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The Edmonton Oilers have been scorching hot since Ken Hitchcock took over and are currently sitting in a playoff spot. In this edition of the hotstove, we discuss whether they can hang on or if they'll be on the outside looking in when all is said and done.
Though the wins have piled up of late, I'm not sold on the Oilers at all. I don't think they've played *that* well. Their share of the shots and chances at 5v5 is essentially the same as under Todd McLellan, which is certainly nothing to write home about. The Oilers have simply benefited from extremely good goaltending and some shooting luck. In other words, they're riding the percentages more so than dictating play to opponents.
Their best defenseman (Oscar Klefbom) is out long-term and they still have next to no talent on the wings. I'm sure Connor McDavid will keep the Oilers in the playoff hunt but I just don't see them getting in.
Yes I believe they are a playoff team, whether or not that will be top 3 in the Pacific or a Wild Card team is still the uncertainty. At the time of writing this, the Oilers are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. They have won one-goal games, blown out their opposition, and relied on some strong goaltending from two good netminders, and of course, have the best player in the entire league. The Oilers are far from a perfect team, but they have enough tools in place to be a playoff contender. The fact that in year 4 of the McDavid era the Oilers are only a playoff contender is another story...
Koskinen has a .930 SV% and a .960 SV% at home, where he is also undefeated. That's phenomenal, but also not sustainable, nor is Alex Chiasson's 30.4% shooting percentage. When both of those come down to earth this team will see some more losses.
The team is playing better under Hitchcock; whether you want to equate it to his systems, where the forwards are coming back deeper to support the defence, or simply that they appreciate their new coach more, the Oilers have been a more engaged team. The next challenge for the team will be surviving until likely the end of January when Oscar Klefbom will join the lineup. It will be a battle until the end of the season but I'm putting money on Edmonton being back in the post-season
I don't buy it sadly, but I understand the reasons for optimism.
The Oilers have relied far too heavily on too few things to survive the season slog to the playoffs.
They have relied on Koskinen being a Vezina goalie
They have relied on McDavid and Draisaitl scoring every game.
They have relied on Chiasson shooting at 31%.
The drop off in scoring from the Big 3 (plus Chiasson I suppose) to the rest of the depth players is staggering.
They lost Klefbom who I think most agree is their best overall defender. They now need Nurse (inconsistent) and Larsson (one dimensional) to eat up 26+ minutes a night. This is even worse when you see the players they simply need to ice behind those two. Benning, Gravel...Garrison, am I reading this right? They're playing Garrison? Is this 2014? These aren't playoff defenders, even in the 6/7 holes.
The West has been a bit of a mess this year. The embarrassing collapses of the Kings and Blues have put everything off kilter. The inevitable decline of the Blackhawks finally hitting them with tangibility. The injuries decimating the Stars. It has caused a lot of chaos. However, I think the Wild are a better team and will be in the playoffs when all is said and done.
Who won the Ducks/Penguins trade?
Best fit for Ilya Kovalchuk?
Most underused goaltender in the NHL?
Most underused defender in the NHL?
Most underused forward in the NHL?
Thoughts on the Blackhawks/Coyotes trade?
Predicting the Central Division standings
Predicting the Pacific Division standings
Predicting the Metro Division standings
Predicting the Atlantic Division standings