The Oilers are a .500 team

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It is true. To quote the fiery Dennis Green, “The Oilers are who we thought they were.”

I expected the Oilers to be an 82-88 point team this year, and after a slow start they have climbed back to “500”. Now the challenge for them will be to hover around that mark or maybe even a bit above.

I realize that finishing with 82 points won’t get them to the playoffs, but through the first nine games I think it is safe to say this team is much better than last season. They still have a ways to go to become a legitimate playoff contender, but at least they are showing signs they are getting closer to being a playoff team.

  • Their defence is much better. Last night in the third period of a close game Justin Schultz made two very good defensive plays. He boxed out Plekanec in front of the net, not allowing him to get to a rebound, and later in the same shift he won a battle beside the net, made the simple play and moved the puck to Perron on the wing.
  • It was two small, simple plays, but those are the types of plays you need to make to win games. Schultz is not going to be a stalwart defensive D-man, but if he can make those plays in the third period of a tight game, it shows he is finally understanding the importance of the small, simple play.
  • They have cut down their 5-star giveaways. There will always be giveaways in a game, but during this winning streak the Oilers have avoided the glaring ones. It is hard to win in the NHL, and it becomes much more difficult when you give games away. If they can avoid the major errors they will be much more competitive.
  • Nail Yakupov continues to improve all over the ice. I think people need to realize he isn’t going to be as dominant as Taylor Hall or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That doesn’t mean he won’t be an effective player, but not all #1 overall picks are created equally. He needs to play with the same jump in his step that he had for the first 30 minutes last night. I still believe Yakupov plays better when he’s emotionally and physically involved in the game. He had an edge, and he plays better when he uses it. Last night’s hit on Emelin energized the crowd and Yakupov.

  • After a rough first few games, Ben Scrivens has settled in and given the Oilers a chance to win every game. His rebound control on low shots last night was excellent. After the game I asked him if he believes in the analogy of “seeing the puck better.” I realized after why he is called The Professor. He asked me if I wanted the long or short version and I said the long one. We sat down in his stall and he proceeded to explain how our vision works. We looked directly across the room to a hockey bag in Brad Hunt’s stall (about 40 feet away). He asked what stood out. “The Oilers logo,” I said. “Our eyes focus best on a small image about three to four inches wide, and the rest becomes the periphery. The logo is the puck for me when I’m on the ice, and when you are seeing it better you focus more on it and less on the stuff outside of it. People say the puck looks bigger, but really it is just our focus that is better, at least it is that way for me,” finished Scrivens.
  • Benoit Pouliot had two points and scored his first goal. “As a line, I thought it was our best game of the year. We were communicating on the ice much better. We are starting to understand each other’s tendencies,” he said.

  • The Oilers top line didn’t do much statistically, and because they didn’t dominate the game some felt they had a bad night. They weren’t great, but they weren’t awful, and when your top line is just average and you win the game that means your depth is starting to come through. The Oilers can’t win solely on the back of their top line.
  • Mark Fayne continues to be excellent defensively. Martin Marincin, Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry can learn a lot from him on how to play the right way in your own zone. I also like seeing his icetime above 18 minutes.

  • Last night, the icetime of the defence was split up evenly. Justin Schultz played the most at 19:25, but he and Brad Hunt played the least at EV (13:38 and 13:34 respectively). Craig Ramsay is putting players in the best situation to succeed.
  • I don’t understand the constant demand from some who want Jordan Eberle removed from the first line. He is the 5th most productive RW in all of hockey the past four seasons, yet if he has an off-game people demand he get demoted? Why? Yakupov will not produce the same as Eberle has if he gets promoted. He doesn’t see the game or think the game like Eberle. It is almost as though some feel Eberle is the one to blame for Yakupov not being a star. I believe your venom is pointed at the wrong person. Eberle is a very productive complementary player. Very few will produce like him.
  • Marc Arcobello continues to quietly play well. I thought he had a very strong game last night. He is tied with RNH for third on the Oilers in EV points with four while Eberle has five and Hall has seven. He is on pace for 36 EV points, which would be solid production. Last season, Eberle and Perron were tied for 2nd on the Oilers in EV points with 37.

  • The Oilers four regular centres are a combined 50.7% in the faceoff dot. As a team they are 50.1% (the rest of the team is 13-20, 39.3%) and the Oilers sit in 16th spot in faceoff efficiency. That is a major improvement. Gordon is 55.2% (95-77), Arcobello is 50.4 (68-67), Draisaitl is 47.9% (46-50) while RNH is 47.4% (64-71). It is another step in the right direction for the team.
  • This doesn’t mean everything is rosy and perfect in Oilersnation, far from it, but the team is improved, which is something we haven’t seen in over five years. At least the Oilers look like a team that can be competitive every night, and that is something we haven’t seen in six years.
  • The Oilers face Nashville tomorrow and Vancouver on Saturday. We’ve seen how competitive they are against the east, 4-0, but it is time to witness if they can compete with the teams they need to beat in order to become a playoff team.

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  • abbeef

    I was enjoying the read up until I read that Yakupov won’t be as good as Hall and RNH. People really need to start underestimating him. He is the youngest of the three, playing with weaker line mates and still working his way up his learning curve. Please stop trying to label Yakupov, people. The Mark Spector article on sportsnet.ca yesterday was ridiculous, and I still firmly believe the potential of this kid is very high.

    • Jason Gregor

      So overestimating him is what we should do?

      Nothing suggests he will be as good as many HOPE him to be. He will be a good NHL player, but he will not dominate like Hall or RNH. They are elite players, very few can be as good as them. That isn’t a big knock on him. He does not have the same qualities that they do. That isn’t underestimating, just a reality.

      • “Nothing suggests he will be as good as many HOPE him to be. He will be a good NHL player, but he will not dominate like Hall or RNH. ”

        So what about him suggests he will be a good player vs a great player vs third liner vs a bust? What is it about his game that, to you, says he will never be an elite player?

      • YEGFan

        To early to say on his ceiling. The kid is 21 years old and comes from a country where young players tend to focus on offense more than defense. I see this as year 1 in terms of development in becoming a better overall player.

        He realized last year that he needs to improve his 200 ft game. Acknowledgement is the first step to becoming better. He’s worked hard in the offseason and its apparent he’s much quicker. 2nd you see his awareness to defense has improved. I think as he starts to taste success he’ll become even more motivated to being a 2 way player.

        Every kid has a different development curve. He may behind the curve when it comes to 1st overall picks but I do believe he can become a game breaker like Hall and RNH.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Eberle is not playing the same way this year. There is something wrong. He’s either injured(rumours its his wrist). Or he just doesnt have the passion? Whatever it is I see no reason not to bump Yak up with a little more playing time on the top line? If Eberle’s injured then this is the right move. And if Eberle is not motivated this is the right move. Not sure the downside there?

    As for Schultz well it’s nice he had a game where he actually made some defensive plays. What a refreshing thought for the D man getting the most icetime on the Oilers. I will need a lot more to change my mind about him as a D man. Personally I would sell high if his value is up there with ANY GM. But thats just me.

    Thank God this team has Petry and Marincin and Fayne… They are the ones holding the defence up at this point. This team would be a playoff team if Hunt, Ference, and Schultz were replaced with 2nd pairing D men.

  • abbeef

    The boys knew why they were in the lead with,
    3 minutes to quitting time. One could see the effort they put in [ it wasn’t pretty] to get
    Scrivens his shotout, especially against a team that likes to win their games in the last 3 minutes of the game.

    This four win run, has to be the biggest conf idence builder for this young team. They need to clean up the giveaways and still much needed improvement in their own end. For a team that’s wants to play transition and speed their breakout plays are terrible.

  • YEGFan

    How can people complain about Eberle so much. He is second on the team in scoring, as he should be.

    He has put up points like a top line NHL right winger over the past 4 years. He deserves to be on the top line.

    He has earned his spot on the top line, it wasn’t “gifted to him.” He is out there across from Hall taking on the other team’s best players every night. Talk about Hall “driving” the line all you want, Eberle has more than held his own.

    He is a young premier winger in this league and he would get 7M or more a year if he went to free agency tomorrow. If you want to convince yourself he is not trying, you’re just being ignorant of the facts.

    If the Oilers want a legit 2nd line centre tomorrow they should trade Draisaitl for him. That is a true trade of potential for immediate gain, not giving away one of the league’s few legit 1st line RWers.

  • YEGFan

    Really, what RWer would you prefer to have? There are maybe five that are clearly better than Eberle.

    The only guys clearly a tier above Eberle to me are: Perry, Kane, and Kessel.

    You have some older guys that have been better players than him but it’s debatable whether they’re still better, and they probably aren’t a better long term commitment: St. Louis, Iginla, Jagr, and Hossa.

    Then the other guys who you might argue are on Eberle’s level are really just: Semin, Wheeler, Voracek, Ryan, and Pominville.

    There are a few others who have had a good season in the last 4 years like Okposo, Boyes, Vrbata, Callahan, Parenteau, or Stewart, but they have not shown Eberle’s consistency.

    The fact is, Eberle is legitimately one of the 10 best RWers in the NHL, and is probably one of the 5 best investments at the position. In what world do you consider that dispensable?

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I find the hate for Ebs a little ridiculous. If he wasn’t producing I could understand, but again: second in points and rumored to be playing injured. I can run guys outta town with the best of them, but wanting to can one of the better RWs in the league? Next, please.

  • pkam

    Unless they are seriously looking at trading one of them there is no need to endlessly compare Yak and Ebs. I like both players and am happy the Oilers have them. The .500 debate is meaningless; points matter to the standings; standings matter for the playoffs.

    • abbeef

      If you are using the .500 mark to judge how well a team is doing than it matters what .500 means. If you really want to see how well a team is doing though than looking at the standings is really all that matters as you said. As of today the Oilers are 1 point out of the final playoff spot in the west.

      It looks like there are meaningful November games on the horizon. Hopefully it continues to Dec. than Jan., Feb. etc, etc until the last game of the season. That would be a welcome change.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Besides, Yak and Ebs play very different styles so there’s not much point in comparing them one to one. Ebs is more cerebral with silky hands and better vision, Yak is a crash and bang kinda guy with better burst speed and a total cannon. Both are okay in my books.

  • pkam

    Does anyone see any glaring holes on this team or in the way they are playing? The only thing we still see is the confusion between Scrivens and the defense with pucks behind the net.

    No glaring holes is a major improvement, kudos to them. Keep it consistent and you will be a .500 team and just below the playoffs.

    One foot at a time. Keep this game up, don’t confuse it with major system changes or roster shake ups, please.

  • Randaman

    Couldnt agree more with regards to Eberle. I will be the first to point out that he had a rough night last night but this team becomes significantly worse and further from playoffs without him. The top 3 forwards on this team are Hall, RNH, & Eberle, end of story. Each of them brings a set of unique skills that I would argue makes them not only equals but also complementary as line mates. Eberle will get back into form as he does every year. He is miles apart from Yakapov in terms of overall skill at both ends. I mean the only rational for moving Eberle is because he is so extremely valuable. So how are people so convinced that Yakapov, who the oilers couldnt get anything for at this stage in his development, think he could replace Eberle on the top line? Blows my mind! As good as Yaks has been, I think it be pretty sobering, for him and his 1st line advocators, if he were going up against top lines on the opposing team every night. So i think he is right where he needs to be, playing against weaker competition and giving the Oil a significant secondary scoring threat.

  • YEGFan

    The underlying issue with the .500 system is we haven’t defined what it refers to. Are we suggesting 50% of points available or 50% of wins available? The two aren’t equivalent. Once established, we can then debate the merits. The problem with the ‘points’ approach is the Bettman point is unique to each and every team. For the Oilers, there has been 1 Bettman point up for grabs (against the Canucks) and we lost it. For other teams, there may have been 2-3 points up for grabs so far this season. Overall, the Bettman point adds points to the system. The system is no longer ‘closed’ i.e. 30 teams x 82 games x 2 points = 4920. There now exists the possibility of an additional point for every game played (i.e. 30 x 82 x 1 = 2460) but this represents the maximum amount with no predictive value. Perhaps we can have a ‘math mind’ and/or a ‘philosophy mind’ chime in. I am neither.

  • YEGFan

    One thing i didn’t like in the Montreal game was how we used last years PP in the first and it almost cost us the game again, Coach please Stop using the one d-man on the PP it will end up killing us.

    Also i thought the d was doing a good holding off Montreal for the whole game but started to letting them get more scoring chance in the third, but the commentators at the end seemed to think differently, for some reason they thought Edmonton’s gap control was doing better in the third even though Montreal had more scoring chance,they couldn’t be more wrong.

  • Derzie

    Yay the oilers won 4 games in a row….. I don’t care…. more luck than anything.

    I am going to remain emotionally detached from this squad this season, that way they can’t let me down again.

    We need a top line centre a top pair d-man, and there is arguably none in the oilers system and you rarely see those get traded.

    Nuge is not a top line centre, he’s good but he’s not a top line NHL superstar.

  • @blue31

    For the love of god man. The oilers had played 9 games, of which they could have earned a MAXIMUM of 18 points. They ended up with 9, with is a .500 team by the definition of such as “Percentage of total points available to be earned.”.