Are the Edmonton Oilers…Good?

Are the Edmonton Oilers a good hockey team?

Now that you’ve finished laughing, I’ll point out that although the Oilers possess a nowhere near winning record, they have become a good hockey team since the beginning of 2015.

New Year, New Team?

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Since the beginning of 2015, the Oilers have looked like a completely different hockey team. The perpetual pain and strain of previous failed seasons appears to have been replaced by a new, likely temporary, sensation of success.

An 8-10-2 record since the new year has Oilers management and fans breathing a sigh of relief, as the perpetually poor Oilers appear to have finally be figuring this whole “winning” thing out, albeit to a certain extent.

To boot, the Oilers have faced some darn good teams in this stretch, and in some cases have even managed to upset said teams with an interesting mix of skill and grit.

In particular, Edmonton has matched up against the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens as well as the San Jose Sharks in the new year, surprising many as they beat all three teams. On top of this, the Oil have even managed to grab points in clashes with the New York Islanders and the Winnipeg Jets.

New Coach, New Approach?

(Ross Bonander / THW)
(Ross Bonander / THW)

When Todd Nelson was named as the Oilers new head coach back in December, the vast majority of those in the hockey world immediately felt sorry for Nelson, given the abhorrent situation into which he had been inserted.

However, despite all odds, Nelson has amazingly begun to rectify the nightmarish situation which is the Edmonton Oilers. After winning a mere 7 contests in their first 36 games, the Oilers have managed to post a solid 9-10-3 record since Todd took over full command of the team in late December.

What is even more impressive about this average streak, stellar in Edmonton’s eyes, is that the Oilers have done it without key contributors in their lineup. Top players, in particular Taylor Hall, Benoit Pouliot and Ben Scrivens have seen time on the shelf with various injuries, while Hall remains slated to miss another 4-6 weeks.

One major change which Nelson has made is ensuring his players are in situations in which they can succeed. One major benefactor of this approach is Nail Yakupov, who has seen both a steady yet consistent increase in his time on ice

Nail Yakupov (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

as well as a promotion in the lineup. As a result, Yakupov appears to be rediscovering his game and is currently in the midst of a career high 5 game point streak.

Meanwhile, Anton Lander has also been given the opportunity to succeed by Nelson, and thus far has been striving with the Oilers. Quite possibly the only properly developed Oiler draft pick, Lander has enjoyed his share of success this season, quietly contributing 11 points through 21 games.

Recipe For Success?

Time will tell if Nelson and the current Oilers roster are a recipe for success, however based on early indications, it appears as though the Oilers may have finally found a capable head coach in Todd Nelson.