The Oilers are 19-18-3 after 40 games. They’ve been pretty Jekyll and Hyde this season with long stretches of wins and losses. A win against Arizona Wednesday prevented a seven-game losing streak. Let’s look at what’s trending up and down for the Oilers.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl
I’m a big believer in the Oilers needing Leon Draisaitl on his own line for long-term success, but both McDavid and Draisaitl are red-hot and on pace for career highs. Both McDavid and Draisaitl are on track to score over 100 points. The Oilers score a fantastic 4.19 GF/60 with McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice this season. 5-on-5 they’ve outscored the opposition 26-15.
McDavid and Draisaitl are fantastic together. Even if the Oilers don’t make the playoffs, having two players score like they do is sure to keep fans interested. But the rest of the team have been outscored 40-24 without McDavid or Draisaitl on the ice. The Oilers are also 1-6 in their last seven games.
No one can replace Oscar Klefbom on Edmonton’s roster, their recent slide shows that, but Caleb Jones has been very good since being recalled after Klefbom’s injury.
Jones is averaging 18:31 in his first 8 NHL games. He is already over 20 minutes a game in the past couple games and is making a case to stay even when Klefbom and Kris Russell return.
The Oilers live and die with McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins, so anyone that produces anything else deserves some recognition. Khaira’s 13 points in 36 games translates to 28 points over a full season, but that’s a godsend to a team that barely functions when McDavid isn’t on the ice.
Khaira can skate, kill penalties, and put up a few points. That’s a player that can be part of the solution for years to come.
Peter Chiarelli is in a tough position largely created by his own mismanagement. No one would have thought much if he stopped after acquiring defenceman Alex Petrovic from Florida for a third-round pick and Chris Wideman last Sunday but acquiring Brandon Manning and Robin Norell for Drake Caggiula and Jason Garrison is another poor move from Chiarelli.
Acquiring Manning for Caggiula adds another $750k to the salary cap this season and next for a player the Oilers don’t need. Chicago was outscored 29-6 with Manning on the ice this year. Manning’s time in Philadelphia looks better but was likely a product of playing a bunch with Radko Gudas. Manning fell apart without Gudas in Chicago and Gudas isn’t coming to Edmonton either.
Caggiula had his flaws but his $1.5-million cap hit wasn’t a problem like Manning’s will be. The Oilers badly need cap space to improve and Manning doesn’t bring anything different from the other third-pairing defencemen on the roster. It’s another transaction where Chiarelli’s reckless salary-cap management is apparent.
Cam Talbot struggled badly in November and appeared to be on the rise in December. Talbot started December with two wins against St. Louis and Minnesota and a .930 save percentage in both games. The rest of December featured more of Talbot’s November struggles. Talbot gave up 15 goals in his next four appearances, including seven goals against versus San Jose.
Talbot hasn’t found traction this season. Koskinen’s .919 save percentage means he’ll continue as the starter. Talbot’s .892 save percentage in 21 games is even worse than his 2017-18 season. With just 42 games left, we might be seeing the last of Talbot in Edmonton.
The Darnell Nurse-Adam Larsson pairing
Last season Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson formed an effective pairing when Klefbom was limited with a shoulder injury. They had a 50.95 CF% in 2017-18 and the Oilers outscored teams 33-25 with Nurse-Larsson on the ice 5-on-5.
This season, Nurse-Larsson have a 44.74 CF% and have been outscored 12-9 5-on-5. The Oilers needed this pair to tread water in Klefbom’s absence and they haven’t gotten it done.