Much has been made over the course of the Oilers rebuild about the size and skill of their competitors in the Pacific Division. Is it a bit overblown or is it really an issue?
Naturally, having competition that is big and fast and brimming with good hockey sense is going to be a challenge at the best of times—even for the other big, strong teams. Recently, Jason Gregor did an interesting piece on how much bigger, based on sheer size and height, the Oilers became in contrast to last season.
Here’s what his conclusion stated:
The Oilers needed to improve many facets of their roster, and getting bigger and stronger was one of them. The added size combined with skill should make them more competitive this season. It won’t solve all of their problems, but MacTavish has to check off his weaknesses one by one, and I think he did a solid job of addressing their lack of size and skill, especially on the blueline.
Indeed, he is right. While the Oilers are still a bit small with four of their six top players coming in at rather dimunitive size (hey, Mark Arcobello is a shrimp, but he plays like a man possessed), they play big and put up points at a pace not unlike their divisional rivals. Gregor has already compared size. Let’s compare point totals among the top 2 teams in the Pacific:
LOS ANGELES KINGS: (because they won the Stanley Cup)
Tyler Toffoli – 12g, 17a, 29p— Dustin Brown – 15g, 12a, 27p— Justin Williams – 19g, 24a, 43p— Jeff Carter – 27g, 23a, 50p— Marian Gaborik – 11g, 19a, 30p (he only played a half season, so was on pace for 60 points)— Anze Kopitar – 29g, 41a, 70p
Now, let’s look at the Oilers Top 6.
LA – 113 GOALS, 136 ASSISTS = 239 POINTS
ANAHEIM – 129 GOALS, 169 ASSISTS = 298 POINTS
EDMONTON – 122 GOALS, 198 ASSISTS = 320 POINTS
Well, how about that? The Oilers top six outscore the two best teams in the Pacific by at least 22 points. Some of you may argue that lower point totals due to injury may have increased those totals last year and you may be right. Every team endures injury, though. The Oilers lost Taylor Hall for long stretches in previous seasons, and we lost RNH to that attack by the boards on his shoulder which affected him greatly for a time. My point is, things happen and so these totals should be interpreted with that in mind.
What that statistical revelation tells me is that the Oilers clearly lacked secondary scoring, and that they had a bad enough defense and goaltending to make the gains made by the top six irrelevant. Craig MacTavish has sought to remedy that situation with the arrival of Benoit Pouliot, Ted Purcell and Leon Draisaitl on offense and Nikita Nikitin, Mark Fayne and Keith Aulie on the back end.
There are no guarantees that these acquisitions will make the difference needed to push the team into the playoffs. However, Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky and Jesse Joensuu ought to be outscored this season by their repalcements. Pouliot had 36 points last year while Purcell had 43, outscoring some of the top six in LA.
It’s a given that a convergence of things need to occur for the Oilers to right the ship this season. Doesn’t it give you pause to realize, though, that our Top Six can score as well as anyone in the division? Yakupov and RNH are due for a bump and then there are the wild cards of Leon Draisaitl and whoever the team deems its second line centre. If the chips fall the way management want them to, perhaps the post season need not be only a fantasy.