The Edmonton Oilers have a strong enough team to survive without Connor McDavid. At first, No. 97’s injury created a cacophony of anxiety, but once reality sunk in, it was easy to recognize that the 2019-20 Oilers are different from the squad that relied too much on their superstar to win. It may be tough to believe, especially when Sportsnet pulls out a stat like this:
With McDavid in the lineup, the Oilers are 163-148-31, and without McJesus, they have a dismal 15-19-7 record.
However, that stat will change over the next two to three weeks. It’s a bold statement, but hear me out, ye of little faith (or ye who refuse to believe that the Oilers have other players who can contribute).
Draisaitl, Yamamoto, Nugent-Hopkins Will Keep the Oilers’ Playoff Dreams Alive
Some may still believe that Leon Draisaitl needs McDavid to produce points. The waterfall of comments about Draisaitl’s lack of independent skill needs to stop, and his recent play proves why.
Since Dec. 31, when the Oilers started to play well again, Draisaitl has been in beast mode. And guess what? He hasn’t been McDavid’s official linemate—it’s mind-blowing, isn’t it? (Not really.) That’s right. Jared Clinton from The Hockey News notes that “Over the past 15 games, the separation has become all the more defined: 207 minutes without McDavid and 30 with McDavid for Draisaitl.”
Between Dec. 31 and Feb. 8 (the day of McDavid’s injury), the superstar notched 24 points in 14 games. Only seven of those points were linked to McDavid.
To top it off, in January, Draisaitl earned the NHL’s 2nd star of the month for scoring 1.89 points per game, which was the highest in the league.
This is just a friendly reminder that he wasn’t with McDavid during that time, he was on the Oilers’ dominant second line with Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 24-year-old has found a home with Yamamoto and Nugent-Hopkins, and this line will be one of the main forces that keep the Oilers in the playoff race while McDavid heals.
No. 93 and No. 56 don’t need McDavid to contribute to the Oilers’ success either. Since Yamamoto blessed the Oilers with his beautiful presence, they’ve been on a tear, winning 10 of 15 games. In 14 games with McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins tallied 19 points and a memorable fight with Calgary Flames’ Sean Monahan (that looked awesome), while Yamamoto earned 12 points.
Whether the second line can keep the Oilers’ playoff dreams alive will be tested over the next couple of weeks. However, they got off to a good start against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night: No. 29 collected four points on the night, Yamamoto scored twice, Nugent-Hopkins shot one into the back of the net, and the Oilers got secondary scoring from Riley Sheahan. After the game, Yamamoto said: “It’s a huge confidence boost for our team. Any time you can win without the best player in the world…”
But it’s not just Draisaitl and his linemates who will keep fans from basking in hockey-related anxiety, the rest of Oilers will as well.
Oilers Have More Depth Than Many Would Like to Believe
Over the years, the Oilers have been plagued by a lack of depth, but that’s no longer the case. Between Dec. 31 and Feb. 8, they have managed to score 58 goals and get this: McDavid “only” helped out with 31% of those goals, whereas in the first 14 games of the 2019-20 season, the Oilers’ superstar had a role in 51% of their 45 goals.
It gets better.
At the start of the season, the Oilers’ bottom-six forwards only contributed nine points on the first 45 goals. Whereas, they have earned 35 points over the last 58. Please note, that this stat does not include the team’s last game against the Blackhawks.
Okay, I know what some of you are thinking: Well, McDavid probably helped out with most of those goals since players like Josh Archibald and Sam Gagner have had a chance to play on his line. The answer? Nope!
The superstar only contributed to five of those points. The point? These stats reveal that the team can survive without McDavid when it comes to scoring. Right now, the Oilers are getting points from both their top-six and bottom-six, and they’ve found a way to win rather than just relying on McDavid to steal the game.
Unfortunately, the Oilers have a tough schedule during McDavid’s recovery. If he is out three weeks, the team will face four teams who rank higher in the standings, three teams from the Pacific Division, and four Western Conference teams who are lower in the standings but still in the playoff race. It’s going to be a major test whether they can remain postseason contenders, but their recent play proves that they will—not can—survive.