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Sports Can these Edmonton Oilers avoid the ugly collapse of 2018-19?

21:14  09 december  2019
21:14  09 december  2019 Source:   edmontonjournal.com

Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland happy with season so far

  Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland happy with season so far Are the Oilers for real? Are they, finally, a good hockey team? "We've come a long way since the start of training camp. Lots more to go," said general manager Ken Holland in an interview with Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer."The elite teams, they go on run in the playoffs. The good teams, they make the playoffs. First order of business is to keep our foot on the pedal. We have to find a way to play our way into the playoffs."Then we have to make some noise in the playoffs," said Holland.So the general manager is taking the wait-and-see approach, but the numbers to this point are impressive.

a person riding a snow board in the air: The Edmonton Oilers' goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during third period NHL action at Rogers Place, in Edmonton Wednesday Nov. 16, 2019. The Oilers won 6-3. Photo by David Bloom© David_Bloom David Bloom The Edmonton Oilers' goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during third period NHL action at Rogers Place, in Edmonton Wednesday Nov. 16, 2019. The Oilers won 6-3. Photo by David Bloom

Can these Edmonton Oilers avoid the ugly collapse of 2018-19?

It’s easy to forget this with the way the agonizing 2018-19 season ended, but the Oilers were riding high at this time last year. After 32 games, the 2018-19 Oilers had 17 wins and 15 losses.

Pearson's first-career four-point game helps Canucks soar past Oilers 5-2

  Pearson's first-career four-point game helps Canucks soar past Oilers 5-2 EDMONTON — Tanner Pearson recorded his first-career four-point game tin the Vancouver Canucks' 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night at Rogers Place. Pearson scored twice, and added two assists, while Tyler Graovac, Loui Eriksson and Josh Leivo tallied the other markers for the Canucks. Captain Bo Horvat also chipped in with three assists to help Vancouver snap its three-game losing streak. Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian scored for Edmonton, who dropped their second-straight contest.Edmonton falls to 16-9-3, and still holds the Pacific Division lead, but the Canucks are now just five points back as they improve to 13-10-4.

This year, after 32 games, the 2019-20 Oilers have 18 wins and 14 losses.

a close up of a clock© Provided by Edmonton Journal

After Ken Hitchcock took over the Edmonton Oilers in mid-November 2018, that 2018-19 edition of the Oilers went on a solid run, winning eight of 11 games, culminating in a 6-4 win over the Colorado Avs on Dec. 11.

But then came misery for Hitchcock and the Oilers, a long stretch of games where they simply lacked the defensive skill and depth to survive.

In the team’s next 11 games, the Oilers gave up 40 goals and won just three games.

Is this current Oilers team in danger of the same fate?

It’s possible but unlikely.

I see a far more resilient team this year, with far greater defensive depth, better goaltending and a much faster and better checking group of forwards in the Bottom 6.

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  Oilers’ Matt Benning exits game vs. Canucks after taking puck to the head Edmonton Oilers defenceman Matt Benning left Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after being hit in the head with a puck. The post Oilers’ Matt Benning leaves game after taking puck to head appeared first on Sportsnet.ca.#Oilers d-man Matt Benning will not return to tonight's game.

At the same time, it wasn’t just a lack of ability that crushed that 2018-19 team, it was injury. In the Dec. 11, 2018 win over Colorado, both Kris Russell and Oscar Klefbom went out with serious injuries and were placed on injured reserve.

I wrote at the time I was reasonably certain that the Oilers could have survived losing one of Klefbom or Russell, but certainly not both.

At that point in the season, Klefbom had been used as the team’s No. 1 d-man at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded. He was mostly missed at even strength where against the toughest competition, he, Adam Larsson and Russell, the team’s best purely defensive d-man, had been good that year, maybe even very good.

Without Klefbom and Russell, the Oilers never did find replacement d-men who could hold their own against strong competition.

Different this year?

This year, if more injuries were to occur on the blueline (and they always occur on the blueline, as seen by Adam Larsson and Matt Benning’s injuries this year), Edmonton is well stocked with solid defencemen, including Klefbom, Russell, Larsson and the new top-pairing at even strength, Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear. There’s also Benning when he gets healthy, Joel Persson, Caleb Jones and Willliam Lagesson. This is the kind of blueline depth you’ll see on a solid playoff team.

Senators win over Oilers again in Edmonton

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Yet, as mentioned, collapse is still possible, mainly because of the threat of injury. Edmonton would especially be in tough if one of three players was out for long, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or Mikko Koskinen.

McDavid is now playing like the NHL’s M.V.P. so it goes without saying how much he means to the Oilers. Draisaitl is in a two-way slump right now, but he’s also an utterly dominant NHLer.

But of those three, the player the Oilers could likely least afford to lose at this time is Koskinen, given Mike Smith’s recent troubles in net. Koskinen has been good-to-great almost every game this year.

So fingers crossed on the injury front.

If these 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers can avoid a major injury to one of their key players, they look like a playoff team to me.

Staples on the city

David Staples: Business leaders call for property tax freeze in ‘Spendmonton’a group of people in a room:  Edmonton city council chambers.© David_Bloom David Bloom Edmonton city council chambers.

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Edmonton Oilers searching for answers with Leafs up next .
"We're not going to sit here and be in a grump about it.""Just that we've done a lot of good things well," answered goalie Mike Smith when asked about Tippett's message. "There are parts of our game that on a consistent basis need to be better. We're not going to sit here and be in a grump about it.

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