After the abyssal beginning to the season, the Oilers have begun to scratch their way out of the hole. The team is 5-4-1 in their last 10 games as well as grabbed 5 of a possible 8 points on their recent Eastern road trip. With Tuesday's 8-2 smack-down of expansion team underdogs, The Golden Knights, some people may believe this team is ready to turn the corner.
Quick Fun Fact: The Oilers at this time last season were 9-8-1 compared to the 7-9-2 record they currently hold; a difference of 3 points. Last season's Oilers went 5-8-2 in November followed by 7-2-5 in December. Last season's team really wasn't the impressive group many remember until late December.
Now that I've given some people some hope let me quickly undercut them. This roster forged by Chiarelli and Co. still did not do enough in the off-season to ensure they could be Cup competitors. The number of gambles taken on unproven players is alarming and we've already seen many of those go south.
1) Kris Russell Can Anchor The Second Pairing In Sekera's absence.
Russell is currently playing on the third pairing and averaging fewer minutes a night than any defenseman except for Eric Gryba.
2) Puljujarvi will be NHL ready and play in the top 9.
He was not ready forcing the team to play Yamamoto for the first 9 games because there were no other options.
3) Strome will be a complimentary player who can play with McDavid or be a threat as a centre.
First one definitely didn't happen and his overall play, like the rest of the third line has been meh.
4) Jokinen will add secondary scoring.
Change that to Cammalleri will add secondary scoring?
5) Caggiula (currently has 2 points) and Slepeshev (also with 2 points) will become complimentary scorers to help replace Eberle's offense which was lost.
We aren't talking about unforeseen issues here such as injuries or players shooting well below their career average (kind of like Eberle last season). Each one of these represents a gamble that goes against everything these players have shown up to this point.
Positive notes do exist here too. The play of Ryan Nugent Hopkins has been nothing short of a complete resurgence as he is currently second on the team in both points and goals. Patrick Maroon has not dropped off as much as I expected he would and has actually improved his assist totals. Darnell Nurse has actually replaced Klefbom on the top line and is starting to show some veteran experience and consistency that was missing from his game.
The team could go on a decent run in November and December and then Sekera will return and I think many people will forget about this start and then ask for Chiarelli to forgive them for doubting him.
I would like nothing more than to happily cheer for a winning team. Unfortunately I have serious questions about how this team is being set up and I worry that this team is being built to compete in 2009 instead of adapting to the play of the modern game. Following where this team goes from here will be an interesting story and I wonder in two months if we will be talking about potential playoff matchups... or Rasmus Dahlin.
Thanks for reading.