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

Edmonton Oilers. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports /
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Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Ottawa Senators

Top 6 forward

Remember how it took the top 3 of TO’s forwards to equal the McDrai duo?  Well, considering the Sens are the 1 Canadian team actively rebuilding right now, it’ll take like their top 5 scorers to get to 1 point below the McDrai duo, and remember 1 of those is Jean-Gabriel Pageau who is now a New York Islander.

As you would expect, a lot of Ottawa’s top 6 is futures that haven’t 100% cashed in their potential yet.  Only 1 player in their top 6 is past the age of 30, Evgeni Dadonov.  Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris are both still on their ELCs.  The 1st line of Tkachuk-Norris-Dadonov are all 20 goal 40 point scorers.  The 2nd line of Tierney-White-Brown put up points of 37, 23, and 43 respectively.  In time Brady Tkachuk may turn into a franchise forward, but he’s not there yet.  This top 6 is as much of a work in progress as you’d expect.

Winner:  Oilers

Bottom 6 forward

Alex Galchenyuk is a guy the Sens are taking a flyer on.  He’ll be the top producer on the 3rd line, probably with 15-20 points.  His linemates are Logan Brown and Drake Batherson, who are young and inexperienced and as you would guess are 5-10 point players right now.

Oddly enough, the 4th line outscores the 3rd line.  Ex-top 6 forward Artem Anisimov is the 4th line center, with Nick Paul, who put up 20 points last year, on his left, and Austin Watson, a newcomer from Nashville, put up 14 points in 53 games.  Put down AA for the same 20 points as Paul.  Still, none of these players hold a candle to their counterparts on the Oilers.

Winner:  Oilers


Thomas Chabot is the anchor of the Sens corps with 39 points in 71 games last year.  After him, it’s a big dropoff.  His partner is ex-Leaf Nikita Zaitsev, who put up 1-11-12 in 58 games last year.  Newcomer Erik Brannstrom is at the left side of the 2nd pairing – he put up 23 points in 27 AHL games but comes with risk as he has only played 33 NHL games so far, 31 of those last season with the Sens where he put up 0-4-4 and a -9.

His partner, Josh Brown, thus far only an AHL bubble player who has put up no more than 8 points in a season – in 56 games.  Rounding out the D in the bottom pairing is leftie Christian Wolanin, who must’ve been through injury last year as he only played 12 games, 9 of which were on Ottawa’s farm team.  He’s played a whopping 43 career NHL games, putting up 5-10-15 in that time.  Very generic bottom pairing guy.

Kris Russell can put up that much offence in 1 season.  Rounding out the D corps is a physical stay at home d-man Erik Gudbranson, who will be coming into Ottawa having split time between Pittsburgh and Anaheim.  He’s only cracked the 10 point mark once in his career so that tells you all you need to know about his puck-moving ceiling.  He’s adequate enough for a rebuilding team, I guess.

Hard to put a number on the offense this group might produce but it reminds me of similar Oiler corps during the early days of the decade of darkness.  Fortunately, the dark days are over for the Oilers and just beginning for the Sens.

I’d go through the extra guys, but what’s the point?  If the regulars aren’t going to save Ottawa, the extra guys won’t or they wouldn’t be extra guys.  The only thing worth mentioning about them is 1 of them shares a name with CFL all-star QB Mike Reilly.

Winner:  Oilers

Special teams:  Pretty much what you’d expect.  Ottawa finished dead last in the league on the PP last season, at #31.  Oilers are the polar opposite at #1.  On the PK?  28th in the league, as opposed to the Oilers #2.

Winner:  Do you even have to ask?  The Sens get buried in an oil slick here.  Don’t expect either special teams unit to make much progress for Ottawa right now.

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Post-retirement of Craig Anderson, Ottawa promptly shelled out what looks like at this point a solid prospect in Jonathan Gruden and a 2nd round pick to Pittsburgh for Matt Murray, who struggled so badly last season that he lost his starting position to Tristan Jarry.

And that’s not even the worst part.  They then backed up the brinks truck to Murray by paying him $6.25 million a season for 4 seasons.  Let me repeat that – he lost his starting position last season and didn’t even make the cut as an average NHL goalie.

The Sens went ahead and rewarded Murray for failure, something that in this day and age is a really bad idea.  Not to mention that the D corps in Ottawa are significantly worse than the D corps in Pittsburgh, so unless Murray stands on his head he’s going to be swiss cheese for the next 4 years for Ottawa.

I know rebuilding teams have to give a “we’re bad” premium to entice free agents, but Ottawa shelled out a minimum of $2 million a season too much for Murray.  You should be giving out $500k-$1 million in premium spending, but not more than that.

Now, if the Sens gave Murray a base salary of $4-4.25 million and $2 million a season in bonuses – that’s a contract that makes a lot more sense for both Murray and the Sens.  But they gave him the whole thing as a guaranteed salary.  For me, this signing takes the cake as the worst signing of free agency.

He was an elite goalie the 1st 2 seasons in Pittsburgh when his team won back to back cups but ever since then he’s been mediocre to average.  Elite paycheck for a mediocre to average goalie – this is even worse than the Markstrom contract Calgary shelled out.  At least they had the good sense not to give him an NT or NM clause.

Ottawa better hope that the “change of scenery effect” is fully in play here, because at this point that’s Murray’s only redeeming quality and the only way he improves in Ottawa.  Personally, I wouldn’t count on it.

Platooning with Murray will be a name Oiler fans should be familiar with – Anders Nilsson.  Nilsson has since gone on to put up 1 elite season with Buffalo and then proceed to be mediocre to average everywhere else he’s been – and since Edmonton, he’s played in St. Louis, Buffalo, Vancouver, and now Ottawa.  It seems as if we aren’t really missing him.

IMO Murray is in for a world of hurt in Ottawa, and everyone will be looking to run him out of town after season 2 of this contract.  Koskinen only has 97 NHL games to his name, so we don’t completely know what we have with him yet, but at least with Koskinen, we’ve got a goalie whose numbers have improved every year of his career.

Must Read. End of season player report cards for the Edmonton Oilers. light

Koskinen, I see as being superior to Murray (I take Murray’s career numbers with a grain of salt since they’re propped up by 2 elite seasons), but after that?  It’s a tough call.  Age is a factor with Mike Smith, but Nilsson has career numbers that are somehow even worse than Smith’s.  Despite the fact he’s younger, I’m going to have to give the edge to the Oilers on the other end of the tandem too.

Never thought I’d see the day, but here’s a goaltending duo worse than the Oilers.

Winner:  Oilers

That’ll do it for the Eastern teams.  Stay tuned as I look at how the Oilers will compare to the Western teams and then predict standings for a Canadian division.