NHL Pacific Division Notebook – Are The Edmonton Oilers This Year’s Stars?

NHL Pacific Division

During the 2015-16 season, the Dallas Stars stunned everyone and finished the year with the best record in the western conference. The club advanced to the second round of the playoffs that year, but fell in game seven of the second round to the St. Louis Blues. Last season, amidst Stanley Cup predictions, Dallas crumbled and failed to make the postseason.

Last season the Edmonton Oilers shot up to second place in the Pacific Division and made the postseason, advancing to the second round and falling in game seven to the Anaheim Ducks. This year, the Oilers entered the season with many pegging them as a Stanley Cup contender. See where I’m going with this?

Are the Oilers this year’s version of the Dallas Stars? Dallas had some injury issues last year, a weaker blueline, didn’t get the needed goaltending and had depth issues as the season wore on. The Oilers have been in the same boat early on and are 1-3-0 to the start the season. That has Oil Country in a panic.

It’s very early, probably too early to be honest, and it’s tough to say with certainty that the Oilers will suffer the same fate this year as the Stars did last year. Edmonton still has Connor McDavid and will soon get Leon Draisaitl back from what appears to be a concussion. The team’s offense is in a dry spell and it is safe to assume that will change in short order.

On top of that, the Oilers have Cam Talbot in net, who has a better track record than either Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen as a starter. Talbot has been bad early on this season, but I think it is also pretty safe to assume that he will bounce back as this season goes along.

It’s been a tough start for Edmonton and the team was embarrassed on Saturday night. If things don’t change fast, we could be having a much darker conversation about the club in a month’s time. That said, I still think the Oilers are too talented up and down the roster to miss the postseason and that the club will turn it around in short order.

The chances are there offensively, the Oil just need to finish and get some saves at the other end. Carolina should be a good test on Tuesday night.

Golden Night In Vegas:

Stick taps to the Vegas Golden Knights for their work on opening night last week at T-Mobile Arena. The opening ceremony was awesome and the player introductions gave me chills. In the wake of such tragedy, the Knights made the best of the situation and touched the hearts of hockey fans everywhere.

If that wasn’t enough, the club went out and dominated the Coyotes to earn their third win of the season. The win put Vegas at 3-0-0, making them the first ever expansion team to win their first three games in NHL history.

Vegas would lose Friday night against Detroit in blowout fashion, but rebounded nicely to beat Boston last night. How about Malcolm Subban, who won his first NHL game in his third start against the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2012? Impressive showing in his Knights debut.

The Heat Is On:

After getting embarrassed by Ottawa (a theme in this blog) on Friday night, the Flames bounced back quite nicely and took care of business over the Canucks to finish their week off. Calgary looked strong once again, and has jumped out to a 4-2-0 start. It’s early, but the Flames look like the most complete team in the Pacific to me right now.

Hate him or love him, Matthew Tkachuk has become a real factor for this Flame team. His gritty style absolutely infuriated the Kings in their meeting midweek, and he’s got enough offense to be a difference maker. In a division that boasts an insane amount of talent, Tkachuk might be the most underrated young star going. He impressed me all week long.

The Rest Of The Pack:

* After their opening night victory over Edmonton, the Vancouver Canucks has struggled to keep pace, going 0-2-1 and getting outplayed in a big way. I think most of us had a feeling thing could get ugly for this team, but it’s not all bad. Vancouver’s young players have been their best players so far. Jacob Markstrom needs to be better, however, if they want a chance to win.

More good news for Nucks fans? Nikolay Goldobin and Thatcher Demko are having excellent starts to their seasons in Utica of the AHL.

* How about Rick Tocchet apologizing to fans just a week and a half into the season? Arizona has been a mess defensively and can’t seem to get a save. They remind me a lot of the early 2010’s Oilers right now. All sorts of talent but just no defensive help or goaltending. Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue simply haven’t been good enough.

* The Sharks finally got win number one of the season, but they are 1-3-0 and don’t look like their old self. Again, it is early, but the Sharks have to find a way to start scoring goals. They sorely miss Patrick Marleau and have lit the lamp just eight times in their first four games. Without Brent Burns carrying them, the Sharks need to find another answer.

* Anaheim is off to a bit of a slow start as well, just 2-3-1 after last night’s 3-1 loss to Buffalo. I wouldn’t worry to much about the Ducks though, they always seem to start somewhat slow and they have a number of injuries from last year’s playoff run. When everyone is healthy, I still think Anaheim is the class of this division.

* Lastly, the Kings are very much looking like the Kings of old early on. LA is 3-0-1, has been playing great defensively, is getting good goaltending from Jonathan Quick and is finding a way to score goals. I had LA fighting for a playoff spot in my season preview, but that may have been conservative. The Kings very much look back.

Photo Credit: Connor Mah/Flickr

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