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

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Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

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

Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks top 6 forwards IMO is one of the more impressive top 6’s in the NHL.  It’s led by winger JT Miller, a fantastic acquisition from Tampa Bay.  With Vancouver last year, Miller cracked the 20 goal mark for the first time in 4 seasons with 27, and a career-high in points, with 72 in 69 games.  There’s a question as to whether he can repeat that season or not, considering that he had a 16.4% shooting % which is higher than both the NHL average and his career average.

I expect a dropoff for him next season but not a huge one.  He should finish at just over or just under the point per game mark.  22-year-old Elias Pettersson had a slight uptick of a 2nd-year campaign, with the same 66 points, 20+ goals again (27) and both marks were in 3 fewer games than last year.  Rounding out the top line is Jake Virtanen, who improved his boxcars for the 4th straight season, putting up 18-18-36 in 69 games.

Wouldn’t surprise me if he cracked the 20 goal mark next season.  The 2nd line is headlined by Vancouver’s 2 most well known forwards Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser.  Center Horvat had a bit of a dropoff in stats as he had 22-31-53 in 69 games, which even accounting for the season shutdown was still a few games short of a full season.  Horvat isn’t great defensively, though, which is a bit of a bummer.

He’s never been over the zero mark in +/- and finished -15 this past season.  He’ll have to clean that up if he hopes to move the needle for the Canucks.  He’ll be starting his PPY next season, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he does clean that up.  Boeser was better defensively at +4 but had a dropoff in stats last season, which isn’t surprising at the age of 23.

His boxcars went from 26 goals 2 seasons ago to 16 goals last season, and from 56 to 45 points.  The games played were also down as well, though, from 69 to 57, which is 1 factor for the decrease, and also he finished with a 9.5% shooting %, over a full 3% below his career average of 12.9%.  Expect him to rebound next season closer to what you expect from him.

Rounding out the top 6 – and making sure the Canucks will be able to absorb the loss of Tyler Toffoli – is Tanner Pearson.  He’d been drifting for 3 seasons before making his way to Lotusland, where he put up 21 goals and 45 points – the latter of which is a career-high – and considering the calibre of his linemates I expect little to no dropoff in those numbers.

This is a solid top 6, but the million-dollar question is, is it better than the Oilers top 6?  The answer to that is no.  Reason why?  Inexperience.  Only 3 out of 6 forwards in the Canucks top 6 are in their PPY, whereas with the Oilers?  4 out of 6 are past the age of 25, none are over 35, and of the 2 guys who aren’t in their PPY, 1 of them is Connor Mcdavid, who at 23 plays better than most NHL players in their prime.

This reminds me of the other reason:  Vancouver has elite players in their top 6, but none at the level of a generational player.  The Oilers have 1, and arguably 2, in the McDrai duo.  Horvat and Boeser are good, but they can’t match the raw firepower of the McDrai duo.

Winner:  Oilers

Bottom 6 forward

The Canucks bottom 6 forward group is less impressive than it’s top 6 forward group, so it doesn’t appear there’s as much depth as there is on the Oilers.  The best the 3rd line has to offer is Adam Gaudette, a young 24 year old who put up 12-21-33 in 59 games last season.  Those are good stats, but they’re buoyed by a 16% shooting %, way above both his career average and NHL average.  Only time will tell if he can maintain that level of production.

On Gaudette’s wings is NHL veteran Antoine Roussel, who put up a career-low 13 points last season in only 41 games.  If he can stay healthier, he could bring that up to 20-25 in a covid abbreviated season.  He’s a tough cookie, though, as he’s put up over 100 PIMs 5 out of 8 NHL seasons, and over 200 PIMs in one season.

Still, he should have more offence in him.  Ironically, though, his shooting % was 1% higher than his career average so who knows?  The other member of the 3rd line is Brandon Sutter, NHL veteran of 719 games and only putting up 17 points of offence in 44 games last season.  If he can stay healthy he could put up 20-25.

The Canuck’s 4th line has an interesting wrinkle in it:  Brandon Sutter doubles as the 4th line center when not on 3rd line RW.  That’s a weird way to use a player, but I guess you gotta do something when you’re paying the guy $4.375 million for 1 more season.  His wingers are Tyler Motte, who had injury issues last season and thus only put up 8 points in 34 games.  If he can stay healthy he could put up 10-15.  Rounding out the 4th line is generic bottom 6 guy Zack Macewan, who played a whopping 17 games last season – and only has 21 his entire career – and 6 of his 7 career points.

The extra guys are where it gets interesting as the Canucks have severely misused their cap space paying inflated salaries to guys who have fallen off the map, and I don’t even want to look at their boxcars because their cap hits are so horrific.  Amongst this motley crew of extra guys is noted pylon Loui Eriksson, 35, and a $6 million cap hit for 2 more seasons.

Oh, and a modified NTC too.  Michael Ferland, 28, $3.5 million cap hit for 3 more seasons with an NMC.  Sven Baertschi, 1 more season with a cap hit of $3.366666 million.  Fortunately no extra clauses for him.  Jay Beagle, 35, 2 more seasons at a $3 million and with a modified NTC.

Wow.What a disaster.  That’s over $15 million spent on extra bottom 6 players.  I guess that explains why Zack Macewan only played 17 games last season – they’ve gotta cycle these guys in every once in a while so they stay somewhat sharp.  Hopefully, they can persuade the guys with the extra clauses to waive them for the expansion draft – otherwise, I have zero idea what they’re going to do with them.

No one’s taking those contracts in this cap climate and you can’t buy them out because it wouldn’t alter the team enough and kick the cap headache down the road.  I guess the one thing you have to look forward to is after this upcoming season at least 1 of those guys will be coming off the books per season for the next 3 seasons.  Good times for you.  I have a newfound respect for the Oiler’s bottom 6 – which was already better before the regulars – and with only 1 inflated contract it’s utilizing team cap space way better.

Winner:  Oilers

Defence

Congratulations on Quinn Hughes.  He’s an absolutely huge piece to your D core.  I’m gonna say he’ll do the same 50 points again, especially considering his shooting% was only 6.3% last season, way below the NHL average.  I also loved the trade for Nate Schmidt.  A silly move as you hosed a division rival who badly needed to dump salary.  They’re going to make an elite 1st pairing.

Alex Edler’s been a great soldier for the Canucks, but it’s fair to ask if at 34 he can keep up the same pace.  He’s put up 30 points the last 3 seasons, which is great, and fortunately for the Canucks his contract is up after this upcoming season so they can sign him to a lesser deal afterward.  Tyler Myers rounds out the top 4 for the Canucks, which is great, and although 21 points in 68 games isn’t bad, you’d expect at least 10 more points for $6 million a season, and especially better than a -7 on the season.  This was 10 points less than he put up in Winnipeg 2 seasons ago.  Will he rebound this season?  Hopefully.

Maybe the element of familiarity will help him this upcoming season.  The bottom of the roster consists of Jordie Benn, 33 years old and veteran of 517 NHL games, who put up a whopping 7 points in 44 games last season.  Then there’ll be rookie Olli Juolevi, who if dailyfaceoff.com is correct will round out the bottom pairing.

Tough to say what he’ll produce, I’ll guess 15 points?  NHLe says 22 based on his last full season in the AHL.  If another prospect – Jack Rathbone – makes the team instead or as the extra guy (what are you going to do?  They don’t have cap space for a 7th guy) then NHLe says 25 points for him if he makes it.  He’s only 21, though, and going into his 3rd year of US College puck, so there’s the risk of rushing him.  Not so much with Juolevi, who has 2 seasons in the AHL and 1 in the Swedish pros.  It’s a coin flip until training camp.

Compare this to the Oilers – I’d say the Canucks corps is capable of more offense.  By my projections, even when Tyson Barrie’s conservative 30 points is taken into consideration, the Canucks D corps will still outscore the Oilers next season.  No question I gotta give credit where credit is due.

Winner:  Canucks

Special teams:  Oilers PP #1, Canucks PP #4.  Oilers PK #2, Canucks PK #16.  Close but no cigar on the PP.

Winner:  Oilers

Goaltending

The Canucks have now been able to do something the Oilers just haven’t:  draft a good starting goalie that can make his way onto an NHL roster.  It’s tough to say exactly what they have in Thatcher Demko, he was a bit average in stats this past season with a .906 sv% and a 3.06 GAA in 27 GP.  However, I would consider his equivalent on the Oilers to be old balls Mike Smith, and Demko has far more upside than Smith does.  Canucks win.

Meanwhile, the signing of Braden Holtby to replace Markstrom was a stroke of genius, IMO.  It’s a short-term contract for 2 years, and over his career, Holtby has put up elite stats in 6 out of his 10 seasons.  His career sv% of .916 and a very respectable GAA of 2.54 are very solid.  He struggled last season in Washington, but his top 2 jobs this season will be to mentor Demko and be his 1A otherwise.  That’s a reduced role from being the starter in Washington, and his career will benefit from it.  There would be very few better mentors for Demko than Holtby.  Congratulations.

Mikko Koskinen has shown improvement over the last 3 seasons of his NHL career but he is still a bit unpredictable and much less of a known commodity than Holtby.  I can’t predict his ceiling will be anything more than slightly above average until I see otherwise.  I have much more faith in Holtby, and certainly, the tandem of Holtby-Demko is much better than Koskinen-Smith, no question for me.

Winner:  Canucks

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