The Saturday Slate is a weekly discussion or platform where members of Win Column Sports provide their respective opinions and thoughts on an event that took place in the prior week. Additionally, there is also a running pool amongst the contributors based on our picks for Saturday’s match-ups. This week, the Win Column panel discusses the NHL action on December 1st.
There’s no roller coaster ride quite like being an Edmonton Oilers fan.
It’s been a miserable 11 years in Alberta’s capital city; outside of drafting Connor McDavid and a playoff appearance two seasons ago, the Oilers have been the laughing stock of the NHL since 2007. While on the surface this year may appear to be no different, Edmonton find themselves just three points out of a playoff spot on the 1st of December. Is the team a Stanley Cup contender? I don’t think you’ll find many people agreeing with that statement; however, despite their sub-par record, the organization stands a real shot at making it to the second season. The Win Column Sports panel weighs in - are the Edmonton Oilers a playoff team?
Despite their best efforts, the Oilers will be in the playoffs come April.
Look, as an Oilers fan, it’s hard to believe the team is a Stanley Cup contender. It’s been an up-and-down start to the season, and while the team’s play under the newly-hired Ken Hitchcock is markedly improved, it’s impossible to consider the Oilers at the same level as the elite organizations of the NHL. However, this team is certainly good enough to make the playoffs. The team has been far better defensively since Hitchcock took over, with Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom looking to return to their 2016/2017 form after poor seasons last year. Goaltending looks to be improved, too, despite the fact it’s not coming from it’s expected source as Cam Talbot plays second fiddle to Mikko Koskinen this year. The biggest thing the Oilers are lacking is secondary scoring; the lack of scoring outside of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still alarming, even despite Alex Chiasson’s surprisingly hot start to the year. If the Oilers are able to get some more scoring from the wings, this team could even potentially win a round in the postseason if given a favourable matchup.
I’m not going to buck against the trend in this one - this Oilers team, despite terrible roster construction, has the capability of making the playoffs. To be fair, any team that has the best hockey player in the world on their team should be able to at least make the playoffs every year, something Pittsburgh has done pretty consistently since Crosby has come into the league.
I like the way Hitchcock is coaching the guys and has them playing. He’s keeping them accountable in their own zone and is pushing them to be better versions of themselves. It’s especially refreshing knowing that he has a plan for every single player; that’s evident in his interviews.
The potential downfall of the Oilers is their goaltending. I’m not convinced Koskinen can carry them all the way as he simply hasn’t proven it yet and Talbot has proven that the year he pushed Edmonton in the second round was an outlier year when it comes to his performance.
Edmonton vs. Calgary in April? A boy can dream.
The Edmonton Oilers have failed to meet expectations so far this season, but there is still plenty of hockey to be played. As of last Monday, Ken Hitchcock has taken the reigns and is attempting to right this ship. Hitch and the Oilers have gone 3-1-1 over their past 5, which is certainly a step in the right direction. Although the Oilers are currently outside of a playoff spot there are plenty of bright spots to highlight. Mikko Koskinen has been outstanding posting a 7-2-1 record and excellent statistics to go with it (2.26 GAA/.924 Sv%/2 shutouts). The Oilers have also just claimed Valentin Zykov off waivers which I believe is a huge addition due to their lack of secondary scoring. Although this isn’t a guarantee, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move on Chiarelli’s part. Zykov has only posted 11 points (4 G, 7A) in 25 games in the NHL but has shown an ability to score goals in the AHL (33 G) which is quite appealing.
The Oilers seem to be finding their groove, and barring any injuries or extended slumps I believe they’re playoff bound. The Pacific Division is as wide open as its ever going to be which will help the Oilers. My wishful thinking has me having them taking the 3rd seed in the Pacific but if I were a betting man, I would have them claiming the first wild card spot this April.
On November 20th, Ken Hitchcock took over as the head coach for the Edmonton Oilers, taking the team on a 3-1-1 run through his first five games. This has the Oil within 3 points of a wild card spot. If they keep this play up, they’ll be back in the playoffs in no time! But, can this play continue? Is it a small sample size that will lead the Oilers to regress to the mean?
To start, the Oilers are shooting more. 5 on 5, the Oilers had a 50.2 CF% before Hitchcock took over. With Hitch at the helm, they are sitting at 52.6%. This is a noticeable difference. Enough to turn around the result for a team. However, the Oilers are allowing significantly more high danger shots now (44.4 HDCF% with Hitch) than before (51.2 HCDF%). So, if the Oilers are allowing more shots in close, how are they winning?
Mikko Koskinen has been the 2nd hottest Mikko in the NHL. Koskinen has stopped 93.6% of shots in his four starts with Kenny, three of which were wins. This is compared to 89.8% from the Oilers the rest of the season. He has outperformed Cam Talbot all season and Hitch has clearly favoured Koskinen so far. Leave Koskinen in net and the Oilers can continue to make their way to the playoffs.
The Edmonton Oilers will be in a playoff spot before Christmas. Before you call out this paragraph as simple homer’ism may I remind you I covered the Calgary Flames for the opening month of the season. Speaking of reminders, here’s an article that was written before the season started where I tell the world that both Alberta teams will make the playoffs this year. The game that should be circled on your calendar is the December 9 match versus the Calgary Flames. I’ll gladly argue with you that Coach Todd McLellan is the former coach because he moved Milan Lucic up to the front line because super pest Matthew Tkachuk got into his head. New coach Ken Hitchcock will not be that badly out-coached. All I want for Christmas is a Flames vs Oilers playoff matchup, the intensity in this game should rival that.
Currently, the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars hold the Wild Card spots and the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Casucks are teams to be leapfrogged to get to them. 6 of the 14 Oiler games in December against these teams. Better yet, the notorious habit of the Oilers playing down to their competition? Well, only St. Louis and Philadelphia are below them in the standings so we should only have to hold our breath twice. Plan the parade, we’re winning December.
WinColumnSport’s Saturday Picks
|Sharks @ Senators||Sharks||Sharks||Senators||Sharks|
|Stars @ Canucks||Canucks||Stars||Canucks||Stars|
|Jets @ Devils||Jets||Jets||Jets||Jets|
|Lightning @ Panthers||Lightning||Panthers||Panthers||Lightning|
|Blue Jackets @ Islanders||Blue Jackets||Blue Jackets||Islanders||Islanders|
|Flyers @ Penguins||Flyers||Penguins||Penguins||Penguins|
|Maple Leafs @ Wild||Wild||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs|
|Rangers @ Canadiens||Canadiens||Canadiens||Canadiens||Canadiens|
|Red Wings @ Bruins||Bruins||Bruins||Bruins||Bruins|
|Blues @ Coyotes||Blues||Blues||Coyotes||Blues|
|Blackhawks @ Predators||Predators||Predators||Predators||Predators|
|Golden Knights @ Oilers||Oilers||Golden Knights||Oilers||Golden Knights|
Records Thus Far:
- Ben: (48-36), Last Week: (8-3), Winning Percentage: (57%)
- Carl: (23-22), Last Week: (3-8), Winning Percentage (51%)
- Spencer: (39-45), Last Week: (7-4), Winning Percentage: (46%)
- Arik: (36-48), Last Week: (6-5), Winning Percentage: (43%)
NHL Week in Review:
- NHL Saturday Slate: November 24
- The NHL Saturday Slate: November 17
- The NHL Saturday Slate: November 10