Three reasons why the Oilers will sustain their hot-start

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Approaching the 10 game mark of the 2016-2017 season, the Oilers currently sit at 7-2-1 atop the Pacific division. Enjoying the success of Connor McDavid has been quite the treat for Oilers fans, but it’s not just McDavid’s play that has been elevated, it’s those around McDavid that have had their play elevated by the 19-year-old phenom. 

Can the Oilers continue to play at this pace? Could McDavid and co finally end Edmonton’s playoff drought? 

Here are three reasons why the Oilers will sustain their success. 

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1) The skilled forwards surrounding McDavid 

Remember the handful of first round selections that the Edmonton Oilers selected before McDavid? They’re pretty good too.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still has room to develop into a number one centre and the same goes for Leon Draisaitl. Jordan Eberle may have started the year out on the quiet side but he’s shown over the last few years that he is capable of being a consistent 60 point player. To top it all off, we still haven’t seen the best of what Jesse Puljujarvi has to offer.

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The Milan Lucic signing has paid dividends to this point and ultimately the Oilers top nine is as strong as it has been in years. Edmonton’s high firing offence is currently sitting seventh in the league in goals per game while averaging 3.10 goals scored per game. 

Edmonton has always had talented pieces up front and a full-fledged superstar like McDavid boosts that talent to a really exciting level. 

2) The defence isn’t awful anymore

Looking at the bigger picture, the Oilers defense has lots of work to be done. Five years down the road, the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson swap will likely still go down as a questionable trade but that doesn’t mean the deal didn’t help the Oilers. Sure, Larsson isn’t up to par to the value of Hall but the top-four defender has substantially improved the Oilers back end thus far. Larsson is averaging 20:20 ice-time a night and has served as a reliable defender who oftentimes bails out his partner. Larsson is a big, defensively sound Dman with a bit of a mean streak to his game. Say what you want about the trade, but Larsson is a quality player for the Oil and has helped clean up the mess that has been the Oilers defensive corps over the last few seasons. 

Darnell Nurse, 21, is entering his second full season in the big leagues and is slowly gaining more and more confidence in his game. Nurse is starting to carry the puck more on rushes rather than looking to make a pass and get rid of the puck as soon as he can. 

Oscar Klefbom, 23, is starting to become more aggressive in creating scoring chances. The Swedish defender recorded eight shots on net against the Leafs on Tuesday night. The occasional defensive zone mistake is no stranger to Klefbom, but that’s going to happen to a young defenseman who is yet to play more than 60 games in a season due to injury. 

The Oilers top three defenders have great potential. Although, the inexperience has been displayed at times, and that’s ok. That core is going to grow together and in a year or two, could round out a pretty solid defensive corps for the Oilers. For the time being, each of the three top guys have seemingly elevated their play from last year and in lieu of such have given the Oilers an upgrade in the process. 

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3) Connor McDavid is already elite 

Connor McDavid may be the best player in the NHL, already. That’s not a knock on current greats such as Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, he’s just that good. The 19-year-old phenom is currently tied for second in points with 12 and since he entered the league in 2015-2016 he has had the second highest points per game with 1.09. Number 97 is the main reason the Oilers are playing this way and if he continues playing the way he has, the Oilers should surely reach the postseason for the first time in 11 seasons. 

Entering his sophomore year as one of the youngest captains in the NHL’s history, McDavid is now the face of the Oilers and is the leader of the team. The NHL’s next great superstar has the pieces to help him succeed and ultimately the Oilers succeed. 

McDavid is ready to lead Edmonton on to greater things and it starts this year. 

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  • GK1980

    Optimistic posts are nice, Oilers are an overall better team for sure but I still think they fall short of the playoffs. Next year they make the dance for sure. I still hope they prove me wrong this year.

    • McRaj

      So do you think that the Oilers will not go at least .500 in the remaining 72 games? Because that would put them at 87 points (Minny got in with the last wild card spot and 87 points last year).

        • McRaj

          I would not at all be surprised if they went 5-3-2 in the next 10 game segment. Again, if they go .500 the rest of the way, they would likely qualify for the play-offs. Plus if they can go .500 or slightly better until March, I think they are a guarantee to make playoffs due to the majority of the final 20 games being played at home.

  • Serious Gord

    Three reasons why they likely won’t keep up their pace so far:

    1. Injuries. Inevitable and with so little depth in key places – goal, defense for example they will have a significant impact.

    2. Teams will be better prepared when they meet. The word is out and the scouts will have looked for weaknesses.

    3. Many of those teams are much bigger and tougher than the large majority of the teams they have faced so far.

    Bonus and obvious reason:

    At their current pace the oil would finish the season with 123 points. That would be 3 points more than the president’s trophy team of last year. Does anyone – even the author above – think there is any chance of that?

    A much saner claim would be that the team should now be considered a favourite to make the playoffs. And once there who knows how far they will go?

      • S cottV

        Well – in this case SG is correct, for the reasons he gives and several more.

        Even McL is trying to downplay the hype, correctly assessing that there are a lot of things that require improvement.

        The Oilers will have to get a fair share of achievable things nailed down, as this season progresses – to make the playoffs.

        The start to the season is great, but as McL said a week or so ago, this is not a President’s Trophy contender – yet.

        • Cain

          I’m not planning the parade route either, but every team
          1) is susceptible to injury.

          2) will get more attention from other teams as it improves

          3) and is either too slow/too small depending on that night’s opposition.

          It’s fun to watch a winning team, for as long as it lasts, for a change…

          4) Nobody is betting on a 123 point season, but October was a great ride…

    • oilerjed

      Au Contraire,

      1. The Oilers already have players on the IR that could be on this roster. IE Davidson, Pakirinen, Hendrix, Fayne (ok well maybe not Fayne)

      2. We have scouts as well. It all comes down to execution. That is yet to be seen

      3. We are bigger and tougher, and maybe more important, younger.

      Maybe its time you gave them a little credit?

      • Serious Gord

        1. Not one is a first or second liner. Compare that to past seasons. The top lines will not go injury-free.

        2. No one imagined the oil would be this good – opposing coaches are recalibrating and will be better prepared than they would be had the oil gotten off to a lousy start.

        3. They lost almost every game last year to bigger tougher teams. They will lose fewer of those matchups this year. And the team is not younger – lucic, maroon, kassian et al weren’t on the starting lineup at the beginning of last season.

        I did give them credit in the last para of my post.

        • oilerjed

          1.You are banging the same drum. Every team will have injuries, that’s why you put up the points when you have them in your line up, which they are.

          2.It doesn’t matter what they thought the Oil would be, they knew the players and systems we would be using, that is what the other teams are preparing for, not what our record is now.

          3. Last year is last year… We have brought in size since the beginning of last year and our defense is stronger as well.

          If you look at last years team, they had a very good chance to be better then their record if the hadn’t suffered through the major losses on the roster due to injury. Add those guys back in the roster and the upgrades that were made and this team doesn’t lose at least 1/3 of the games we did last year. Add the experience of our younger players and this team is incomparable to the 2015/16 Oilers.

          Accept it.

    • Rob19

      I don’t view this post as negative. All points are valid. As much as I would like this pace (or close to it) to continue, the realistic and attainable goal is making the playoffs.

    • OilersGM

      We might not keep at the same pace but we will be good enough to make the playoffs mark my word Mr. negativity.

      I know you are saying we should be favourite to make the playoffs but before the season started you were not taking them to make the playoffs.

      • Serious Gord

        Pre-season very very few people were picking them to make the playoffs. If memory serves NO ONE in the oilersnation organization picked them to make the playoffs.

  • testyesty44

    This article is lined with spelling errors, facts that aren’t backed up with facts??( uninformed opinion) …. is there no good writers out there that need jobs ??

  • madjam

    I would hope the Oilers can keep up this pace over next 10 game segment . This segment is likely indicative as just how well Oilers will do throughout rest of season . If we go 2-7-1 in next 10 game segment then things will turn bleak . A .500 or better segment would still show we could be in mix the rest of way . Our best players have to step up in this new segment , including McDavid !

  • Sounds like an outsiders perspective based on spin from the MSM.
    I’m their biggest fan but the Oilers do have flaws that cannot be overlooked.

    The current road trip will be the biggest tell. If they are able to collect on average a point a game in the next ten games, I will believe they are for real. As it stands now we have a built a solid cushion in the standings, but can’t let it evaporate completely this month.

    Before the torrid start I had the Oil finishing 20th this season, and still playing meaningful games into February and March. With the hot start, I now believe it’s possible they can challenge for a playoff spot, as I pegged them for being around a .500 team. .500 teams don’t quite get in (thanks to the Bettman point), but having banked 15 points already means if they go .500 the rest of the way, they’ll be right at the wild card cutoff.

  • Dino

    Reason 1 is a big one for me. Just the fact that they’ve managed to score EV points and haven’t even really tapped into secondary scoring that much is amazing. There’s too much talent on this team for there not to be 2 or even 3 threatening lines and once they find the right chemistry this team will have another weapon in its arsenal. Not to mention Talbot is a really good goalie and having an actual NHL calibre defence in front of him this season will only help him more. I just want them to figure out that secondary scoring ASAP and that power play too.

  • Druds

    Now this is more like it, Its nice to have a post that is optimistic rather than the host of doom and gloom that is the regular fare on this site.

    Its nice that someone can look and say “Hey the freaking glass is half full!”

    Im tired of reading about dark cloud omens …I want some grape Koolaid !

  • Kurri_Flavor

    Is this the Edmonton Sun or Journal? I had no idea ON had so many proofreaders/editors! Is this what you fill your day with? Making sure people know that you’re on the job to make the world a grammatically and spelling error free harmonious place. Go back to counting how many steps it takes you to get to the bus stop. Your petty and unnecessary comments are not needed here.

  • @Hallsy4

    The Sky is Falling!! Maybe something happen PETE. Fire Woodcroft, Trade Ebs, Trade Pouliout. Fire Lowe, fire Mac T. They are still pulling strings! The nation should also discipline one of the loyal scribes as a sacrifice to appease the hockey gods. And would somebody please eat some gat dang CROW!

  • @Hallsy4

    BENCH LUCIC FOR A GAME! He said all the right things when he signed, but after a fight in the first game has he walked the walk? Set a fire under him! Every loss someone must be dismissed accordingly. Need to beat the Rangers…. If this keeps up, I fear our record will be something like 9-8-3 before we know it and things wil lslowly start heading back to status qou. An improvement in the standings is not good enough brother! We need playoffs.

    • The Ghost of Alex Plante

      “Every loss someone must be dismissed accordingly.”

      Are you trying to say that after every loss the Oilers should bench a player? If so that is ridiculous. No professional sports team does that. You can’t have a roster constantly revolving like that and expect any sort of consistency. Bench some 4th liners after multiple bad games in a row? Ok. But you can’t do that after ever single loss.

      • @Hallsy4

        More so suggesting that team that losing should not be accepted anymore. I’d rather bench Ebs or Pouliot for a game than a 4th liner. Get those Ego’s in check, and when Ebs isn’t scoring, it would probably help having him out of the lineup for a game anyways. If he pouts for being healthy scratched? I’d trade him because winning teams are made up of individuals who put the team ahead of themselves. TRADE THE MALL

    • OnDaWagon

      Geez….settle down people.

      Every team will have rough spots. I believe the boys actually needed to lose a couple of games. They might have been getting a little to confident. They’ll learn from a little back-to-earth treatment.

      They are learning to become a team. They will be fine.

  • Jay (not J)

    I was looking forward to the optimism of the headline, but the line “Approaching the 10 game mark of the 2016-2017 season, the Oilers currently sit at 7-2-1” has me wondering about mister Stoller’s tinfoil hat.

  • Smuckers

    It’s a good start but I can’t help but feel they are one more established right shot D away from being a solid contender for a playoff spot.

    Maybe even a more established RW too. Close but still a work in progress…

  • The Future Never Comes

    They need to get that power play going. To me, it looks way to stagnant. They set up and pass the puck around with little movement. They need to all be shifting and changing the angles to throw the opposition off. Secondly, I don’t know what the infatuation with Sekera on the PP is but time to give it a rest. He rarely gets shots through and if he does their either muffins or misses the net entirely. Try Russell he moves with the puck or even try Nurse. If it’s broke than fix it!

  • OilCan2

    McDavid, McDavid, McDavid. There’s my three reasons.

    It’s a team game. Talbot, the forwards and the defence are all playing some of their best hockey ever.

    Let’s keep that rolling through New York.

  • Spydyr

    The schedule is about to get real. If they can make it home .500 or better on this trip things are looking up. The defence is so much better along with their defencive zone coverage. It is no longer the Keystone Cops in their own end.Talbot has been consistent and Connor is Connor.


    May 2015:

    “It seemed we were shooting for the sake of shooting.” – Jordan Eberle after Eakins got canned

    Oct 2016:

    “[I’m concerned we aren’t shooting enough and preventing shots.]” – Todd McLellan

    Oct 30, Nov 1 games:
    Oilers dramatically outshoot the other team but lose.

    They were winning. Why fix something that wasn’t broken?