Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is cautiously optimistic about his team’s 5-1-0 start to the 2016-17 NHL season. In an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, Chiarelli told Bob McCown that he “wouldn’t call it that dramatic yet. Let’s wait 20 or 25 games. We’ve had a good start.”
The Oilers find themselves leading the NHL’s Western Conference with 10 points, which is good for second in the NHL behind the Montreal Canadiens. One of the big reasons for the Oilers early turnaround is a bolstered defense, improving their ability to break out the puck and defend, a change that Chiarelli called “basically 180 degrees.”
“We’ve added Larsson; we’ve added Russell, and effectively we added Klefbom.”
Adam Larsson was added at a great cost, while Kris Russell was signed to a one-year contract in early October. Oscar Klefbom was a breakout player in the end of 2014-15 and beginning of 2015-16, but broke his finger in early December and a subsequent staph infection kept him out of the remainder of the season.
Add those three to Andrej Sekera and the Oilers have a decent top-four defense for the first time since 2008-09 when they had Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, and Lubomir Visnovsky all post more than 30 points. The Oilers had 85 points that season, and they haven’t topped 74 since.
Besides the defense, Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot have been very solid so far this season, with both being named the NHL’s first star of the week in the first two weeks of the season. McDavid has 4 goals and 5 assists for 9 points in 6 games, while Talbot is 5-1-0 with a 0.919 SV% and one shutout.
The Oilers will face a stiff test on Wednesday night when they host Alex Ovechkin and the reigning President’s Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals. Washington is sitting third in the Metropolitan with a 3-1-1 record.