Oilers Giving a Good Account of Themselves

You can't win a Cup in the autumn, but early returns give both Woodcroft and Holland some breathing room
Hats collected by Rogers Place attendants after Evander Kane's hat trick Tuesday against the Predators.

You’ve heard it before. If you take a little bit out of your paycheque — and put it in some sort of investment, RRSP or high-yield account — the money adds up. It might not seem like a lot, cheque after cheque, but that’s how you build a nest egg.

Now, let’s apply that thinking to the hockey season.

With Tuesday’s 7-4 win over Nashville, the Oilers hit the 10-game mark with a 7-3-0 mark. No one wins a Stanley Cup based on how good they look in October and November. But, with every early-season win, they’re building a savings account of points that will help them later in the year.

“The first couple of games was not the start we wanted or expected,” said Leon Draisaitl, who had five points against Nashville, in the Oilers’ fifth win in a row. “But we’re finding our game, we’re finding our legs a little bit. We’re a lot to handle for teams when we skate, when we play our game, and stick within our structure.”

Let’s face it. The Pacific Division isn’t going to be the most competitive section in the NHL this year. A lot of us don’t think Vegas can hold the torrid pace at which they started the season. Calgary is going to be good, that’s for sure. But, then you get into Seattle, Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim. That’s a solid range of mediocre to just plain bad.

The Oilers are already building a nice cushion, and separating themselves from the meh squads.

If the gap continues to increase in the early part of the season, it gives Oilers president and general manager Ken Holland, and coach Jay Woodcroft, the luxury of time.

Let’s be real. The Oilers are far from perfect. The penalty kill isn’t where it should be. They entered Tuesday’s game with just the 21st best PK in the NHL, at 76.7 per cent. Then, the Oilers allowed Nashville to go two-for-two with the man advantage.

“I think there’s a few things we could have done better on both of those goals,” Woodcroft said. “One of them was a six-on-four… but I thought we had a little traction in Calgary (Saturday’s 3-2 win at the Saddledome that Premier Danielle Smith has urged Calgary City Council to replace) against a really good powerplay.

“But I’m going to go back to the fact that this team is 7-3. We realize we’re not perfect. We’ve got areas to get better in.”

Goaltender Jack Campbell to find his game. He was good enough to win on Tuesday, but once again gave up a worrying early-game goal when he couldn’t control a rebound, and Mattias Ekholm gave Nashville the early lead. Campell ended up stopping just 19 of 23 shots.

Had the Oilers not been batting .700 through the first 10-game stretch of the season, the fan base would be hemming and hawing about the goaltending situation as if they were… Leafs fans.

But the Oilers have time to wait these problems out. They don’t have to panic.

And, maybe most important of all, a good start gives Holland more time (and options) in order to make moves to fine-tune this club. The Oilers are up against it when it comes to the salary cap, but, with each passing week, the team gets just that little bit more flexibility. The values of contracts diminish with each passing week, and a player that was unaffordable in November might be a can-do in February.