NHL 31 Teams In 31 Days: Edmonton Oilers

2016/17 record: 50-24-8

Key additions: Ryan Strome, Jussi Jokinen, Yohann Auvitu

Key losses: Jordan Eberle, Griffin Reinhart, Benoit Pouliot, Matt Hendricks

2017/18 prediction: 2nd in Pacific, Western Conference Finals

​A​ ​lot​ ​has happened​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Oilers​ ​to​ ​go​ ​from​ ​perennial​ ​bottom​ ​feeders​ ​to​ ​Stanley​ ​Cup​ ​contenders,​ ​but​ ​if​ ​we think​ ​about​ ​it,​ ​doesn’t the transition feel a little quick?

When​ ​people were​ ​talking​ ​predictions​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Oilers​ ​of​ ​2016/17​ many came​ ​to​ ​the consensus​ ​that​ ​the​ team might​ ​contend​ ​for​ ​a​ ​playoff​ ​spot​ ​and​ in the ​best​ ​case​ ​scenario​, bow​ ​out​ ​in​ ​the​ ​first​ ​round.​ ​But the ​Hart​ ​winning​ ​play​ ​of​ ​Connor​ ​McDavid,​ ​the​ ​emergence of​ ​Leon​ ​Draisaitl,​ ​and the​ ​franchise​ ​record​ ​setting​ ​wins​ ​of​ ​Cam​ ​Talbot changed all of that​.​ ​Now​ ​a​ ​full​ ​year​ ​later,​ ​the​ ​Oilers​ ​are​ ​considered​ ​by​ ​many​ ​to​ ​be​ ​the​ ​darlings of​ ​the​ ​NHL,​ ​and​ ​Stanley​ ​Cup​ ​favorites. So what has changed from the beginning of last year to this year?​ ​

Well,​ not​ ​a​ ​whole​ ​lot​ ​has​ ​changed.​ ​In​ ​fact,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​even​ ​make​ ​the​ ​case that​ ​the​ ​team​ ​got​ ​worse.​ ​The​ ​2016/17​ ​Oilers​ ​had​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​good​ ​luck​ ​and​ ​karma​ ​on​ ​their​ ​side,​ ​no one​ ​got​ ​injured. Compare​ ​that​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Oilers​ ​of​ ​15/16​ ​who​ ​lost​ core players Ryan ​Nugent-Hopkins,​ Jordan ​Eberle, Oscar Klefbom,​ ​and​ ​most​ ​noticeably​ ​McDavid​ ​for​ ​long​ ​stretches.​ ​Now​ ​the​ ​17/18​ ​Oilers​ look almost identical to that 16/17 squad, except they lost a consistent​ ​60​pt producer​ ​in Jordan Eberle​ ​and​ ​got​ ​back​ ​Ryan Strome who has scored 50pts one time. Not only that, the injury bug that they avoided last year, hit early as veteran blue liner Andrej Sekera will be gone until at least December. This along with the Eberle trade, the controversial signing of Kris Russell, and seeing the Flames make these great off season moves has gotten a lot of Oilers fans slowly sweating. I also think Oilers fans are not used to seeing the term Stanley Cup Contender and Edmonton Oilers being mentioned in the same breath for a long time, so I’m sure a lot of them have this feeling of unease coming into 17/18.

Here’s the thing though, I think a lot of people slept on the Oilers last year, and did not see their full potential. This was a team that was only a blown lead and a shady non call away from making the Western Conference Finals. They are dynamic, fast, tough and young.

This year McDavid will cement his place as the best player in the league, and Draisaitl will prove he’s worth that monster contract he signed. With these two, plus Strome and Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers can roll at least three good centers every game. The team has a legitimate starter in Talbot, who is able to steal games and will also have a reliable backup in Brossoit, who is finally feeling his groove. And for the first time in a long time, the Oilers can say they have a confident top two in defence with Larsson and Klefbom. The loss of Sekera is a big blow, but this will also allow youngsters Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning to prove their worth, or for someone new to step in (paging Yohann Auvitu). And Jesse Puljujarvi will play in what could be his first full season as a pro, maybe even stealing a spot on that shallow right side.

If this team stays healthy I can see them contending, if not, leading the Pacific Division, and making a run to the Western Conference Finals (Anaheim and Calgary will have something to say about that). I don’t see them winning it all, but again no one a year ago saw them being a Stanley Cup favorite.

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