Thursday, September 14, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Edmonton Oilers

GM: Peter Chiarelli (since 2015). 7.5/10
Coach: Todd McLellan (since 2015). 6/10

2016-17 record: 47-26-9, 103 points, 8th overall.

Departures: Benoît Pouliot (LW), Jordan Eberle (RW), David Desharnais (C), Griffin Reinhart (D), Tyler Pitlick (RW), Jordan Oesterle (D).

Arrivals: Ryan Strome (RW), Jussi Jokinen (LW), Yohann Auvitu (D) Ty Rattie (RW), Brian Ferlin (RW).

Top forwards: Connor McDavid (95-110 points), Leon Draisaitl (75-85 points), Milan Lucic (50 points), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (45-60 points), Strome (40-50 points), Patrick Maroon (30-45 points), Jokinen (25-35 points), Drake Caggiula (30 points).

Must-improve forward: RNH's 43 points and -10 stand as aberrations on last year's Oilers roster. Chiarelli's already traded the other two $6M men (Taylor Hall and Eberle), and The Nuge could very well be next.

Top defensemen: Oscar Klefbom (35-45 points), Darnell Nurse (25-30 points), Andrej Sekera (30-35 points), Adam Larsson (15-20 points), Matt Benning (15-20 points), Kris Russell (15 points).

Goalies: Cam Talbot (93/100), Laurent Brossoit (74/100).

Top rookies: Brossoit (24 years old, G, 1.99 GAA and .928 save percentage in 8 games last year), Caleb Jones (20, D, point-per-game defenseman in the WHL), Ethan Bear (20, D), Tyler Benson (19, LW), Kailer Yamamoto (19, RW, 2017 first-round draft pick).

GM Chiarelli is great at evaluating talent, but my God is he awful at signing contracts. This summer, he single-handedly eliminated all team-related advantages to post-ELC contracts, the so-called "bridge deals", by signing McDavid and Draisaitl to long-term deals too early - and in Draisaitl's case, for too much money. He could have had two or three years at somewhere in the $5.5/6M range but instead went and gave him $8M, which opened up the market for the Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak and the Buffalo Sabres' Jack Eichel, creating a league-wide cap space vacuum in the process.

Which is to say the Oilers' odds of winning a Stanley Cup are better this season - before said contracts kick in - and in three or four years, once the current overpayments on Lucic and Russell run out. Edmonton will thus lose out on prime McDavid/Draisaitl years, just because their GM lacked in vision.

And that's saying nothing of head coach McLellan's inability to ever win with a relatively stacked San Jose Sharks roster in nearly a decade there.

But the Pacific Division is weak, and the Anaheim Ducks start with many players on LTIR, so first place is the Oilers' to lose.

Prediction: 1st in the Pacific Division.

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