Turmoil in NHL's Pacific Division benefits Flames


Entering the season, I was confident the Oilers would compete for the NHL’s Pacific Division title. 

Defense and goaltending was always going to be a concern, but I thought the Oilers had a strong group of forwards that would help them overcome any issues on the back end. That hasn’t been the case, though. 

The Oilers have fizzled out after a hot start, when it looked like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were going to lead them to the top of the standings. Now the Oilers are barely hanging onto a playoff spot. 

It’s clear the Oilers must find a starting goaltender not named Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen, as the former is old and often injured, and the latter is playing his way out of the NHL. And it’s probably not fair to throw prospect Stuart Skinner into this situation. The Oilers grade out as one of the worst defensive teams in the league, according to Evolving Hockey. They rank 25th in expected goals against per 60 minutes, and they're allowing about as many goals as they score.

McDavid and Draisaitl can’t do it all. The Oilers score about 58 percent of their goals when the forwards are on the ice together, according to Natural Stat Trick, but only 35 percent when they are both on the bench. That’s not going to cut it. Either Edmonton must find some serviceable defenders, or they better find a goaltender who can make up for their defensive deficiencies.

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