The Edmonton Oilers are off to a surprising start to the 2019-20 NHL campaign. The Oilers head into Wednesday night’s matchup with the Blues with a 10-4-2 record, which sits the team atop the Pacific division. Coming into the season, few people predicted the Oilers making the playoffs and this was due to an embarrassing 35-win season last year and no major player acquisitions in the offseason. Most “experts,” I use that title lightly, and common fans expected the Knights, Sharks, Flames, and Coyotes to run away with the top four spots in the division. Can you blame them? On paper, it looked and honestly still looks like these four teams are the best in this division, but the Oilers so far have said otherwise, but will it continue?
Before answering that looming question, let’s observe what has changed from last season to this season for the Oilers. The first noticeable change is culture; before the likes of Ken Holland and Dave Tippett went to Edmonton, this team seemed to have adopted a losing culture. The same culture transformation the Oilers are going through right now is the same that took place for the New York Islanders last season after bringing in Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz. A winning culture is being enforced in Edmonton, mediocrity is out the door and this is making a gigantic impact on the play on the ice.
Credit the stellar play on the ice on Dave Tippett, the players, or the culture, but what is clear is it’s much better. We can’t start talking about Edmonton Oiler players without starting with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the dynamic duo…
These two guys are stepping up as expected and this must continue for the Oilers success to continue. Outside of McDavid and Draisaitl, James Neal has risen to the occasion. Neal has 11 goals and 2 assists through 15 games, four goals more than all of last season with the Flames. On the other side of the ice, the Oilers are getting much needed consistent goaltending from Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen…
Last season the goaltending was an absolute disaster for the Oilers. With the whole team playing a more structured game it is helping keep the puck out the net. But will it continue?
While the Vegas Golden Knights are still heavy favorites to win the division, the Oilers odds are growing by the day and this usually indicates things to come. That thing to come is the Edmonton Oilers continuing their stellar play and making the playoffs. Listen, I’m not here to tell you the Oilers are the best team in this division by any means, but they are good enough to make the playoffs this season. With that being said, the play of McDavid and Draisaitl must be kept at its elite level. Behind them, players like James Neal, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, and Darnell Nurse must continue being key scoring and defensive pieces in the lineup every night.
At the end of the day, if you have Dave Tippett as your head coach, that team always has a chance to make the playoffs. The future is bright for the Oilers this season and beyond.
The Oilers finish 3rd in the Pacific division.