 30 goals from D, 192 goals in all
- St. Louis: 34 goals from D, 230 in all
San Jose: 34 goals from D, 232 in all
Average: 34 goals from D, 226 goals in all.
Put it all together, and I think the Oilers can probably score like a playoff team next season.
There are some caveats. I haven’t projected major injuries, because they aren’t really predictable, so health is an x-factor. A number of players posted surprisingly low shots/hour figures last year in Edmonton; I’m inclined to believe coaching strategy was a factor. If that’s true, and if it isn’t fixed, these numbers will be overly optimistic.
Finally, most critically: the Oilers finished 24th in NHL goal-scoring last year, and 30th in goals-against. The jump required to get to the playoff cutline in the former category is much larger than the jump required to get to that same point in the latter category. I haven’t looked at goals against, and it’s a bigger problem.
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