Even though it's still very early in the 2013/14 season, there have already been some welcome surprises as well as a couple of disappointments on the Oilers roster. With that in mind I thought I'd take a look at the players I think have seen their stock rise, or conversely drop, the most over the first seven games of the season. This isn't a list of who I think have been the best/worst players for the Oilers so far this season, although it is possible that the best or worst player is on the list, this is just the players who have been the biggest early season surprises, either positive or negative.
Mark Arcobello: If you don't hope for Arcobello to succeed there is probably something wrong with you. His story is absolutely amazing, and he just keeps building on it, making more and more people believe along the way. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins already out of the line up, the injury to Sam Gagner gave Arcobello the chance to stick with the Oilers coming out of training camp. And stuck he has. His six points have him tied for the team lead, and even though he hasn't scored a goal yet I think he's making a stong case to stick around even after Gagner returns.
Boyd Gordon: Signed to a three-year contract worth $9.0M this summer I think it's fair to say fans and management expect Gordon to be a player. Doubtful though that they expected the early season offence that he's provided. With four goals he's currently the Oilers leader in that category. Of course with a shooting percentage north of 35% his production is going to slow down, but even when that happens the Oilers will be left with a player very capable of playing at both ends of the rink, and in all situations. It looks like Gordon has come as advertised and then some.
Ales Hemsky: Reports of Hemsky's death have been greatly exaggerated. Most, if not all, fans of the Oilers assumed the team had given up on Hemsky and would be trading him
for pucks over the summer. Craig MacTavish told us that was the plan. But that didn't happen, and that's been a stroke of luck for the Oilers early in the 2013/14 campaign. Playing more than 18 minutes a night and with 2 goals and 3 assists to his credit, Hemsky has been a big part of the Oilers offence early in the season. Thankfully Hemsky isn't the only player on the team anymore who can bring you out of your seat on every shift, but that doesn't take away from the magic that can happen when he's on his game like he is right now.
Devan Dubnyk: There really isn't a lot more that can be said that hasn't already been said. To say Dubnyk's early season performance has been an disappointment would be a massive understatement. Four games played. No wins. And a 0.829 save percentage. That's 19 goals allowed - a lot of which have been of the ugly variety - on 111 shots faced. Numbers like that are a couple standard deviations below replacement level. I still think that he's going to bounce back, but when the backup goalie, Jason LaBarbera, is starting back-to-back games you know things are not going well for the starter.
Justin Schultz: When he's got the puck Schultz is a lot of fun to watch. When he doesn't it can be downright terrifying. After seven games Schultz has a Corsi against per 20 minutes (CA/20) of 19.031. Among Oilers defenders who've played at least 50 minutes this season that is the worst total on the team. The problem could be as simple as Eakins asking him to play the game in a way he's not quite comfortable with and it'll all sort itself out in a couple weeks. But to my eye he seems to be cheating a little bit and that's hurting him in his own end. I really wanted to see him play a complete game this season, so far that has not happened.
Ladislav Smid: At 43% Smid's Corsi percentage is better than just three Oilers: Will Acton, Luke Gazdic, and Mike Brown. Just let that wash over you for a second. Since opening night Smid hasn't had a single game where his Corsi has broken even. Of course he isn't an offensive guy so how much he controls shots for is debatable. But looking at the CA/20, which he has a lot more control over, he doesn't look good. And his Corsi WOWY Petry (his most common partner so far) is -6.1%; away from Smid, Petry is 12.5% better. His play is affecting his ice time too. Smid is fifth per game at even strength and total time on ice. The Oilers need him to be a lot better, and they need it soon.