Positives and Negatives Thus Far for the Edmonton Oilers


The Edmonton Oilers are two games into their 2015/2016 season, and things are already interesting. “You let the bad in with the good”, as the old saying goes. There are positives as well some negatives to take away from the performance of the Oilers in their first two games of the NHL season.

Let’s start with the positives. One big thing I notice with this years team so far is the compete level is much higher. Todd McLellan is known for emphasizing compete level within his team, as evidenced by his tough bag skate-like practise after the horrendous 5-2 preseason loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 1.

Both regular season games against the St Louis Blues and Nashville Predators were all out battles. The Oilers showed a tremendous amount of fight. There weren’t many fancy plays or passes. It was an all out grind from both ends of the ice.

More from Editorials

Tough guys like Luke Gazdic, Eric Gryba and Matt Hendricks did their jobs well by standing up for their teammates in scrums and playing physical. It’s nice to see the team stick up for themselves and actually push back when another big team tries to get in the way.

With the exception of Todd Nelson’s job well done last season to improve the teams grit and compete level, I have not seen an Oilers team play this hard in a very long time. This team clearly wants to win.

The most important element that stood out in the Oilers first two games was goaltending. Cam Talbot has provided his team with solid play between the pipes so far. In two games, he has a 0.929 save percentage, 2.05 goals against and 52 saves. These numbers will give the Oilers a chance to steal many games this season if Talbot can keep delivering the goods.

It truly makes a significant difference when a team has a quality netminder between the pipes. A great goaltender will give you the chance to win almost every night. The games against St Louis and Nashville were low scoring outcomes but could have resulted in a disastrous final score had it not been for Talbot’s rock solid performance.

Unfortunately he was hung out to dry a few times as a result of poor decisions made by the team in front of him. The sample size for Talbot is still small and he has a lot to prove this season. So far so good in that department.

Lauri Korpikoski has been an effective, physical, two-way forward so far. He has done well with getting the puck to the net and cycling the puck in the offensive zone.

Nail Yakupov in my opinion has had a quiet, solid showing in the first two games. He has been effective at both ends of the ice. His defensive play has come along way since that disastrous 2013/2014 season under former Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins.

Yak has generated effective offensive attacks and gets the puck to the net. I like how tough he plays. He is very sturdy on his skates and is built like a truck. Some people don’t realize how good he is at throwing his body around and the true strength he possesses. He will have a terrific season, I can feel it.

Scouts have criticized Griffin Reinhart for his lack of physicality, but I think he has showed improvement in that area. In his first game against the Blues, he made a few solid checks and used his big 6″4 217 lbs body effectively in the defensive zone. I was very impressed with his steady defensive positioning, ability to push the play up the ice and smart passes.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been terrific. His two-way ability and offensive touch make him the complete package. He was credited for the lone goal in the game versus St Louis and had another goal waved off against the Predators. The puck seems to be finding Nuge’s stick and he seems to always find the puck on the ice.  This is a good sign that he will breakout offensively this year.good

Connor McDavid is an 18 year old kid playing in the best hockey league in the world against big, strong men. It was obvious that he was a bit nervous and was trying to weather the storm of full speed NHL action. As expected, he is trying to adjust and find out what works and doesn’t work at this level.

In two games, he has zero points and is a -1. Who cares? If you watch closely, he has been very effective. The speed he possesses is unmatchable and he is already blowing by NHL caliber defensemen with his unstoppable offensive rushes.

I think people overlook his defensive ability as well. He back checks hard all the time and always positions himself well for a pass and when defending in his own zone.

The four shots on goal he had in his first two NHL games were of the highest quality. He easily could already have at least a point in each game. McDavid has been dangerous when on the ice and has created some golden offensive opportunities for himself and his linemates. There is no need to panic, the points will come.

Now let’s move on to the negatives. Turnovers and giveaways have been killing the Oilers for a very long time. This trend appears to be continuing. The defence continue to cough up the puck in the offensive and defensive zones.

Andrew Ferences‘ giveaway behind the Oilers net in the game against Nashville proved to be a defining moment in the game. He was the root cause of the goal that was scored on that play.

Oscar Klefbom had a terrible outing against the Blues. He was struggling to handling the puck and made brutal passes that resulted in costly turnovers.

Andrej Sekera has also been sloppy with the puck and particularly has a knack so far for giving the puck away up the middle of the ice or in the slot.

If the Oilers want to improve and win games this year, some players on the defence must polish up their passing and decision making. These mistakes cannot continue.

Another major concern is the offence. Where are the goals?  One goal in two games is unacceptable. Technically, the Oilers have zero goals because they yet to have a player of their own score a goal by themselves. You cannot win a game without scoring goals.

In games where the score is tight, any goal could be the decision maker. The Oilers have no problem generating a large amount of shots on the opposing teams net. The problem is the offensive players simply cannot bury the biscuit.

Capitalizing on their chances is something the Oilers must be able to do if they want to win close games this year. Talbot has done his part by stopping the pucks, now the offence has to score with those pucks. Everyone on the roster has to do their job, not just some of the players.

At the moment, Taylor Hall doesn’t look like the dangerous, electrifying scoring threat I have seen in recent years . He has created some decent opportunities in the first two games but I know he’s capable of more. A slow start in preseason might have affected his confidence somewhat.

I realize he is trying to create chemistry with his linemates right now, but the bottom line is that he has to consistently produce offence. That’s what he gets paid to do. Hall is a key component to the lineup and clearly makes the team better. All he needs is one goal to get his dynamic game going, then he could be unstoppable.

Teddy Purcell is playing like an AHLer right now. He looks slow out there, makes bad decisions with the puck and cannot produce consistent offence. Purcell’s declining performance dates back all the way to last season.

I’m afraid his 65 point season playing with Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay is a distant memory that we will never see again. There was a time when I thought he was decent, but now with an upcoming expiring contract, his days in Edmonton are numbered.

I would not be surprised if he is moved at the deadline. Not only that he was roughed up many times in St Louis. The fact that he is decently sized and doesn’t play physical is a factor that has disappointed me about Purcell.

Before we completely rip the Oilers apart and write off the season, let’s take into consideration that only two of the 82 games are completed. There is tons of hockey left to be played. This team is quite different and new amongst each player and personnel in the organization. The players are also still in the process of adapting to Todd McLellan’s philosophies and systems.

It will take some time for this team to start meshing and clicking together as a unit. I think it’s a bit premature to be labelling the season as “Doomed”. The good news is there is an astute hockey man by the name of Peter Chiarelli at the helm of this organization. If things go haywire, you can bet that Chiarelli will not stand for it. Not even for even a second.

Next: Oilers Prepare to Rendezvous with Stars

More from Oil On Whyte