The Edmonton Oilers are doing surprisingly well this season, and with a record of 10-4-1, they are currently top of the Western Conference. How long will that last? Who knows. But they have some key former-Coyotes including head coach Dave Tippett and goaltender Mike Smith. In preparation for tonight’s game, we talked with Jeff Chapman (@NewWaveOil) with Copper and Blue and asked them some of our burning questions.
1. It’s still early but how are you guys enjoying Dave Tippett?
The quick answer is that he’s working with what he’s got. What does he got? He’s got two lines that are killer, and two lines that are borderline NHL lines. You can definitely see that Tippett’s “defense-first” style is on display. A lot of his style seems to be to ride the top two lines and to wait for the other club to force the issue. This doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but it’s easier to take advantage of opportunities when Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are out running the show.
2. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl collectively have 11 games where they played over 25 minutes. Is there concern amongst the fanbase that they are getting overplayed?
Absolutely. There have been games where Leon Draisaitl has eclipsed the 26 minute mark, and there have been times where McDavid and Draisaitl have looked gassed in overtime. Their ice time will go down if the Oilers can start getting consistent secondary scoring from lines 3 and 4. I’m not sure that we’ll see that this year.
3. Mike Smith is a divisive figure amongst Coyotes fans. What is Edmonton’s expectations for him this season?
I’m hoping he can finish with a .915-ish SV%. He just finished up a 51 save performance in Pittsburgh, so it’d be nice if he kept riding those numbers for five or six more months. Tippett has been splitting up the games between Smith and Mikko Kokskinen at a fairly even rate up until this point, so if Smith can keep it at about .915 for 30-35 games this season, I think that’d be just great.
4. The Oilers are currently leading the Pacific with the Vancouver Canucks right behind them. Given the Pacific this year Edmonton seems like a good pick to make the playoffs but where do you see them finishing?
I’m a glass half full kind of guy on this one. I love that they’re 5 games over .500, but I think they’ve been big benefactors of the McDavid/Draisaitl tandem plus some outstanding goaltending. They’ve had a hot start, and I think a wild card spot is where this team ends up, I’m just fine with all of that.
5. Are you guys tired of talking about the Milan Lucic for James Neal trade yet?
No, we are not. Neal has 11 goals right now, and Lucic has 3 assists and is about to serve the first of a two game suspension. What a terrible trade for Calgary. I don’t know how Brad Treliving sleeps at night. Someone should have to explain this to someone in Calgary, but it won’t be until February or March come where Lucic is asked to do more other than circle around and take penalties. I would gladly continue to explain this trade for another three or four hundred words, but some people have a limited amount of data purchased per month and I do not want them to use all of their data. They got hosed, plain and simple. Lunch money taken. Twice.