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Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

A weak Pacific Division could be all the Oilers need

The Oilers are 6-4-1. They have their flaws. They have three regulation wins in 11 games. Connor McDavid is basically a cheat code in 3-on-3 overtime. Edmonton’s banked enough points in a tough start to the season. They haven’t even faced a Pacific Division opponent yet. That might work towards their favour.

Team GP Record Points
San Jose 12 6-3-3 15
Calgary 13 7-5-1 15
Vancouver 13 7-6-0 14
Edmonton 11 6-4-1 13
Arizona 11 6-5-0 12
Anaheim 13 5-6-2 12
Vegas 10 5-6-1 11
Los Angeles 11 3-7-1 7

The Pacific Division is a contender for weakest division in hockey. Five teams are .500 or more: San Jose, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Arizona. The top-three Central teams all have more points than the Pacific’s best.

It’s hard to bet against a team with McDavid at the helm. The Oilers rely on him so much, but they’ve gotten by so far. At 5-on-5, Edmonton’s outscored teams 8-4 with McDavid on the ice and been outscored 9-14 with McDavid on the bench. McDavid’s playing a ridiculous amount out of necessity. Still, those points are in the bank and their schedule should lighten up soon.

The Oilers have holes across their roster, but so do many teams.

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San Jose should take one of the three Pacific playoff spots. They have two Norris-caliber defencemen on the roster and Marc-Edouard Vlasic isn’t too shabby either.

Vancouver’s in the mix, but for how long? They’re a game over .500 but injuries are a factor. Elias Pettersson should spark some wins for them but questionable defence and goaltending will be their demise. Alex Edler is injured. Chris Tanev is injured. They have some exciting players up front but that defence is a mess.

Calgary’s faith in Mike Smith is holding back a decent team. They’re a top-ten Corsi team getting ravaged by poor goaltending. Bill Peters hockey, baby! Even with some questionable moves in the summer, the Flames should be solid. They carry a quality group of forwards and a good enough defence. That won’t matter if Mike Smith lets in three goals a game, something he’s done in six of his nine starts so far.

The Coyotes didn’t score a goal in three of their first four games. They’ve scored over four goals a game in their past four, including seven against Tampa Bay last Saturday and five against Ottawa on Tuesday. There are some things to like about the Coyotes (seriously). Antti Raanta has continued his phenomenal play from last season. There’s a decent group of defencemen led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Then you see Richard Panik on the top line. He had a 44-point pace after being traded to the Coyotes in 2017-18, but has only three points in nine games this season. There are worse groups of forwards in the NHL. The Coyotes make a couple good moves each offseason then fall on their face as soon as the season begins. 6-5-0 is a nice start.

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Anaheim is getting badly out-shot every game. Hockey is often a game of goalies and they have a really good one. John Gibson’s at a .938 save percentage and the Ducks are only 5-6-2. They seem to pull it together every year, so I’m not counting them out yet,. Early returns aren’t good. There’s a lot of risk relying on your goalie that much.

Is this the step back everyone expected from Vegas? Nate Schmidt’s suspension doesn’t help. Paul Stastny’s out for a while with injury too. Max Pacioretty was clearly playing hurt. 5-6-1 isn’t too bad all things considered. They’re a top-five Corsi team. Colin Miller’s thrived in an increased role. Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t close to his Vezina-like season last year. It’s not hard to see a playoff team here with some health and better goaltending. Those are big ifs.

The Kings are 3-7-1. Woof. Jonathan Quick’s injured and had a .845 save percentage in four games played. Jack Campbell’s been okay in Quick’s absence, although backups seem to thrive in Los Angeles. No King has 10 points. Ilya Kovalchuk and Drew Doughty lead the way with eight points. None of their centres have five points. This is an old, expensive team and Quick is out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery. That’s probably it for the Kings.

Playoffs?!

After San Jose, the Pacific is wide open. There’s a lot of potential after the Sharks, but no guarantees. Vegas could get healthy. Worse teams than the Canucks have made the playoffs. Mike Smith might pull it together. The Ducks could Randy Carlyle their way to another playoff spot. Arizona’s collection of okay players could finally translate. The Kings made the playoffs last year and can’t be this bad.

I thought the Oilers didn’t do enough last summer. Their inactivity was preferable relative to previous summers that saw questionable trades and signings. I thought they needed a couple scoring wingers and another right-shot guy defenceman. The Oilers remain a flawed team due to cap restraints from previous summers led by Peter Chiarelli, but the Pacific is full of meager teams.

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The Oilers might be blessed by playing in one of hockey’s worst divisions. Sure, they rely too much on McDavid’s line and lack production elsewhere, but they might not need much else.


  • Hockeytalkguy

    The thing that worries me about the oil, is they always seem to play to there competition. They rarely go into a game and absolutely demolish another team. Somehow it’s always a 1-2 goal game. They NEED a killer instinct. Hopefully they can dominate teams within there division. Time will tell.

    • A-co

      I don’t believe pistol pete should be the guy to make the next game changing trade for this club…AND whoever hired him should be looking on indeed.com for their next job as well….

  • Gravis82

    Um no. They need a competent GM, then we would still be crushing the Pacific division even if it was the strongest in the NHL.

    So quickly we move to forget the real cause of the problems here…

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    The pacific may look weak, but this is still early in teams are starting to put together who fits where on what line, teams are adjusting and re-adjusting the style they play and how they defend.

    The West has always been one of the tougher division and that is due to the fact because it always turns into a game of numbers at the end as teams are chasing another for playoff spots.

    There were teams at the start off the year that weren’t so how that as of late have started to play better and get some wins, the Oilers are in that category, there is a lot of hockey left and teams are still refining their systems, but are starting to play well. It is a long long way to go to be worried about who is weak, but teams got to start playing to win, because it doesnt take long to be out of the equation before the season is half over The Oilers learned that lesson last year.

    Have the Oilers been better yes, they still have work to do and you can say that about any team not in the top 3 in the west, you can drop spots fast in the west right now because the point totals that separate 1 from 10 aren’t a huge differential, teams can sink or rise depending on how they play and the west will be a race to the finish, just like every other year.

    The Oilers have been good but they can be better, but once other teams in the west else starts rolling the Oilers better learn to play 60 minutes because every win is going to matter

    • Serious Gord

      You miss the point entirely. No one is saying that there are easy games. What is undeniable is that if you play in a division that has more weak opponents than others the path to a playoff spot is easier.

      Just look at MLB – the AL East most years is far harder to get into the playoffs than in the central. If you wanted to beat out the Yankees for the wildcard you would have had to win 101 games while that number in any other division except the AL West would make you the runaway leader.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    It’s been hilarious watch all of the local hockey pundits back-peddle over the last couple of weeks.

    After the Oilers started 0-2, they were quick to write them off but now that the Oilers not only survived but almost-thrived through the tough part of October, the nattering nabobs of negativism (to borrow from Spiro Agnew, who wasn’t good for much else besides that quote) are now going to frame the Oilers’ possible (and yes, it’s way early to say it’s anything other than that) success this season to what appears to be a weak division so far.

    And fair enough, I guess. But it seems to be a bit of a reach to make in late-October. How quickly they jump to yet-another conclusion after their previous conclusions were proven wrong.

  • Serious Gord

    Looking at the standings this am shows a logjam for the wildcard. Looking for some other evidence of who is better than who (whom?) I turned to the net goal differential which over the long haul is a good indicator of who’s the better team (kind of how shooting percentage adjusts for goal scoring outliers.) If GD is relevatory then Van is destined to fall and AZ is a horse to watch. And the EDM May be on the outside looking in.

    Early days – not enough data to be sure – but interesting nonetheless.

  • FlamesFan27

    I think the Oilers have an excellent chance of making the playoffs given their very good start and the remainder of the schedule, which gives them a big advantage (see below). Almost everyone (even Vancouver???) has a chance.

    https://oilersnation.com/2018/07/10/the-oilers-have-the-easiest-schedule-in-the-league-next-year/
    As a comparison to other teams in the Pacific,
    Oilers have a +10 game advantage of back to backs.
    Coyotes have a +7 game advantage
    Canucks have a -8 game disadvantage.
    Other teams are more or less even (+/- 2 games).