2018 Edmonton Oilers Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
When you grow up in Columbus you hate Michigan. If you are from Austin the Sooners are the worst. Boston hates the Yankees with a deep-seated passion. And in Calgary where I am from you are raised with the certainty that everyone in Edmonton, 175 miles to the North, is inbred. So, I can't pretend to be even a little sad for the Oilers after last year went so very badly. In 2017 they not only made the playoffs, but won a round, so expectations were sky-high entering last year - they were among the Stanley Cup favorites. But having no worse than the second-best player on the planet in Connor McDavid wasn't enough for the team, and they stumbled to an impossibly dismal 78-point season.
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Now they have to pick up the pieces and regroup, and they have had to do it with precious little cap space thanks to the monster deals for McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that eat up a lot of room. The team needs to play a lot better, but they also probably need to get a little better. But have they?
Edmonton Oilers Offseason Moves
Like I said, they were forced into a corner by their lack of cap space, and they really couldn't do too much of significance. The biggest move was probably in net, where the let Laurent Brossoit leave for Winnipeg and brought in MIkko Koskinen as the backup to Cam Talbot. Talbot was a real disappointment last year after a brilliant 2016-17 season, so the backup role is an important one. Koskinen has been playing in the KHL, where he has won two titles and posted eye-popping stats. But the list of top KHL goalies who have seamlessly moved across the pond is a short one - much shorter than the list of those who have tried and failed - so the 30-year-old is no lock. He spent a couple of years over here in the minors as a youngster, though, so the culture shock won't be absolute - though the people of Edmonton would be shocking to anyone not adequately prepared.
Beyond that the moves were largely depth pieces. Eric Gryba was bought out.
Forwards Kyle Brodziak and Tobias Rieder, who the Oilers originally
drafted, were brought in at reasonable prices in hopes they can add forward
depth. Jakub Jerabek is a depth defenseman who played for Montreal and
Washington last year as a 26-year-old rookie, and the Oilers hope he can be
a sixth or seventh guy at a reasonable price.
The team signed Ryan Strome to a two-year bridge deal. As I write this they have not yet signed RFA defenseman Darnell Nurse, though it seems like they will - hopefully sooner than later - because defense remains an area of concern even with Nurse.
The Oilers got defenseman Evan Bouchard with the 10th pick in the draft. He's a good one but will be a year or three away. Kailer Yamamoto, who played nine solid games for the team last year after being drafted, should be ready this year, though.
Edmonton Oilers NHL Outlook
The Oilers didn't do much to get better in the offseason at a time when the wildly intense Western Conference playoff race has only gotten tougher. All eight playoff teams from last year could conceivably be back again - they are all about as good or better. Calgary has improved significantly. So has St. Louis. And while Dallas hasn't improved their roster dramatically, they made a coaching change that could be strong and they have upside. Edmonton is a better team than they played like last year. However, are they good enough as they are built to be a true contender? The defense still is well behind many of the other teams in the West, and the goaltending is a question mark after last year.
This team definitely has playoff upside - they aren't that different from
the team that won a series two years ago. But the coaching and the core are
mostly the same as last year as well, and that team played like one that
was broken mentally and had issues well beyond bad luck on the ice. I can't
think of any potential contenders tougher to judge than this one, and the
brutality of the Western Conference playoff race only hurts further.
Edmonton Oilers Schedule
Four straight road games in the East to start the season. Three against playoff teams, and a fourth - the Rangers - who are going to be improved. Then four games at home against top-level teams - Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Washington. And then a trip to Nashville. That is an absolutely brutal nine-game stretch to start the season. If they come out of it over .500 it will set a heck of a tone for the season. But if they start out in a hole they might never get out of it, and it could be another long and frustrating season.
Edmonton Oilers NHL Futures Odds
At +2500 the Oilers are the 11th choice to win the Stanley Cup, tied with the Flyers and Kings. There are just five Western teams ahead of them, so the oddsmakers view them clearly as a playoff team. After 78 points last year, the win total sits at 90.5. It took 95 points to make the playoffs in the West last year, so the point total doesn't align with the futures price. McDavid is the strong +333 favorite to win the Hart Trophy as MVP.
2017-18 Edmonton Oilers Predictions
The top-end talent of this team is as good as any in the league. But the roster is not particularly well built, and there are some concerning holes. They are definitely in the playoff hunt, but the win total feels more accurate than the futures price in my eyes. I lean to them finishing out of the playoffs, but I'm not so pessimistic that I would bet the "under" heavily. It's not the boldest move, but I would wait for those first nine games to pass before really judging the team.
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