31 Takes: The truth about the Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers don't look like they're going away. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The results keep coming in, and somehow I’m still shocked every time they do.

Edmonton now sits atop the NHL’s Western Conference, leading by two points — though St. Louis has two games in hand. On Saturday night, the Oilers handled a Vegas team that has as good of a roster on paper as just about anyone in the league. They won in a shootout on Sunday.

They’re doing it all through Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and that would normally be bad because you usually need to be able to outscore your opponent consistently throughout the lineup. And yet here they are, and likely, right around here they shall remain.

McDavid and Draisaitl were, not surprisingly, on the ice for three of Edmonton’s four goals on Saturday, and neither of Vegas’s. They also played at least 80 per cent of Edmonton’s overtime minutes the next night.

The Oilers have scored 83 goals in all situations so far this season; McDavid and/or Draisaitl have been on the ice for 62 of them. They’ve also allowed 72, with the team conceding 39 when they were off the ice.

Of course, because McDavid and Draisaitl get a lot of power-play time and relatively little on the PK, it’s probably worth talking only about how things have gone at 5-on-5. There? Edmonton is 34-24 (58.6 per cent) with either or both of McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice and the rest of the team is 20-28 (41.7 per cent) when they’re off.

The good news for the Oilers is that these two can probably keep up something resembling their torrid scoring tears. They’re both on pace to clear 148 points right now. If that settles into the 120 range as time goes on — given the rest of the team’s play — that could be a problem. But a drop-off that big for two players this good, who make it look so easy every night, is tough to square.

The gap in talent between them and the next-closest guy is pretty telling: McDavid has 47 points (one behind Draisaitl) and the next-closest guy is Zack Kassian — who’s played all but 52ish of his 423 minutes with these two this season — with 18. And that’s with him shooting in the 20 per cent range because McDavid and Draisaitl make it easy for him.

With all that having been said, though, we can’t knock the Oilers for all this too much. It’s not a bad thing to have the two best offensive players in the game on your team. It’s probably a dereliction of duty to provide them with this little support, but the results have been such that it hasn’t mattered and probably will continue to not matter for some time to come.

For now, things seem to be working largely because Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith are both delivering results above expected. How long can that last given what we know about those two? It’s tough to say, but the outlook can’t be all that optimistic.

Because Dave Tippet is a good coach, however, the Oilers are a competent defensive team (albeit one that isn’t drawing enough penalties and takes too many). It seems unlikely the team will ever come apart at the seams under this particular coach’s watch. And that wherewithal may be everything they need to keep succeeding.

All of which is to say that at some point, I’m going to have to accept that however bad the Oilers’ roster is from players Nos. 3-23, Nos. 1 and 2 are so good that it simply might not matter.

31 Takes

Anaheim Ducks: Okay and is it good that they’ve now given up 15 regulation goals in their last three games?

Arizona Coyotes: Nice to get the W but you can’t go around giving up 45 shots to the Kings, either.

Boston Bruins: I understand that you have to respect Bergeron and Marchand at 3-on-3 but maybe also you cover the guy who’s in the middle of carrying the puck 200 feet.

Buffalo Sabres: Who would have thought that “too many defencemen” would be a problem in Buffalo this year?

Calgary Flames: The good news about playing poorly and still winning in a shootout against a non-conference team is giving up the point doesn’t hurt you. Who cares? Do it every game if you want. No big deal.

Carolina Hurricanes: Dougie Hamilton has 10 goals already. Fun to think about.

Chicago: “Yet the Hawks marched into American Airlines Center with confidence and swagger despite owning a 2-game losing streak. And that’s how they played.” Yeah, they lost again.

Colorado AvalancheLet’s go!!

Columbus Blue Jackets: Just a bit of speculation here but what if Elvis Merzlikins isn’t good and shouldn’t be in the NHL?

Dallas Stars: What’s really incredible is this wasn’t even the best save of the last week.

Detroit Red WingsMan oh man.

Edmonton Oilers: If you’re making a list of why the Oilers keep winning this year and you only have Leon Draisaitl at No. 7, maybe go back to the drawing board.

Florida Panthers: Yeah the first line is usually why teams score a lot.

Los Angeles Kings: Yes, I guess technically two goals is “some.”

Minnesota Wild: Starting to think these guys might not be any good.

Montreal Canadiens: The revitalized Leafs are a point back (with two extra games played) and Tampa’s three back with three games in hand. Now’s not the time for this stuff, fellas.

Nashville Predators: Their Saturday win bumped them to… 2-6-2 in the last 10? Yeesh.

New Jersey Devils: If only they could bottle that third period...

New York Islanders: Weird quirk: Five of the last seven and all of the last four Islanders games have gone to OT or a shootout.

New York Rangers: This was so sick. What a feed from Chris Kreider.

Ottawa SenatorsTaking a victory lap for being .500 sure is something. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Philadelphia Flyers: Coaches love to outthink themselves.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens are really bad at faceoffs with Sidney Crosby. So I guess it’s a good thing faceoffs really don’t matter that much, except situationally.

San Jose Sharks: This really is the “Happy learned how to putt” run for the Sharks. They’re gonna be fine.

St. Louis Blues: Yeah I’m starting to think the Blues should just play Klim Kostin instead of Troy Brouwer(???) as a matter of course.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Still some problems kicking around, for sure, but the 40 goals — forty! — they’ve scored in the last nine games really helps.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Starting to think that if you put talented players in situations where they can succeed, they might just do it.

Vancouver Canucks: Remember when everyone was like, “This looks like one of the best teams in hockey!” two or three weeks ago? Now they’re just happy to be in the playoff conversation.

Vegas Golden Knights: Really just seems like Vegas has trouble with elite talent. That’s a problem.

Washington Capitals: They’re making the right call potentially extending Backstrom in favour of Holtby, but if they were really managing their assets properly they wouldn’t try to sign a 32-year-old for another four, five, six years, and they’d trade his rights around the draft instead.

Winnipeg Jets: Okay, take it easy.

Play of the Weekend

I think Pettersson hit this puck so hard it simply teleported to the back of the net.

Gold Star Award

Patrice Bergeron with the subtle four-assist game in a 5-4 win, like it’s no big deal. That line is something else, man.

Minus of the Weekend

Nick Foligno was on the ice for all four goals against in a 4-3 loss, which I guess is probably not good.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “Landeskog11” isn’t keeping up with the news.

Leafs trade Nylander, CECI, Barrie, Petan, and Freddie Andersen to Calgary for

Elias Lindholm, Hamonic, Derek Ryan, David Rittich, Michal Frolik, and Rasmus Andersson.

Signoff

Get in the corner.


Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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