The Edmonton Oilers were shown some love courtesy of Craig Custance of ESPN.com. Custance recently ranked, in his opinion, the top ten forward groups across the league and the Oilers came in at number four. Perhaps the high ranking was to help smooth over the lack of intelligence displayed in Paul Lukas’ rankings of the league’s top jerseys that pitted the Oil drop at number 14. Or perhaps Custance knows his hockey and recognizes that the youth movement in Edmonton is oozing talent and deserves to be ranked as high as they are.
The list that Custance compiled (Insider access required) has the Pittsburgh Penguins at the top. It’s difficult to argue with his choice with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way in a group that will once again make the Penguins an early Stanley Cup favorite.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings occupy the next two spots and again, it’s well deserved. The defending champions are the perfect blueprint for the Oilers to follow as it wasn’t that long ago that Chicago was considered bottom feeders. The same holds true for the Kings, who won a cup two years ago. Drafting smart and making wise trades has allowed both franchises to produce one of the best rosters in the league led by their electric group of forwards. Stanley Cup banners hanging high in their rafters are a result.
For the Oilers to be ranked fourth could be somewhat flattering when you look at the team’s that come in behind them. The Boston Bruins are number five followed by the Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. Leaving the Blues and Avalanche aside, the other clubs listed are all legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and not just heading into this year, but they have been for year’s gone by.
Also considering that the Oilers are in the top five with the four teams that have won the last five Stanley Cups further proves that the core group of forwards that Edmonton has developed confirms that the future is promising.
Custance does point out that the defense is of concern in Edmonton but for the purpose of his piece he focuses on the forwards. No one will argue with you if you declare the Oilers will score plenty of goals this season. But those that know the game of hockey know that keeping the puck out of your own net wins championships. Unless of course you believe that this group of Oilers’ forwards can repeat the glory days and outscore opponents by a 7-6 score on a nightly basis.
With training camp just weeks away, the excitement level surrounding the Oilers is again vibrating and it’s being led by the dynamic group of gunslingers. The blue line is still suspect, but for now, Oilers’ fans can rest easy knowing that there are experts out there that recognize the potential that this team has. How the rest plays out will be determined over the upcoming 82 game schedule and with the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov leading the way, there will be no shortage of excitement.