The 2019-20 regular season is upon us.
What can we expect from the Edmonton Oilers this year? Are they a playoff team? Are they something else? Will we be talking about the entry draft in December this year?
There are so many questions to ask. Fortunately, the staff here at Copper and Blue are highly equipped to provide you with succinct and airtight answers to all of these questions. We’ve got Shona, Matt, Preston, Corey and Czechboy here to break it all down.
This is the second part of a two part series.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Question: Leon Draisaitl is coming off a big ol’ season that saw him hit 50 goals and eclipse the 100 point mark. Does he play most of 2019-20 as the centre of his own line, or will the thought of pairing Connor McDavid with Draisaitl be too much to resist?
Shona: Personal opinion, and I don’t have a lot to base this on except last year, is that the Oilers start Draisaitl on his own line. However, if things appear to get super dodgy or no one is scoring they move him to play with McDavid. The Oilers have some idea of what can offensively be produced by these two, and so they keep going back to that well when they’re in trouble. I’m not sure that’s the best solution because it’s not building capacity throughout the team, but you know needs must. So, rambling answer -- Draisaitl starts on his own line but still spends a good part of the season with McDavid.
Matt: It will be interesting to see what Draisaitl’s deployment is this season. I think the Oilers are best served, ultimately, with their C depth spread out anchoring three lines that can score. Unfortunately, their wing depth prevents that, and Tippett himself has said both that Draisaitl and McDavid will play together and he wants Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the top six, so I think it’s safe to say Leon plays at least a third of his time with McDavid. That said, I don’t see him repeating his S% heater this year, and have him somewhere around 80 points, give or take 5-10.
Preston: This is a hard one. I think Edmonton is gonna start the year with Draisaitl as their second-line center (due to Sheahan’s injury) but will quickly revert back to having him flank McDavid on the top-line. The pairing is just too good to separate.
Corey: On this roster, playing McDavid and Draisaitl together makes so much sense. On a deeper team, they could be your dream 1-2 punch down the middle. But, as I’ve written before, you need to get your best finishers the most scoring chances on the team. Your 15% shooters need to play with your best playmakers. On this team, your best shooters are your best playmakers.
Czechboy: This team will never be a contender until Leon can carry his own line OR we pick up 3 other high caliber top 6 players. Leon will play with Connor and they’ll tear it up on the way to a 10th place finish in the West.
Question: The Dave Tippett Era™ began on Wednesday as the Oilers opened the season against the Canucks. What do you hope to see differently this season?
Shona: I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of things I’d like to see this organization do differently. I’d like to see a recognition of some of the success of other hockey teams in Edmonton, especially women’s teams. The St. Albert Slash would be a good one for the Oilers to acknowledge. I’d like to see a more progressive social stance. I would really like to believe that this team wouldn’t be a bag of dicks about issues around violence against women, the gentrification of the Edmonton downtown core, and increasing income and housing instability. Of course, I don’t actually believe I’ll see anything like that.
From a purely hockey standpoint, I’d like to see a team that seems to want to be here. A team that wants to win. And management group that stops telling fans to basically trust them because they’re the experts. Edmonton fans have had a lot of “experts” run this team to the basement of the NHL. There needs to be some acknowledgement that fans are allowed to be upset and distrust grand promises.
Matt: I’d like to see less blown coverage in the defensive zone and a few more first shots against turned away for saves. I’d also like to see Connor McDavid play less (read: no) time on the PK and maybe a minute or two less overall. Though that would mean seeing more of the rest of the team, and we all know how that’s gone the last few years. I think McDavid stands a better chance of returning to his normal, absurd rates if he doesn’t have to play half of every game though.
Preston: I hope to see players being deployed properly. We have seen so many missteps with McLellan and Hitchcock when it comes to playing the right players at the right times. Luckily, we don’t have Milan Lucic to put out in the last minute of a game we are losing by one goal in.
Corey: Tippett’s trademark is defensive structure, so I’m hoping for a team that can score based on pure talent at the top of the lineup, while also possessing the ability to slow the game down and limit mistakes while the bottom of the lineup is at a talent disadvantage. That is what a successful implementation of the Tippett effect will look like.
Czechboy: I was hoping to see some youth inserted (Bensen, Jones) but that is definitely not happening. I’m actually not even sure how many players on ELC’s will be on the roster? As far as tactics. Much like his predecessors, Tippet has AHL solutions for NHL problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least 4 guys from our opening night roster aren’t even in the NHL next season. His best hope is to turn this group into a very boring, hard to play against, dump it in type team and then rely on Connor/Drai to score and win a lot of boring 1 goal games. This Swiss used to be very successful with this in international hockey (note: they now play beautiful hockey and no longer do this).
Question: Finally, does this team somehow make the playoffs? Why, or why not?
Shona: Funnily enough, a colleague asked me this the same day I received these questions. The answer for me is no. I don’t think the Oilers are strong enough to offensively or defensively to counter inconsistent goaltending. I think they’re over all too inconsistent as a team.I think they’ll go on winning and losing streaks, but I’m not counting on a consistent performance. And I think the other teams in the Pacific division have been improving at a pace that outstrips the Oilers. Can’t expect to reach the playoffs in that case.
Matt: No. There just aren’t enough goals in the team to be a meaningful competitor, and given their shaky goaltending they’d have to be streets ahead of the rest of the league defensively to make up for it. I can’t see that happening. Here’s hoping I’m dead wrong.
Preston: Yes...and no. I think the Oilers will be a bubble team that could really swing either way. If we get consistent goaltending I think they have a good shot...but it will really come down to injuries down the stretch.
Corey: Probably not, but it’s hockey, so who the hell knows.
Czechboy: Not a chance. We have he same D core as the last 2 years, shaky goaltending and I honestly can’t think of how our 4th leading scorer is going to be on Forward or how many points they’ll get? Put another way. Let’s remove Connor/Drai/RNH from this roster ... could the rest of the group beat our Bakersfield AHL team? AHL solutions for NHL problems.
Thanks go to our roundtable participants.
Can Edmonton make it two wins in a row? Join us tomorrow for full coverage as the Kings visit the Oilers at Rogers Place.