Edmonton Oilers: Stacking up against other Canadian teams in the East

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Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at how the Edmonton Oilers stacks up against other Canadian teams in the East

Welcome to the start of my new mini-series of blogs.  It’ll be a 3 part series that focuses on how the Edmonton Oilers will do in a Canadian division.  I’ll focus on the 3 teams in the East this time around – Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa.  IMO the Oilers actually stack up pretty well against all the teams in a Canadian division overall.  But let’s break it down to the individual elements and take a closer look.

Now it’s important to remember that the season is still ~ 1.5 months away as of this writing if everything holds up.  This means that trades and/or free agent signings may still happen.  Also, training camps definitely will happen.

However, this time of year would normally be about August – a typically dead time during the NHL offseason where not much happens.  So, although we can’t discount the possibility of major surgery being done to a roster, for the most part, other than minor changes rosters will be more or less set.

Montreal Canadiens

Top 6 forward

Montreal’s top 6 I can best describe as…..solid, if unimpressive.  They had 3 20 goal scorers on the roster from last year (I include newcomer Tyler Toffoli in that category as he scored 20 goals between LA and Vancouver).  No one in Montreal hit the point per game mark.  Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, and the aforementioned Toffoli will lead the way next year but none of these players will move the needle on the team themselves.  Tomas Tatar finished the highest up on the totem pole in the NHL last season, and still, he was only 36th in the league.

As for the rest?  Well, the other newcomer is Josh Anderson.  Acquired from Columbus in a trade for Max Domi, I can’t figure out why the Habs would trade these 2 for each other as they seem like basically the same player.

The only reason I could possibly think of is Domi regressed last season from 2 seasons ago and as is Montreal’s tradition when that happens the media and fans drive you out of town.  Philip Danault is the #1 center, and although he’s elite at faceoffs he’ll never be elite at anything else.  Nick Suzuki is the 2nd line center, and he’s only entering his 2nd season in the league so it’s tough to say what you have with him.

I guess what I’m trying to say is Montreal lacks truly elite skill in their top 6.  Tatar finished a spot below Nuge, who is the Oiler’s #3 scorer from last season.  That tells you all you need to know.  The Oilers, of course, are anchored by the McDrai duo.

Newcomer Dominik Kahun, who had chemistry with Dr. Drai in youth hockey, forms what should be an even better line with Kailer Yamamoto that was incredibly formidable last season as it was.  Rounding it out for the Oilers, it’s Nuge paired with Mcdavid and power forward Zack Kassian.  That’s a pretty good 1st line.

Winner:  Oilers

Bottom 6 forward

Looks like Jonathan Drouin has been banished to the bottom 6 unless Toffoli falters next season.  An unfortunate fate for a $5.5 million cap hit, but we have James Neal so I feel your pain Montreal.  Didn’t they trade Mikhail Sergachev for him, though?  Ouch.  Drouin was limited to 27 games last season, so I assume injury and not healthy scratches.

Next is Jesperi Kotkaniemi, a young guy who hopefully better days are ahead for.  He did have 13 points in 13 games in the AHL last season, for whatever that’s worth.  Joel Armia, 16-14-30 in 58 games last season, solid bottom 6 numbers.  Then on the 4th line, you have banished port winger Paul Byron, who put up 10 points in 29 games and 4 points in 10 playoff games for Montreal.  They’re paying him $3.4 million for 3 more seasons to do it, though.  Pity, Montreal.  A 1 time 20 goal scorer, he’s now playing on the 4th line.

4th line C is Ryan Poehling, a 21-year-old who’s entering a contract year and the last year of a 2 way contract.  He only put up 1-1-2 in 27 games.  Hopefully, he takes a step forward next season for his own sake, with numbers that like that he won’t have a long NHL career.  If he keeps up that average points per game pace he’ll have a whopping 6 points – in a full 82 game season.  Rounding it out – Artturi Lehkonen, who put up 13-14-27 in 70 games last season, solid for a 4th liner.

If Drouin can stay healthy and Kotkaniemi can take a step forward, they in combination with Armia and Lehkonen might actually add some decent secondary scoring to the roster.  Compare this to the Oilers, who will have quite a formidable bottom 6.  A 3rd line of Tyler Ennis-Kyle Turris-Jesse Puljujarvi should each pull in 25-30 points apiece especially against soft competition.

Because the Oilers have better depth on the 4th line, it’ll probably go something like this – James Neal-Jujhar Khaira-Josh Archibald/Alex Chiasson.  Waiting in the wings will be Gaetan Haas and Joakim Nygard.  Montreal’s got Jordan Weal waiting in the wings, a decent enough bottom 6 player if a bit vanilla with 15 points in 49 games last season, and the yet to be signed Charles Hudon – 1-1-2 in 15 games last season.  Meh.

2 legit wingers in the bottom 6 aren’t going to cut it, as far as I’m concerned.  The bottom 6 will be better for the Habs should Kotkaniemi take a step forward and Jonathan Drouin stays healthy, but neither of those things is guaranteed.  The guys waiting in the wings are nothing special.

The Oilers 3rd line is all capable of putting up 25-30 points, which already pretty much beats Montreal and that’s not including the fact that James Neal is an elite PP producer who is bound to put up another 15-20 goals and 30 points.  Whether Archibald or Chiasson takes the last spot doesn’t matter, both are good for about 20 points or so if last season is any indication.  Haas and Nygard already beat out Weal and Hudon.

Winner:  Oilers

Defence

Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot lead the charge for Montreal.  They put up 57 points between the 2 of them last year, pretty much what I see for the Oilers top pairing of Darnell Nurse-Ethan Bear.  Bear has yet to be signed but he’ll be done, book it.  However, at 35 it’s fair to ask how long Shea Weber can keep up the pace he’s at.  At a shade under a $7.9 million cap hit for another 6 seasons, Montreal better hope it’s for the long haul otherwise that contract will be a boat anchor that weighs them down for years to come.

Jeff Petry is a fine d-man who has put up 40 points the last 3 seasons and at 32 I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.  Enjoy him, Montreal, you snaked him from us years ago.  You’re welcome.  Newcomer Joel Edmundson is nothing to write home about, as his career year was last year with Carolina at 20 points.  72 PIMs, though, so safe to say he’ll be batting cleanup after Petry and clearing space for him with hits – he’s 6″4′, 215 lbs.

The Oilers 2nd pairing is Caleb Jones-Adam Larsson.  Larsson I could see putting up 15-20 points if he can stay healthy, which last year he didn’t.  Jones will be a newcomer to the top 4, having put up 9 points in 43 games as a part-time 3rd pairing guy.  I bet Jones will put up 20 points or so.  The Oilers will miss Oscar Klefbom at even strength to an extent, but I believe this quartet can overcome those minutes by committee.

Here’s the rub, though – new PP quarterback Tyson Barrie – who will be playing 3rd pairing minutes at evens and prime 1st unit PP minutes – is good for 30 points conservatively.  Kris Russell – again assuming he can stay healthy – should be good for 15 or so.  On Montreal’s bottom pairing, Brett Kulak is probably good for 10 points, while rookie Alexander Romanov will be joining them on the right side from the KHL.  Romanov has only put up 7 points in 43 games as a career-high in the KHL.  Using NHLe, we can project him out to 11 points here.

If he falters, Victor Mete rounds out the 7th man slot, good for maybe 10 points or so – he has 171 career NHL games so this season will show you for sure what you have in him.  Only 22, though, so he still has a ways to go before his PPY.

The Oilers likely 7th man this year is William Laggeson, currently tearing it up in Sweden with 9 points in 11 games.  Yeah, yeah, sample size, etc., but if we use NHLe for that, that comes up as 40 points.  Probably not going to happen as a 7th d-man, but would 15 points be more reasonable?  Probably.  Although Montreal can produce more in the top 4, the Oilers have a better depth which then tips the scales in their direction.

Winner:  Oilers

Special teams:  Last season – Oilers PP, #1, Montreal, 22.  Not a shocker to me.  Oilers PK, #2, Montreal, 19.  If results go the same way as last season – which IMO they will – then this is no contest.

Winner:  Oilers

Goaltending

I had to look again to be sure, but yes Mikko Koskinen did beat Carey Price in sv% last season, .917 to .909.  Although, if his pattern of previous years rings true, Price will do an otherworldly job this year, going back to elite status or close to it.  At 33, he could be starting to slow down, which is worrisome given his $10.5 million a year cap hit for 6 seasons.  He’s certainly more inconsistent than he was when he was younger.  GAA was not much different, Price was 2.79 while Koskinen was 2.75.

He’s going to platoon with Jake Allen, an elite goalie with St. Louis last year with a .927 sv%.  Also had a stingy 2.15 GAA.  Although this tandem will have the dubious distinction of being the most expensive duo in the NHL, IMO it’s worth the money.  Allen should be able to spell off Price when he doesn’t do so well.

And the Oilers, after losing out on Markstrom, went after……old balls Mike Smith…..again.  Ugh.  You’d think a swiss cheese playoff performance and a .902 sv% with a 2.95 GAA would’ve been enough to send Smith packing.

Nope.  Well, at least his contract is only about half of what it was last season.  Expect the same performance from him, can’t expect miracles from a 38-year-old goalie.  Despite the monumental cost, IMO Montreal takes this one easily.  It’s cap space well spent.

Winner:  Habs

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