NHL Notebook: Edmonton Oilers climb power rankings as Canada eliminated from World Juniors

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers are on the rise, and people are starting to take note.
And in Daily Faceoff’s first power rankings of the 2024 calendar year, the Oilers have climbed up to No. 19 in the rankings. Here’s what they wrote about them:

19. Edmonton Oilers

Record: 18-15-1, +13
Last Week: 21st (+2)
Mike’s Rank: 17th
Scott’s Rank: 21st
Mike: It has always seemed at least somewhat inevitable that the Oilers would rebound and shoot back up the standings, but … even then, I’m not sure if they’re as good as last year. Even with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl having their best seasons ever, the Oilers couldn’t get out of the second round of the playoffs. It was Colorado in 2022 and Vegas in 2023. Will it be Dallas in 2024? Either way, losing to the eventual champs isn’t a good enough excuse for a team this skilled.
The good news for the Oilers? They’ve been one of the best teams in the entire NHL under Kris Knoblauch. As I wrote about earlier today in the GDB, the Oilers have a 16-5 record under him and a .714 points percentage that’s second to only the Winnipeg Jets.
Do the Oilers have work to do? Undoubtedly. Should the Oilers be higher than number 19? Undoubtedly.
We’re now talking about a sample size under Knoblauch that accounts for 60 percent of all the games the Oilers have played this season. They’ll continue to improve the rest of the way.


Canada falls

A disastrous week for Hockey Canada has come to an unceremonious close Tuesday in Sweden, as the Canadian World Junior club was eliminated by Czechia in the semi-finals.
The 3-2 bounce, thanks to a Czechia goal with 11 seconds left, came after the Canadians secured back-to-back gold medals in 2022 and 2023, the standard for this team every year. But for this year’s team, it just wasn’t there.
You could make the argument it’s a roster construction issue. The organization seemed to fill roster spots based on players who “play the game the right way” this year. Jagger Firkus, for example, is one of the CHL’s top scorers, but the Moose Jaw Warriors forward was cut from camp, only to end up travelling to Sweden days ago as an extra forward.
Other players like Bradly Nadeau, Andrew Cristall, Owen Pickering and Reily Heidt, the WHL’s top scorer, all weren’t even invited to selection camp. For a Canada squad that struggled to score when it mattered most, those are the types of players that could’ve been difference-makers.
Macklin Celebrini, for as gifted as he is, couldn’t be relied upon to do it all, and others like Matthew Poitras, Matthew Savoie, Fraser Minten and Owen Beck couldn’t get it done, scoring just four goals all tournament, as Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis noted.
As he added, it was a sum of parts that ailed the squad:
No player had a dreadful tournament by any means, but like any time Canada loses out, the topic of who could have played will continue to dominate the discourse. Jagger Firkus was cut after a rough camp in Oakville but was later added as a reserve player. Given he’s one of the top players in the CHL, they had to have a found room for him somewhere. Denver Barkey did everything Letang used Easton Cowan for – energy, blocking shots, killing penalties – in camp, but was better. Both of those players would have made a big impact on Canada.
After giving a 2-0 lead to the Czechs, Canada was the much better team on Tuesday. They dominated possession and kept Hrabal busy. But Canada’s inability to capitalize on chances – today, and far too often in the past couple games – left everyone wondering, “What if?” They needed a finisher and didn’t get it.
A lack of effective lineup juggling. Missed opportunities. An overworked goaltender. Missing talent. The stars weren’t playing like stars. All of this combined made for a well-deserved early exit.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.


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