Although the results have certainly been underwhelming thus far into the 2015-16 NHL season for the Edmonton Oilers, there is still a fair amount to be excited about. With that in mind I’ve created what is basically just a list of my opinions on many topics and the outlook going forward.I’ve tried to stay away from the mainstream stories such as Draisaitl’s success, as I can’t really add any value to the discussion.
- Taylor Hall is really good. Although most everyone I’ve told this to have rolled their eyes is disapproval, I personally believe that if Hall can maintain this level of play he will warrant discussion for the Hart trophy by the end of the year. Although he is very unlikely to win if the Oilers as a team continue to struggle, I believe that he’s been playing the best hockey of his career. Todd Mclellan has talked several times about Hall’s improvement on the defensive sides of things and his ability to drive the attack. That now brings the total to 6 NHL coaches to coach Taylor Hall, and give him rave reviews. Night in and night out, he advances the puck up the ice effectively and dominates opponents in the offensive zone. He has been one of the best two-way wingers in the NHL so far this year, and without a doubt one of the best offensively, just take a peek at the league leaders in points.
- Brandon Davidson is here to stay. I’ve always hated when people try to predict the ceiling for young players especially defenseman. How many times must these opinions be wrong for us to stop labelling players before they even crack the NHL. For defensemen specifically I’ve always found that the projected “ceilings” for an individual’s talent is almost solely based on their offensive skills. Davidson in my eyes has already started to prove his detractors wrong. For years considered to lack potential to be anything more than a bottom pairing defenseman, he recently earned enough favour to be played over 23 minutes against New Jersey leading all Edmonton defenseman, and looked good in the process. He’s got a big shot, can dish the puck, and has shown some shutdown ability. During Monday’s game against Washington, there was a play in which he boxed out Ovechkin while skating to retrieve the puck in the corner, corralled it, spun off of Ovie, and made a simple breakout pass. Not a flashy play but one that if repeated can have a big impact on a game.
- Reinhart Sent Down. I’ve seen numerous comments about how Reinhart being sent down proves that he’s a bust and the trade for him was a dud. This guy is 21 years old and has only played 20 NHL games! Through his 12 games for the Oilers this season it was a mixed bag of results. One thing I noticed is that when he was playing well it seemed like the other teams were on the outside more often than not when he was on the ice. His physical play was definitely inconsistent with him dominating some nights and others leaving much to be desired, overall I see him as more of a victim of having too many left shots and one-way contracts, rather than lacking in ability. He’ll go down to the AHL play more minutes and be back when PC can clear some room on the roster through a trade. Don’t call him a bust, he will be damn good for the Oilers.
- Out chancing Opponents. It may be by just a marginal amount, but the Oilers have overall out chanced and gotten more “grade A” chances than their opponents at this point in the season as seen here. Although this hasn’t manifested itself into too many wins at this point, it is still a reason for optimism in Oil Country. This lack of wins brings me to my next point:
- Finding ways to lose. Perhaps what has been the most frustrating fact of this season for the Oilers has been their aptitude for losing games in a variety of ways. Early on they just couldn’t score. Then their goaltending fell off a cliff, while their stars racked up the points. Against Los Angeles they missed out on at least 1 point due to a disallowed goal, against Calgary Talbot allowed a brutal goal in the dying seconds of a tied hockey game, and some games their powerplay just can’t get it done. It’s easy to say that the defense and the Goaltending has been the only issue (it has been the biggest issue most nights), but that does not explain how poor the Oilers record is. Instead it’s been an inability to put it all together. Each game it’s been one thing, and the Oilers are going to need to find some way to get the better of all the close games, but they are not that far off.
- Laurent Brossoit succeeding in the AHL. 8-4-1, with a 2.37 GAA, and a .931 Sv%, has Brossoit being one of the top goaltenders in the AHL so far. Excitement amongst Oilers fan has really started to ramp up regarding this guy since his strong NHL debut last season, and deservedly so. Still just 22 years old he is perhaps still a ways away from being NHL ready but I personally have been keeping a close eye on him, and have hopes that we’ve found our Goalie of the future. Based on his performance the last two seasons I have hopes that he will get some consideration for the 23 and under team for next summer’s World Championships, even if he’s in tough to make the team I’d like for him to be invited to tryout.
We’ve passed the quarter mark and I’ve been caught once again being overly optimistic about this team. Maybe I’ll be wrong once again but I think this team has been much better than their record has shown and I’m looking for them to have a much better record by the all-star break. This season really is about progress more than actual results, and at the very least the Oilers have improved.