Three thoughts on the Oilers as they get set to visit the L.A. Kings Thursday night:
1) There’s no doubt the Oilers miss Kris Russell on the back end. Not saying they avoid all the losses if he’s healthy, but there’s something to be said for a reliable, composed defender with 584 NHL games under his belt. He’s been able to block shots and get the puck up ice.
2) The way I see it, there are only three Oilers who are exceeding or meeting offensive expectations: Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon, and Tyler Pitlick. Jordan Eberle is close to expectations, but Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are all in the 30-45 point range, which is well below what the team needs to be successful. Benoit Pouliot has gone ten games without a point. The Oilers may be getting a lot of shots lately, but the NHL is about results, not attempts. If these guys don’t start executing soon, it’s going to be tough to grind out wins.
3) Having said that, I’m more optimistic about the Oilers sneaking into the playoffs than I was at the start of the season. The Pacific Division isn’t very good. I don’t consider Arizona, Vancouver, and Calgary contenders. That leaves the Oilers, Ducks, Sharks, and Kings competing for the three berths. Side note: Based on the Oilers 9-7-1 start, the website sportsclubstats.com gives them an 80.2% chance at the post-season. (jrw)