Oilers maintain strong position in The Athletic rankings despite recent inconsistency

The Edmonton Oilers had an up and down February, but it didn't deter The Athletic from keeping them well-placed in their weekly NHL power rankings.

Boston Bruins v Edmonton Oilers
Boston Bruins v Edmonton Oilers / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages
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February was a tough month for the Edmonton Oilers as they went 6-5-1, in stark contrast to their unblemished 11-0-0 record during January. Regardless, The Athletic still has them positioned as one of the best teams in the NHL.

This is evidenced in The Athletic's latest weekly power rankings, with put them in eighth place. In fact, Sean Gentille and Dom Luszczyszyn collectively moved them up a spot from a week earlier.

Certainly ir speaks volumes when the Oilers have a strong ranking despite effectively playing .500 hockey following the All-Star break. For further context, it should be noted the weekly power rankings were published prior to Saturday's hard fought 2-1 win in Seattle, versus the Kraken.

In fairness though, The Athletic's latest power ranking for the Oilers is at least connected with where the team is in the standings. As of Sunday morning they are second in the Pacific Division, fifth in the Western Conference and 10th in the overall league standings, with games in hand on everyone above them.

Not always on the money

Early on this season, the Oilers were being well-ranked by The Athletic despite their terrible play. This included at one point being placed 17th, despite having the second-fewest points in the NHL.

In fairness Gentille and Luszczyszyn did subsequently make up for this after the Oilers' 2-9-1 record, which was their worst start through 12 games in NHL history. In fact the duo deserve credit for their humorous take on the situation, ranking the team 112th behind the likes of the 2014-15 Oilers and the 1984-85 Oilers at their current age, using the same gear they wore in the 1980s.

From a north of the border perspective in general, Canadians should take some pride in the Oilers being one of four teams in the top 10 of The Athletic's latest power rankings. This includes the Leafs at six, the Canucks at seven and the Jets at nine.

Of course this only matters so much, with what happens come the end of the 2023-24 season as what really counts. No Canadian team has claimed the Stanley Cup since the Canadiens way back in 1993, with six teams subsequently reaching the final but losing in the intervening 30 years.

Trade deadline needs

One other thing we'd like to reference from The Athletic's latest power rankings article, is their wish list for each team ahead of the Mar. 8 trade deadline. For the Oilers specifically, they pick a top-six scoring winger, who doesn’t require the power play to put up numbers.

Now as we've recently written, we believe the Oilers' most urgent need is to shore up the defensive end of the ice, whether it be a tandem goalie or top-four blue liner. Or ideally both.

In fairness to Gentille and Luszczyszyn though, they do acknowledge that a top-six winger is not the Oilers' most pressing concern. Instead, their philosophy is that the team may as well turn their strength into an even bigger strength because, for example, they do not believe a real upgrade on Cody Ceci is available.

Crucial win in Seattle and playoff implications for Oilers. dark. Next. Crucial win in Seattle and playoff implications for Oilers

We can certainly appreciate this perspective, but only to a certain extent. No matter how explosive the offence is, it won't mean a thing if the defensive play isn't there; the Oilers had the top-scoring team last season but it ultimately didn't stop them been knocked out of the playoffs in the second round, by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights.

Of course we're not suggesting the Oilers overpay, for help at the back end which may not amount to much. At the same time however, it's up to Ken Holland and company to take advantage of some of their intriguing assets, including Ceci, prospect Philip Broberg and first round draft picks, to entice someone to part with a quality defensive upgrade.

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