The Edmonton Oilers have put their decade of embarrassment behind them and are on a new path of respectability. The Oilers are a good team now, but how good are they? Are they among the league’s contenders, or just a pretty good team who has a chance once they make the playoffs?
This is a nice debate to have if you’re an Oilers fan. Either way, your team is competitive and the talk isn’t around next June’s draft. So, who has them where?
Fans are very optimistic about the Oilers, and it doesn’t seem limited to just Edmonton. A standings survey done by The Atheltic’s Dom Luszczyszyn showed fans are big on the Oilers. They see the Oilers as a top-five team and a Stanley Cup contender. Dom’s analytical model isn’t as convinced, which drew a lot of controversy, although he admits the 93-point projection is probably a little low but the defence, loss of Jordan Eberle, and lacklustre supporting cast after McDavid and Draisaitl are why the model has them where they are.
I asked new Nation Network partner and Corsica creator Emmanuel Perry about his model and where it ranks the Oilers. Perry said, “to project the final standings in the 2017-18 season, I generated win probabilities for each game in the schedule using my prediction model Salad. The regular season was then simulated 50,000 times to give average and median team points, confidence intervals and playoff probabilities,” which Perry lists on Corsica.hockey along with other prediction models. “The Oilers fare well here due to a combination of factors,” he said. “They ranked 8th in K last season, 9th in adjusted 5-on-5 xGF% and 6th in 5-on-5 goal differential. They also possess a high-quality roster, led by McDavid, Draisaitl and Talbot.” K, which you can read more about here, is what Perry calls a “composite tailored regression model,” while xGF% is a shot quality model that assigns goal expectancy to shots.
Our own Jason Gregor and Robin Brownlee are both firm believers in this Oilers roster. Gregor and Brownlee see the Oilers among the best in the Pacific, with the latter predicting a Pittsburgh-Edmonton final and the former close behind.
NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen has the Oilers as the fifth best team in the first Super 16 ranking of the season.
People (and stats) are confident in Edmonton, and it’s hard not to be with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the charge. They’re a good team, but they did have a fairly quiet offseason. Their offseason moves can be summed up with re-signing Kris Russell, replacing Benoit Pouliot with Jussi Jokinen, traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, and drafting Kailer Yamamoto. Any team with McDavid has a chance, but the depth at right wing and on defence is a little concerning, and loading up the top line with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl makes the team incredibly top-heavy.
Even then, the most pessimistic predictions have the Oilers a solid playoff team, something that hasn’t been said for ages. The Oilers may not have been overly active in the summer, compared to Calgary, but that might not matter.
The fight for the top of the Pacific Division
The Anaheim Ducks are without Ryan Kesler, Sami Vatanen, and Hampus Lindholm for an extended period of time.
Calgary upgraded their second pairing with Travis Hamonic and Jaromir Jagr has defied general rules of aging for a while now, but the Flames success hinges on Mike Smith and Eddie Lack, none of whom really inspire confidence in net. Smith has been around league average in terms of save percentage for a while, but he’s 35 now. Eddie Lack wasn’t good in Carolina so the Flames are hoping he’ll rebound to his previous play in Vancouver.
Los Angeles has a new coach and a new style of play. Their roster is basically the same one that struggled to score last season, as their only significant addition was Mike Cammalleri, who was bought out by New Jersey.
The Sharks are always solid. They’ll look for younger forwards to produce after losing Patrick Marleau to the Toronto in free agency.
Arizona has a load of young talent and a surprisingly capable defense core. Things might be different if Antti Raanta can transition well into the starter’s role, but they’re still probably a year away from making a big push up the standings.
The Vegas Golden Knights currently have ten forwards, nine defencemen, and three goalies on their roster. That pretty much says all you need to know about where they’re at as a team.
Predictions for Edmonton range from good to cup contender. It’s early, but half the fun in sports is making predictions and arguing about who should be way where. Edmonton’s in a good spot, although with some holes and injuries that need to be addressed eventually. Their current ~9 million in cap space should leave a bunch room for additions, whether that’s at the deadline or mid-season.
Are the Oilers full-fledged cup contenders? They’re good, but I’m not sure they’re quite there yet, although a lot of people are suggesting it.