The Oilers are 9-10-1 after a quarter of the season. They’ve given pretty much everything back from a strong start and are back onto a 78-point pace. Let’s look at which players have helped, and which players have not.
Alex Chiasson’s eight goals in 14 games make him Edmonton’s most productive non-centre playing the wing. Chiasson’s making good on his $650K contract, which helps when there are other expensive players not performing (Milan Lucic, Ryan Strome/Ryan Spooner).
Chiasson also gives them another right-shot in a lineup of lefties. He might have a role on the top power play, which featured five left-handed shots to start the season.
Chiasson won’t score the 43 goals he’s on pace for. 15 goals and 30 points? That might be reasonable given his start. That kind of production would be a godsend given the Oilers’ lack of scoring wingers.
Mikko Koskinen’s $2.5 million contract was extremely questionable for a goalie with good numbers in Russia. Every goalie is Hasek-like in the KHL. Through seven games, Koskinen is 4-2 with a .917 save percentage. He’s easily outplayed Cam Talbot and will likely start against San Jose Tuesday.
The Oilers haven’t had a competent backup since Anders Nilsson had a good stretch in 2015-16. He couldn’t sustain it and was traded to St. Louis. The only thing is Koskinen’s taken over the starting job. Maybe Cam Talbot is the reliable backup they need?
Oscar Klefbom wasn’t the player he could be in an injury-plagued 2017-18 season. Klefbom’s playing nearly 26 minutes a night, has eight point and dominant shot metrics after offseason shoulder surgery last summer. Klefbom is Edmonton’s most capable defenceman with the puck and it’s showing this season.
Klefbom has four more years on his contract after this season at $4.167 million. That looks like a bargain right now.
The Oilers needed Cam Talbot to perform near his career save percentage of .917. He’s at .888 through 14 games. That simply isn’t good enough. Koskinen will start the next few games barring a catastrophic performance. Edmonton brought back largely the same roster from last season. Peter Chiarelli bet on another heroic season from Cam Talbot, like the one in 2016-17, to cover for a mediocre defence and lack of secondary scoring.
Talbot’s poor performance couldn’t come at a worse time. He’s an unrestricted free agent after this season and costing himself millions with a bad start.
Lucic’s decline is wild. He started 2017-18 with 26 points in 36 games – a 59-point pace! He finished the season with 6 points in 46 games for 34 points. He has 5 points in 20 games, so after scoring at a 59-point pace early in 2017-18, he’s had 11 points in 66 games. Lucic has two 5-on-5 points in 20 games this season. His production is below replacement level and his contract looks like a disaster.
Lucic’s struggles make more sense when you look at 5-on-5 production. His 5-on-5 scoring has cratered since signing with Edmonton. Lucic’s strong year on the power play hid this in 2016-17, but it predictably fell back to earth since.
The Oilers needed a bounce back from Lucic. Instead, he looks more done as an NHL scorer than ever. Lucic was a clear drag on a line with Leon Draisaitl. Lucic and Ryan Strome weren’t much better. Strome’s in New York now leaving Lucic with two rookies on his line. Yikes.
5-on-5 scoring without McDavid
Last season, the Oilers scored 82 5-on-5 goals and allowed 112 5-on-5 goals against when McDavid wasn’t on the ice. This season the Oilers are on pace for 65 goals for and 110 goals against in non-McDavid ice time.
The Oilers need to produce more when McDavid isn’t on the ice, which makes Todd McLellan’s decision to pair McDavid and Draisaitl together more confusing. McDavid’s will get it done with just about anyone with little difference. The McDavid-Nugent Hopkins combination hit a cold streak, but Draisaitl should have a better chance to produce sans McDavid than Nugent-Hopkins.