With an outstanding 2016-17 campaign and finally ending an 11-year playoff drought, the Edmonton Oilers turned heads this past season.
Heading into this coming year, the bar is raised, and they are expected to be a huge Stanley Cup contender and one of the toughest competitors in the league. With the NHL’s leading scorer and MVP in Connor McDavid, as well as a brand new young core, the Oilers are climbing the NHL rankings. However, do they take the title as the top team in the Pacific Division?
First off, they perhaps have the most offensive firepower out of every team in the Pacific. In addition to McDavid, the Oilers also have Leon Draisaitl, who finished seventh in league scoring. With Draisaitl and McDavid combining for 177 points, they are the NHL’s deadliest duo. Backed by 20-goal scorer Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic and up-and-comers like Drake Caggiula and Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton’s arsenal of scorers ranks high among all Pacific teams.
The team that comes behind them are likely the San Jose Sharks. They have Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, but lost a lot of offence after Patrick Marleau left to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Calgary also has a handful of young talent in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Dougie Hamilton and company, but they do not produce nearly as much as the Oilers’ offence does.
Thanks to their arsenal of star forwards, the Oilers stack up offensively as the top team in the Pacific. There is not another team that has nearly as much star-power, and with McDavid and Draisaitl leading the way, Edmonton will not only be a competitor, but a dangerous team to face.
Blue Line at a Glance
Defensively, Edmonton’s blue line is pretty stable. Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom are perhaps one of the Western Conference’s best shutdown pairings. They also have up-and-comer Matthew Benning and the NHL’s best shot blocker in Kris Russell. Not to mention, Andrej Sekera has been a standout veteran presence, and Darnell Nurse is on the rise.
The Oilers d-corps, however, will have to compete for the top title with the Flames. Calgary spent a lot of time upgrading their defence so far in the offseason. They have Michael Stone returning and Travis Hamonic coming in from New York, which makes their defence a lot stronger.
Overall, the Oilers stack up well defensively, but their young blueliners will have to step up if they want to rank as the top d-corps in the Pacific. Calgary took a lot of time improving on the backend, and the Sharks can rely on Brent Burns and company to provide top-tier defence. Not to mention, Arizona has Oliver Ekman-Larsson and a handful of other up-and-coming defenders, so the Oilers will need to see a lot more ability from the blue line to rank the best in this department.
Between the Pipes
While Laurent Brossoit still has to prove his worth as a solid, full-time backup, Cam Talbot has shined in net and is perhaps one of the top goalies not only in the Pacific Division but the Western Conference.
He tied Braden Hotlby for the league lead in wins with 42, and also led the NHL in starts (73) and saves (1,946). The 29-year-old also shined with a .919 save percentage and 2.39 GAA, as well as a 42-22-8 record.
Martin Jones and Jonathan Quick are two of the top goaltenders in the West, and the Flames brought in Mike Smith to improve between the pipes. Still, with Talbot’s performance alone, the Oilers have perhaps the best goaltending in the Pacific.
When breaking down the numbers, Edmonton has a huge advantage over other teams in the Pacific thanks to their star-studded roster, but even taking that out of the equation, they’ve built enough depth to finally compete in one of the league’s toughest divisions.