Reasons for Oilers Success After Disastrous 2015-16
At 7-2-0 they lead the Western Conference with 14 points and are second in the league behind only the Montreal Canadiens, who are currently on a seven game winning streak and have an overall record of 8-0-1 for a total of 17 points.
After a year without Canadian teams in the playoffs, so far these two franchises seem determined to dominate early in the season to make a statement that they’re thinking playoffs or bust.
Let’s focus however on the Oilers, who after earning barely 70 points (with a record of 31-43-8), finished last year with the worst record in the Western Conference and second worst in the league. Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs (29-42-11, 69 points) earned that honor, there is no denying that last season the Oilers were terrible.
This season however the Oilers have so far looked unbeatable and have undergone a transformation worth looking into to decide if it’s something they can sustain for the rest of the year or are likely to falter along the way.
The arrival of Milan Lucic to the Oilers plays a big part in the change the Oilers are showing this early in the season. He has provided them with experience, leadership and consistency that the team badly needed.
The fact that he’s scored 4 goals and 3 assists in 9 games and is +3 when he’s on the ice has not gone unnoticed either by fans, teammates and the press who hail him as the catalyst of the Oilers revival.
He’s not the only reason however, and it would be foolish to think so. The team has also benefitted from the so far solid play shown by goalkeeper Cam Talbot who has a save percentage of .936 and has a goal against average of 2.04 in the first nine games.
Center Connor McDavid is another big reason the Oilers are surging this early in the season. With five goals and seven assists, he leads the team with 12 points and seems poised to continue an all-star season that saw him amass 48 points in 45 games and finish third in Calder Trophy voting, awarded to the best rookie of the season.
Two other players that seem to have benefited from Lucic’s arrival are center Leon Draisaitl and winger Jordan Eberle. Draisaitl, in his third year, seems to finally have adapted to the NHL game and has contributed with 2 goals and 4 assists. Meanwhile Eberle, who is on his seventh season with the Oilers has 3 goals and 3 assists.
Credit should also go to coach Todd McLellan, who seems to finally have found the way to fit all these pieces together and take full advantage of the weapons at his disposal. That’s more notable with the Oilers game in the slot, where the team has unequivocally found a better way to attack and defend. Should they keep this up all year they could be suited for a long run in the playoffs.