Maybe they haven’t looked the best, but the Oilers just keep winning games
Edmonton won their first ever game against the Seattle Kraken last night and improved their record to 7-1-0 on the season. Despite this outstanding record, the Oilers still have some very clear holes in their game that they’re going to need to fix if they want this success to continue. Let’s take a look at what the Oilers have shown us so far.
Evan Bouchard has been the Oilers’ best defenseman this year and it hasn’t been particularly close. Bouchard spent much of his time with the team last year as the 7th defenseman but is now playing top pairing minutes. This might seem like some incredible progression in the offseason but really the only reason he was ever the 7th defenseman was Dave Tippett’s unwillingness to play good young defensemen. This year though, he’s been too good to not play him and has made the days of him being a healthy scratch seem like a bad dream. Bouchard has flashed to start the season, but much of the rest of the Oilers defense has not. While Darnell Nurse has been his usual consistent self, the rest of the blueliners have been a little less consistent. Duncan Keith is not who he used to be. In fact, he hasn’t been for years and despite scoring a goal last night, he and Cody Ceci have not been a positive addition to the team. They need to start playing better defense soon because the way they are playing now won’t cut it against the league’s top teams. Since being taken off the top pairing, Tyson Barrie has looked much better and along with his powerplay contributions he seems to be playing his best hockey in a while. Despite the solid play from Bouchard, Nurse, and in recent games, Barrie, the Oilers, defense still has not been defending as well as they will need to if they want to contend.
The third line of Foegele, Kassian, and Ryan had probably their worst game of the season last night and along with a lackluster showing from the Benson, Shore, and Turris fourth line, the Oilers offensive depth was basically non-existent against Seattle. While the third line has been very solid to start the season, the fourth line has provided little production and is likely to be shaken up sooner rather than later. Offensive depth has always been a problem for the Oilers when playing good teams since they can’t just rely on McDavid and Draisaitl to win them games, but to this point in the season, the former Hart Trophy winners have had no problem carrying the team. While this may be doable early in the season against weaker competition, the offense needs to become more spread out as we move forward.
The power play is still the best on the planet. Not much else to say here, the Oilers just have an absolutely unstoppable powerplay. As long as they can draw penalties, they’re going to score goals. This powerplay can steal them some wins and I see no signs of it slowing down.
Mikko Koskinen has looked great since becoming the full time starter with Mike Smith injured. Over six games he’s 5-1 with a .933 save percentage and has bailed the Oilers out of some games where they were getting outplayed. It would be unfair to expect this performance to continue over the course of the season but for now, Mikko has been great and deserves some credit for the Oilers’ current record.
It might seem too pessimistic to be critiquing a team that’s off to as hot of a start as the Oilers, but it’s important to recognize that this team is far from perfect. They may have a great record but that doesn’t make them immune to criticism and they still have a ways to go if they want to be real contenders this season. Let’s hope they can get stay hot as the schedule gets tougher.