by PuckStopsHere on 12/30/11 at 03:55 PM ET
After two years of finishes in last place in the NHL it was nice to see the Edmonton Oilers sitting in a playoff spot in the early part of the season was a nice change. The Oilers have a talented young core including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the likely rookie of the year, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. It is clear that this group will likely develop into a good NHL team. It is also clear that this isn’t the year it is going to happen.
The Oilers have won two of their last ten games. They lost in regulation in the other eight. This has gathered them four points in the ten game stretch and that is the worst any team in the league has done in that period. The Oilers are two games into a seven game road trip that is necessitated by the World Junior Hockey Championships, which are being played in Alberta. They are yet to win on the road trip and will likely not have good results in the rest of it.
The Edmonton Oilers are currently in the third last position in the West Conference. They have 33 points and are seven points back of 12th place. They are still well ahead of Anaheim and Columbus who sit beneath them. After the road trip completes, I bet they will be closer to the teams beneath them then those above them.
The least sustainable part of the Oilers early season success appears to be goaltending. Nikolai Khabibulin has a .924 saves percentage currently, which is the highest value he has had in any season in his career. It was significantly better than that in the early part of the season. It is hard to imagine that a 38 year old goalie who struggled last season could do that well over a complete season and it appears he cannot.
The biggest issue for the Oilers is defence. Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid have been their two most played defencemen and nobody mistakes them for all stars. I think the Oilers will have more trouble keeping goals out of their net then scoring goals.
The Edmonton Oilers are a team that likely has a solid future. The future is not here yet. Despite a good start to the season, they look to have fallen out of the playoff race. Other indicators suggest they will continue to fall. It was nice for suffering Oiler fans to get a chance to feel good about their team at the beginning of this season.
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