We’re 11 games into the 2017-18 season and the Edmonton Oilers are 3-7-1. Things haven’t gone the way fans had hoped. The Oilers went into the season touted as Stanley Cup contenders, but currently sit 31st in goals for, four behind 30th place Carolina. They need to score more goals, but where are they going to come from?
Connor McDavid’s line is producing as it should. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is off to a solid start, even with extended time with rookie Kailer Yamamoto. Those two lines are reasonably well, but their depth players aren’t getting it done, and expectations may be a little too high.
Oilers 2017-18 Point Pace vs. Career Pace
|Player||17-18 Pace||Career Average||Difference||SH%|
Patrick Maroon is at the top here and I’m using player’s career 82-game pace, but if you use his stats since coming from Edmonton (a ~49-point pace), he’s still outpacing that by almost 20 points. Leon Draisaitl is at the top as well since his rookie season is weighing his career average down a bit and McDavid is just being McDavid. Maroon, McDavid, Draisaitl aren’t a concern.
Nugent-Hopkins being on pace while playing with Milan Lucic and Yamamoto is a little impressive. Lucic is a little behind his usual pace, but he’s scoring 5-on-5. Yamamoto is a rookie and asking him to be a top-six player is probably too much at this point, and could be back in Spokane within a few days.
The top two lines are having success and basically in range of their careers. They’re scoring most of the goals, though. McDavid, Draisaitl, Maroon, Nugent-Hopkins, and Lucic are the only forwards with a goal at even strength.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) November 2, 2017
Ryan Strome has a -10-point difference, but he’s scoring in line with his previous two season in Long Island. His 50-point 21-year old season is raising his career average, but he’s about where you’d expect given the past couple season. That’s a reasonable total if he’s playing a middle-six role.
Both Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev don’t have a point yet, but have career 22 and 14-point averages respectively, so expectations should be tempered.
Zack Kassian and Mark Letestu haven’t performed like they can, and that’s especially the case with Letestu and the power play. Letestu isn’t a high-end 5-on-5 player, so he’ll need to start scoring with the man advantage as he did a year ago. Kassian was a surprisingly good scorer at even strength in his first full season in Edmonton. If he can return to a similar level it will go a long way to help the depth scoring, and hte Oilers as a whole.
Jussi Jokinen stands out here with a massive -41-point difference. He’s only one season removed from scoring 60 points with the Florida Panthers, but he was also bought out after a 28-point season last year. I thought he was a worthwhile pickup for $1.1 million, but he’s playing the lowest amount of his career so it’s possible Todd McLellan just doesn’t see him as a fit. Jokinen does have a long track record of being a useful player.
Klefbom bump or bruise (injury) has impacted his shooting accuracy. He leads NHL Dmen with 21 missed shots. Had 84 last year. #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) October 27, 2017
Only Klefbom really stands out from the defence. He’s generating a lot of shots but could be playing hurt. The Oilers miss Sekera’s offence and power play time. Matt Benning has looked better with time, but playing Kris Russell on the second unit isn’t ideal.
If the Oilers are going to score more, it’ll have to be with help from their bottom six. Their top six is more or less producing, Nugent-Hopkins won’t shoot 21% forever, but Lucic won’t score on 4% of his shots either. It’s just the other six forwards. Caggiula and Slepyshev will score a goal eventually, but counting on them for to produce regularly in the top-nine could be futile given their limited NHL history.
Things get murkier if Yamamoto is sent down. Another year in the WHL seems optimal, but Edmonton’s right-wing is incredibly poor. They’re missing Jordan Eberle and having Draisaitl as a full-time winger limits his ability to help drive the secondary offence away from McDavid. Jesse Puljujarvi is an option, but he only has one goal and four points in eight games with Bakersfield. Peter Chiarelli might have to look for outside help, that way McLellan could separate McDavid and Draisaitl in hopes of a more balanced attack, something he hasn’t been willing to do this season.