The Edmonton Oilers might have started poorly in 2023-24, but The Athletic is confident they are better than what they are currently showing on the ice.
There’s no getting around the fact the Edmonton Oilers are off to a terrible start this season. Their record of 1-5-1 is their worst through seven games, since the 2014-15 campaign.
As of Saturday morning, the Oilers are 31st out of 32 NHL teams, with just three points. These are undoubtedly tough times for a team which entered the season with genuine Stanley Cup aspirations.
Interestingly, there are a couple of narratives which have endured through the nightmare beginning to the season. One, that it’s still early and two, that the Oilers will still qualify for the playoffs.
Obviously, Edmonton sports fans will be hoping the second narrative in particular is true. However, there is something unnerving about such bravado in the face of the poor performances thus far on the ice.
At the same time, it does seem that plenty of media remain confident in the Oilers’ ability, including The Athletic. This much is evidenced, by where the sports journalism website has placed the team in their latest weekly power rankings.
A surprising ranking
As written by Dom Luszczyszyn, Hailey Salvian and company, The Athletic has ranked the Oilers 17th. (Subscription required.) That would be the same team which is last in the NHL for average goals allowed per game, following Friday’s slate of action.
Among the team’s The Athletic has ranked lower than the Oilers includes the Flyers (21st), who beat them 4-1 recently and has an overall record of 4-2-1. Another surprise include the Jets (19th), who also recently defeated the Oilers 3-2 in overtime, and has a record of 4-3-0.
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Now we appreciate that Power Rankings by design, are meant to be both subjective and polarizing. However, even if we ignore the Oilers being above the Flyers and Jets specifically, just the fact they are as high as 17th seems asinine considering their form thus far in 2023-24.
Given that The Athletic is a respectable sports media outlet not prone to hyperbole and hot takes, what gives? At least in part, it comes down to how highly they still rate the talent on coach Jay Woodcroft’s team.
In addition, The Athletic has factored in that the Oilers are renowned for their slow starts to the season. As Luszczyszyn wrote:
"“Also worth noting that Edmonton was playing at a 91-point pace at the end of December. The Oilers have looked awful (reaaaally awful), but they’ve looked disappointing before. They can still turn this around.”"
In this respect, the Oilers did begin last season with a 10-10-0 record through 20 games. The belief is they will once again rebound from an indifferent start and return to winning on a more consistent basis.
As much as Connor McDavid was part of the underpar start to the 2023-24 campaign, it will certainly help when he returns. He is currently out with an upper-body injury, but he is expected back soon.
Pending the Oilers indeed turning it around, you have to wonder if they’ve left themselves with too much to do to win the Pacific Division. They already sit 12 points behind the Vegas Golden Knights, who were ranked first in The Athletic‘s latest power poll.
Overall, taking everything into account, it is still our humble opinion The Athletic ranked the Oilers too high. Regardless, as they alluded to, it is not about how you start the marathon, but how you finish it.