The most common question in Oilersnation these days is: Are the Oilers improving?
Some say yes, others say no, but what are the guidelines for improvement?
Improving on last season would be akin to saying you have better hair than me. It means very little, and just because you have more hair doesn’t mean you look as good.
For me, until this team wins at least half the games they play, they haven’t made any legitimate improvement.
I’ve seen improvements in their game — better structure, improved puck retrievals — but again, that isn’t saying much considering they’ve been a bottom feeder for the past six seasons finishing 30th, 30th, 29th, 24th, 28th and 28th.
Of course they look better — it’s almost impossible to be worse.
Their 5-10 record suggests they haven’t improved on last year’s 6-8-1 record, but remembering last season’s squad won FOUR of their next 30 games to sit at 10-26-9 after 55 games, it will be virtually impossible to match that level of futility.
Of course they should improve on gaudy numbers like that, and they will, but unless they are close, or at .500, it will be difficult to suggest they have made any meaningful improvements.
This team has a long road to respectability, which most of us said at the beginning of the season, but there will be no magic switch to flip that makes them a competitive team. They need to find consistency in every aspect of their game.
It will come from hard work and a willingness to make the right play the majority of the time. And it will likely come from GM Peter Chiarelli altering the makeup of his team.
The Oilers have added youth to their D corps. Klefbom (92), Davidson (20), Reinhart (15) and Nurse (8), have played a combined 135 NHL games. They have potential to be good, maybe even great, but it will take time. Winning teams don’t have that much inexperience on their blueline.
Chiarelli will need to add some vocal and emotional players, ones who play significant minutes. Of course you need good players to win, but you can’t overlook the emotional side of the game. You need some vocal leaders, and when Matt Hendricks is not dressed the Oilers are a very quiet team according to Todd McLellan. That matters.
It isn’t a knock on the players they have, because you can’t change who you are inside the dressing room, but it is something Chiarelli will need to address moving forward. He will also need to find a few skilled players, who if they aren’t scoring, can still bring some emotion and energy to the ice.
Nurse will be one of those players in the future, but it is unfair to expect a rookie to instantly become one of your vocal and emotional leaders.
You need skilled players to become a competitive team, but to be Cup contender you need to have skilled players who possess different personality traits on and off the ice.
Chicago has Jonathan Toews, who is fiercely competitive and if he isn’t scoring he finds other ways to contribute. Same with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the blueline. They play with an edge and if they feel an opponent is taking liberties with their team they will stand up for them, even if it means crossing the line and taking a penalty or suspension.
The Kings and Bruins rosters were filled with good players, but their better players had different skill sets that helped them win.
The Oilers current roster still has too much of the same.
Again, it doesn’t mean the players are bad, but the overall team lacks certain elements to win. I expect Chiarelli to address these deficiencies later this season and in the summer.
In training camp he said he felt he needed to watch 20 games and be around the team for a few months to get a good read on what they have, and, more importantly, what they will need moving forward.
- Chiarelli asked the NHL if the U-24 North American team could have a veteran goalie for the upcoming World Cup, and not surprisingly the response was no. John Gibson, Connor Hellebuyck, Malcolm Subban and Chris Driedger are the top candidates, but none of them are currently on an NHL roster. The U-24 team has some very good young forwards and defencemen, but they’ll enter the tourney with the least proven goaltending tandem.
- The locks on forward for me are: Nugent-Hopkins, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon and Brandon Saad. The rest will come from Mark Scheifele, Sean Couturier, Boone Jenner, Jonathon Drouin, Bo Horvat, Sean Monahan, Dylan Larkin, Max Domi, Sam Bennett, Anthony Duclair, Jared McCann, Curtis Lazar and Tom Wilson.
- The D will have: Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones and Morgan Reilly for sure. Dougie Hamilton, Jacob Trouba, Colton Parayko, Nathan Beaulieu, Cody Ceci, Matt Dumba, Noah Hanafin, Damon Severson, Darnell Nurse, Ryan Murray and Ben Hutton will be in the mix as well.
- These Saskatoon Blades jerseys are awesome.
- The Blades will wear them On November 28th for Star Wars Night. The jerseys will be sold via a silent auction during the game.
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