I could spend hours and blog after blog discussing what is wrong with the Oilers. I could certainly spend a blog or two discussing the absolute collapse and embarrassment that was the 6-2 loss to the Blackhawks,
However, that is nothing that you fans who have so patiently stayed with this team haven't heard. It's easy to continue beating the dead horse that is everything that is wrong with the Oilers... it takes a special individual to talk about everything good after such a bad loss. That's me... special.
1) Connor McDavid
Let's get the easy one out of the way. Connor McDavid is the first and last reason that many fans continue to watch this team night in and night out. McDavid is on pace to once again surpass the 100 point mark, as well as the 40 goal mark. It isn't simply that McDavid is a really good hockey player...he is, but it's that every night he is able to make fans who have watched the game for years go, "wow." Fans of other teams have said that the Oilers do not deserve McDavid, considering what the Edmonton fans have had to deal with over the past decade...they most certainly do.
2) Leon Draisaitl
As always, people forget about Drai. It's easy to state that Draisaitl is good only because he plays with Connor McDavid, and it would also be wrong. We have seen many many many many players put with McDavid in the hopes of him willing them to produce, but no one has produced at the level that Leon Draisaitl has. Both Connor and Leon elevate each others game and form arguably the most dangerous duo in the entire NHL. Looking around the rest of the league at the contracts that are being given out, Draisaitl's 8.5 million dollar contract is not a steal by any means, but it is fair.
Last night, the two goals scored by Edmonton were scored by Draisaitl, giving him a new career high of 31 goals which will continue to grow through the remaining 19 games. The Oilers have Draisaitl signed for another 6 years after this season at 8.5 million dollars. Matthews has yet to even crack 70 points and Draisaitl is set to do it for his third straight season... no clue why that just popped into my head.
3) Ryan Nugent Hopkins
The longest tenured Oiler player has gone through 3 different general managers, 5 different coaches, and watched as his teammates have been traded for pennies on the dollar. Throughout all of that, Nuge has retained his boyish good looks and the fact that he is a brilliant, cerebral player. RNH is quietly on pace to set his own career high in points, and has done so for the most part without Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl to fall back on. Nuge may have been drafted to be the Oilers 1st line centre, but he has instead become one of the better 2nd line centres in the entire league.
4) 3/4 Good Defencemen
Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, and Adam Larsson; those three make up 75% of a very strong top four. They aren't elite by any means, but all three players can contribute solid hockey for over 22 minutes a game while each providing their own abilities.
Klefbom is the teams best puck moving defenceman and plays a modern NHL game, with the ability to interrupt passing lanes of top opposition while contributing solid point totals.
Darnell Nurse plays a more chaotic game which can get him into trouble, but on a second pairing he too can beat players with his speed. We are also finally seeing this season that when given an opportunity on the PP, he can be a strong contributor.
Adam Larsson is a more throwback player, in the stay at home variety and that is not a knock on him. Larsson is the grit with skill on the back-end and can level players with well placed hits, as well as use his body to disrupt the play.
Were the Oilers able to find a way to add a Colton Parayko or a Dougie Hamilton, the Oilers defence could be looked at as a strength. The holes that currently exist are an issue, but it should not take away from the fact that these three are skilled individuals.
5) The Future
The future and potential are words that Oiler fans are sick of but bear with me a moment. While the Chiarelli era was much maligned and has caused the situation Edmonton finds itself in, the one area that looks to have improved is drafting.
Evan Bouchard, Kailer Yamamoto, and Jesse Puljujarvi are the top three names when it comes to young players who have a high ceiling but the results do not end there. Tyler Benson in his first AHL season has put up 35 points in 44 games with 21 year old Cooper Marody right behind with 33 points but in only 34 games. Other AHL players like Caleb Jones, Cameron Hebig, and Brad Malone could be looked at as NHL options soon.
Ryan McLeod wowed fans in preseason for Edmonton and he has continued to have success in the OHL. There has been some talk about his compete level, but this is a young kid who is likely years away...he has time to figure that out. Edmonton also resigned Joel Persson, a 24 year old defenceman who leads the Växjö Lakers D in scoring.
The cupboards aren't as bare as they once were, and while many of these men will not help the team in the near future, having that type of depth on hand is always a positive.
6) Some Options For Next Year
Secondary scoring continues to be an issue for this team, however the Oilers do look to have a few options that, being put in the right spot, should be effective players. Jujhar Khaira has shown flashes of offense and the potential to play in the top 6, but is likely going to be most effective as a third line winger. The Alex Chiasson PDO heater looks to be coming to an end, however through his career Chiasson has always been at least a 10 goal scorer. He might not always be McDavid's winger, but on a third line he has shown he can still produce goals. Lastly I will include Jesse Puljujarvi in this mix because I believe if a coach can finally figure out one spot for him to consistently play, he can produce at a solid clip.
7) There Is A Way Out Of This
Bad contracts and wasted trades have put the Oilers in the position that they are in however throughout the history of the league we have seen teams pull themselves out of holes deeper than this. McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, Nurse, Klefbom, Larsson... that is a young and talented group to build around. Contracts can be bought out to provide some cap relief, and hopefully there are some teams who will be willing to flat out take a bad contract or two for the right price.
I know positivity and silver linings may not be what fans want to think about this morning. Many of you have cheered for this team for decades and decades. Stick with your team for just a little bit longer, and I promise you, you will be rewarded.
Thanks for reading.