The Avalanche have yet to play the Oilers this season, so Zach over at Copper & Blue was nice enough to give us the scoop on Colorado's former division rival. Puck drops at 8:00 PM MST. And, yes, your eyes do not deceive you: it is another home game!
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1. The Oilers have played pretty well of late, going 7-3-0. What's working for the team right now that wasn't early in the season?
I think the big thing early on was that the Oilers had to adjust to the new styles of Todd McLellan as he coaches his teams a lot different than Oilers coaches of the past. This is a team that has has six coaches in the last six years, and six different systems in the last six years so it’s fair to say it hasn’t been easy on some players. Guys like Jordan Eberle who have been here the longest have seen it first hand. Before the start of the season, Eberle went down with a shoulder injury. He managed to pot seven points during out recent six game win streak so having him back was a big part of the push back we have seen from the Oilers.
2. With the emergence of Leon Draisaitl, and the impending return of ol' Mc-What's His Face, the Oilers find themselves in the enviable position of having a glut of good young centers. Is it in the team's best interest to ship off one of these pieces to fill talent deficiencies at other positions, or are one of these guys destined to a wing spot in the long-term plan?
If I were wearing the GM hat for the Oilers, I would strongly consider moving out Jordan Eberle for a defensive piece. Leon Draisaitl’s emergence has been one that has been totally unforeseen. We knew that Leon was a big, strong player and that he has lots of offensive upside but I never expected him to come on the scene and score 3.8 Points/60. Draisaitl has shown a high-level of adaptability and has shown he can play both the wing and the centre position. Thus, I feel that Jordan Eberle could be made expendable. Not simply because I think Jordan is a poor player, but something has to give in order for the Oilers to return to the glory years.
3. Andrej Sekera was a highly sought after free agent this offseason. After just three 5v5 points in thirty-three games (and a 45.19 CF%), Oilers fans can't be happy about paying him $5.5m AAV for the next five years. Can Sekera improve his production in Edmonton, or is he now being exposed playing outside L.A.'s system?
This season, Sekera has actually scored 12 points in 32 games (1.1 P/60) as well as a 48% CF [Editor's note: Zach is talking about All situations]. Early on, he struggled for sure but as I noted above I think a lot of the early season woes came with the team trying to understand the system McLellan put in place. He has been tasked with mentoring Darnell Nurse, but the pair have played poorly statistically (42% CF with Nurse) even though I believe the eye test says otherwise. It is still too early to tell how the Sekera deal will play out. I was a big fan of the move when it was made, and I think Sekera has a lot of room to still improve his game. The main concern that I have is that Sekera is 29 years old, and will be 34 at the time the contract expires. Hopefully the team won’t regret the last few years of this deal should he regress.
4. The Pacific Division has not had a great start to the season. Is Edmonton a team that can sneak into the playoffs this year? Are they better served at this stage of their build aiming at another high draft pick?
Between games 3 and 13 the year, the Oilers second line consisted of Nail Yakupov, Connor McDavid and Benoit Pouliot. The three now have combined for 37 man games lost this year and the Oilers six-game win streak was completed without any of those guys. The team has really rallied around the fact that we have been banged up, and that’s a real positive to see. For the Oilers to do what they have done recently without some major offensive firepower has been impressive for a squad that used to fold when faced with adversity. Once Yakupov, McDavid and Pouliot return, I could see the team making a strong push for the playoffs. While I am unsure if the team has the defensive prowess it takes to get into the playoffs, anything is better than the results the Oilers have seen for the past five years.
At this point, any high draft pick the Oilers potentially get should be traded as a part of a package for a top defenceman. That is still a glaring need and while the play of young Darnell Nurse and Brandon Davidson has been stellar, they still need some help.