By Andy Palm, Columnist
The Edmonton Oilers remind me a lot of a line in the Vampire Weekend song “How Long?.” The line goes “Why’s it felt like Halloween since Christmas 2017?” In the song, lead singer Ezra Koenig is talking about heartbreak and lost love. In the Oilers case, it’s more about losing a lot of games…and heartbreak.
If the song was about Edmonton it would probably go more like this; Why’s it felt like Halloween since the season of 2017? For Oilers fans, I imagine that is what it has felt like. That was the last time Edmonton qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they have been abysmal ever since. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it seems that the Oilers are finally living up to their lofty expectations.
After suffering through two less-than-stellar seasons in 2018 and 2019, where they missed the playoffs both times, Edmonton seems to have finally found its stride. The Oilers are off to an 8-2-1 start to this season, which is good enough for first place in the Pacific Division. There is no shortage of elite talent in Edmonton.
Both centers Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid had MVP-caliber seasons in 2018-19. They combined for a total of 221 points last year (116 for McDavid, 105 for Draisaitl), and finished first and second in points amongst centers.
The problem was the rest of the team lacked any kind of competent production. The fact is with two players like McDavid and Draisaitl, all the rest of the team has to do is be semi-productive. Luckily for them, they are getting a bit of help this year. Left winger James Neal has made an immediate impact since being traded in the offseason and has already put up nine goals this year. In his lone season with the Calgary Flames last year, he put up seven goals for the entire campaign.
They’re also getting more production from players on the back end as well. Both defensemen Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom have had solid starts. Klefbom has already collected nine points, the fourth-highest on the team; while Nurse has tallied six assists and two goals as well. As for McDavid and Draisaitl, nothing has really changed since we last saw them; they’re still really…really good.
McDavid has already accrued 20 points in this young campaign, while Draisaitl has collected 19 points himself. They are in the top three in points scored in the entire league. This hot-start for Edmonton is extremely promising, and somewhat of a shock.
We have gotten used to the usual storyline that McDavid and Draisaitl shine but the rest of the team struggles mightily. It has not been the case so far. This team is showing up and playing hard every single night. The team has followed in their Captains footsteps when it comes to playing style. They use speed to enforce their will on opponents, and it’s worked very well. Combine this with solid goaltending and the Oilers are one of the top teams in the West.