Edmonton Oilers: Player report card at the halfway mark

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Edmonton Oilers

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: General Manager Ken Holland of the Edmonton Oilers speaks onstage during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the halfway mark of the regular season as here are our player grades for the Edmonton Oilers so far.

Overall the Edmonton Oilers have done well this season.  With the exception of going into last night’s game against the Rangers, the Oilers have been in a playoff spot all season long, and that victory against the Rangers combined with Calgary’s loss to Chicago put the Oilers back into a playoff spot.

That being said, the division is remarkably close this season.  Even with the victory last night, the Oilers are only hanging onto the last wild card spot by 1 only point.  The good news is things are so tight they’re also only 4 points out of 1st place in the division.

A winning or losing streak could seal their fate for the season either way.  Right now there’s no certainty the Oilers will make the playoffs, which would only serve to disappoint the McDrai duo if we didn’t, and that’s not a good thing.

There are still some weaknesses in this team that Ken Holland will need to address in the offseason.  The Oilers are still 2 wingers away from having a solid top 6.  Their depth scoring has been an issue this season as well.  1 goaltender has performed better than the other, and in this case that is not a good thing as the goaltender doing well has shown he can’t handle the workload of a starter.  We were supposed to have a 1/1A situation, but obviously we can’t play the other goalie if he’s going to suck.  The Oilers have the 3rd worst GA in the conference and 6th worst in the league, so overall team defense needs to improve.

So which players are part of the solution and which players are part of the problem?  Let’s find out.  

Players that are part of the solution 

Connor Mcdavid

I know, I know, a little obvious, but if I didn’t include him in this then I’d look silly, wouldn’t I?

Superman is leading the league in points right now – as he has all season.  Cracking the 20 goal mark just before the halfway mark of the season is incredibly impressive, considering a lot of guys don’t get there at the end of the season.  He’s got a PPG rating of 1.52, which extrapolates out to 125 points, which would establish a new career-high for the 5th year in a row.

Believe it or not, though, there are 2 areas of Mcdavid’s game that can improve right now.  1 is his faceoff win %, which at this point in time is 47.72%.  Now to be fair, that’s still a career-high for him, but he needs to get to at least 50% to reach the benchmark of being competent at faceoffs.

Imagine what Connor Mcdavid’s stats would be like if he could get to 50% – then we might be talking about him being on pace for 135 or 145 points instead of 125.  Every little bit helps, right?

The other area of his game that could use a spit polish – albeit a minor one – is his own zone play.  Right now his +/- is -6, which is a career-low for him.  I would imagine the staff is working with Mcdavid to improve that as the year goes on, as it goes counter to Dave Tippett‘s system.  A -6 is not a huge concern, but for a guy who gets as much ice time and is expected to score as much as Mcdavid is, it’s something that could spiral out of control quickly, so again I would imagine the coaches are working with him on that, seeing as how Dave Tippett‘s defense-first system generates offense from defense.

Leon Draisaitl

Connor Mcdavid’s sidekick is also a key forward for the team, and predictably he’s right behind Connor Mcdavid for #2 in league scoring, he’s also cracked the 20 goal mark just before the halfway mark of the season.  He’s right now at 1.48 PPG – just under Mcdavid – which works out to 121 points on the year.

Draisaitl at this point, though, is superior to Connor Mcdavid at 1 thing – faceoffs.  He’s cracked the 50% mark twice in his career already (the last 2 seasons), and is currently at 49.36% – which, while technically below the benchmark – is not something I’m concerned with considering the precedent he’s set and the piddly amount that he’s under 50% at right now.

The 1 area of his game that’s a concern right now is his own zone play – he’s a -20 right now, and he hasn’t been that bad since his rookie season of -17.  He freely admitted as much in the post-game interview after the Flames game, that his game has been “[expletive]” lately.  That shows good self-awareness on his part and gives me hope that the coaching staff will also work with him on tweaking and improving that area of his game.

Could some time with skills coach Adam Oates be part of his offseason after this one?  If this trend continues, maybe. Even if he doesn’t, at the very least Dr. Drai might be one of those guys who can outscore his mistakes.  It’ll be fun to see how he finishes the year.

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