We've had our criticisms of The Athletic's power rankings for the Oilers at times so far this season. And when we have done, it's usually been because we believe they've actually been too generous with a team which has just failed to live up to the preseason hype.
Of course we appreciate that sports power rankings are always going to be polarizing and subjective in nature. In other words, the very essence of them is to almost serve as a collective hot take, designed to encourage debate. (And by debate, this sadly often means disagreements and arguments.)
Regardless, it is our humble opinion that The Athletic's Christmas edition of their weekly power rankings has actually placed the Oilers in the correct position. That's because the team has been ranked 15th out of the 32 NHL teams.
The definition of average
Now yes, we appreciate that there will be those out there who question this, given the Oilers are tied a lowly 25th following Friday's slate of games in terms of overall points. However, we believe their ranking is indicative of a team which has been decidedly average up to this point, with a 15-15-1 record. (Heck, even their goal difference is only a +2.)
More to the point, the Oilers have just been far too erratic so far in 2023-24, with more peaks and troughs than fans would like. This has been particularly highlighted by a lowly 2-9-1 record to begin the campaign, contrasted by an NHL season-high eight-game winning streak.
While there is still no way of knowing at this stage if the Oilers will put a sustained playoff challenge together this season, the talent on the roster at least offers reason for hope. And this talent was on full display Friday night, when they went into Madison Square Garden and beat a Rangers team which had only lost three times at home this season and has the most points in the Eastern Conference at the time of posting.
One things we particularly like about The Athletic's weekly rankings, is that they have fun with them. For example, when they did get it right by putting the Oilers in last place, they went to town.
By this, we mean the Oilers didn't just get put in 32nd place. Instead they were ranked 112th, behind teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs on skates, the truly awful 2014-15 Oilers, and the 1984-85 Oilers at their current age using the same gear they used during the 1980s.
With this in mind, Sean Gentille and Dom Luszczyszyn assigned a beloved Christmas character to each of the NHL teams in their latest rankings. For the Oilers in particular, they wrote:
"Kevin McAllister (“Home Alone”)
Kevin bears some responsibility for his predicament — if he hadn’t been such a brat, he wouldn’t have been in the attic in the first place. Either way, he thrived after making a mess for himself. Sounds like a team that goes 11-6-0 after a November coach firing."
We'd like to take the festive theme a little further, by suggesting the Oilers deserve to be on Santa's naughty list this Christmas. They managed to srew up in last season's playoffs, despite their most regular season wins since 1986-87, scoring the NHL's most goals and having a record-breaking power play unit.
Throw in the indifferent start to this season which has left most Oilers fans disappointed and got poor Jay Woodcroft fired, and they truly deserve to receive lumps of coal on Christmas Day. The players have a lot to do over the next 12 months, in order to make next Christmas a more joyful occasion for everyone associated with the team.