If you’ve been in a cave away from civilization for a while and then got back to normal existence, you may be shocked to see the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers have the best record in the NHL. I know… it’s only eight games, but the team has won seven of them. They are off to their best start since 2016-17 when they had the same record after eight contests. So, the Edmonton Oilers are excelling in 2019-20.
Edmonton Oilers Are Excelling in 2019-20
What Factors Have Attributed to This Fast Start
I know, most of you are going to say “well, you have Connor McDavid, the best player on the planet”. That being an astute observation, while McDavid has been with the team, he has only seen the playoffs once in 2016-17. That was his second year and he is now playing in his fifth campaign.
This is McDavid’s second season with his well deserved $12.5 million a year contract and he is truly leading his team thus far this new season. Try 17 points, five goals in just eight games. It’s part of the reason that the Edmonton Oilers are excelling in 2019-20.
He’s not doing it alone, with Leon Draisaitl right behind him with six goals, 10 assists. These two are definitely the “Dynamic Duo” for the Oilers. They are duplicating their efforts of last season when the two combined for an amazing 91 goals and 221 points. Yet, the Oilers finished seventh in the Pacific Division and out of the playoffs.
Enter James Neal
The Oilers made an excellent trade ridding themselves of Milan Lucic in exchange for James Neal. Thus far it can be described as nothing short of a brilliant move for the Alberta club. Neal seems reborn as a hockey player. He has nine goals in eight games and had four in one game against the New York Islanders… usually a pretty stingy defensive team. His contribution has been huge, but there are other factors involved here pertinent to the Oilers early-season success.
Defence is the Name of the Game
Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse are really coming into their own on the blueline. Both of these young defencemen have also contributed to the fast start of the Oilers. Klefbom has nine points while Nurse has added seven, with both having one goal on the scoreboard.
Nurse is becoming a dominant force with 20 hits and 16 blocks while playing over 23 minutes a game. His future can only continue to accelerate if he keeps playing at this level. Standing 6’4″, 221 pounds, he is a difficult player to get around and he’ll make you pay in the corners.
Goaltending Matters Too
The duo of veteran Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen have split the eight games and have a combined save percentage of .926 while just allowing 2.36 goals per game. If they can keep that up with the potent offence this team possesses, good things will transpire.
New Management to the Rescue
The Oilers knew some things needed to be changed and they pulled the trigger when they hired Ken Holland as their new general manager. They went further by grabbing a crafty, defensive-minded head coach in Dave Tippett. The two have molded a team not only worthy of a playoff spot but perhaps beyond that accomplishment. These two management figures may be what is causing the Edmonton Oilers to excel in 2019-20.
Sometimes clearing out the front office does wonders for a team, especially if they’ve been struggling. Holland and Tippett deserve credit for bringing in the right players and preparing the team to compete at a much higher level.
Perhaps the team has something to prove. They are certainly showing that they can be a much better team this season than in the past few years. Hardly anyone predicted their swift start this 2019-20 season, yet they are going out there each game with a focus and determination not seen in recent seasons.