How’s your week starting? Probably going a little smoother than it is for the Edmonton Oilers.
The loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday surely sealed the deal on what will be a controversial coach firing, regardless of what comes next for the Oilers and new coach Kris Knoblauch.
There will be plenty of postmortems on what went wrong with the preseason Stanley Cup darlings and their terrible start — and most of it is not terribly relevant to fantasy hockey. Why not? Well, we all quickly moved off the goaltending after a few games; while most of the skaters we want to score fantasy points are at least moderately getting the job done for now and still have a lot of season left to make up for lost time.
But I will offer this from the bank of fantasy data: The Oilers are way, way too top-heavy.
If you remove the top-six forwards for even-strength ice time per game for all 32 NHL teams and then count up the fantasy points for the leftover forwards, the imbalance becomes exceptionally clear.
I was doing this work to look at the top-six forwards from each team, but it made it easy to look at what the other forwards have done. The Oilers’ decision to fire Jay Woodcroft is the perfect moment to share these tidbits.
To clear up what I mean precisely, we’ll use the team with the best depth at this stage as an example. Through the games on Sunday, Nov. 12, the Columbus Blue Jackets top-six forwards in even-strength ice time per game are: Johnny Gaudreau, Boone Jenner, Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic, Alexandre Texier, Yegor Chinakhov. All other forwards aside from those six for the Blue Jackets have totaled 138.1 fantasy points this season. That ranks them as first in the NHL for non-top-six fantasy points.
The Colorado Avalanche are the midpoint, with their non-top-six forwards rankings 16th for their collective 85.4 fantasy points.
The reveal is coming; hang tight.
Ranking 31st in the NHL with their non-top-six forwards having a total of 61.9 fantasy points are the Florida Panthers.
And, yes, that leaves the Edmonton Oilers as 32nd in the NHL. The top six we aren’t counting are Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Warren Foegele.
Oilers forwards other than them have totaled a measly 40.4 fantasy points.
While that doesn’t help you build your fantasy team, it’s some insight into the need for balance for success. And the fantasy points broadly draw across to regular points: The Blue Jackets non-top-six forwards have a collective 49 points, while the Oilers group has just seven.
Seven. Points. This. Season.
The group responsible is Ryan McLeod, Connor Brown, Sam Gagner, Dylan Holloway, Mattias Janmark, Derek Ryan, James Hamblin, Raphael Lavoie and Adam Erne. And three of those seven points are from the recently arrived Gagner, leaving the other nine players a collective five points in 13 games. Woof.
The new coach, Knoblauch, was McDavid’s coach in the OHL with the Erie Otters, so it’s painfully clear what the goal is here when it comes to making the best player more comfortable.
From a fantasy perspective, we have to wait and see. I am hesitant to revisit the Brown narrative again after nine games and zero points as an Oiler, but it’s worth bringing it up one more time as Knoblauch was literally the same coach that played them on a line together in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Brown has missed the past four games, but is day-to-day, so could make an appearance again on Monday.
Maybe we’ll get to see the two Connors team up one more time — and maybe it works with their old coach back at the helm.
The Oilers are one of five teams playing twice during the first three days of the week and they are comfortably at home for both contests. The Avalanche, Seattle Kraken, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks are the other teams with a pair of games in this window.
You won’t see any of the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings or Minnesota Wild for the next couple days, as they have Monday to Wednesday off.
Cole Perfetti, C/W, Winnipeg Jets: Starting to pick up some power-play time on the regular, Perfetti has a little streak going with points in six straight games. He’s on a line with Nikolaj Ehlers and Vladislav Namestnikov, which could be argued as the Jets third line of late, but his role on the top power play helps fill up the void.
Sam Bennett, C/W, Florida Panthers: It wasn’t a ceremonious return, as he didn’t make it onto the scoresheet, but Bennett made his season debut in the top six with the Panthers on a line with Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe on Sunday.
Ivan Prosvetov, G, Colorado Avalanche: At least for a little while, we could see more Prosvetov in the crease than we normally would. To be clear, this is a team defense issue first and foremost, but Alexandar Georgiev is really having a case of the struggles. The Avs have the Kraken and Ducks on the docket.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, R, Seattle Kraken: The Kraken seemed to have found a powerful combination in Bjorkstrand, Yanni Gourde and Eeli Tolvanen, while Tolvanen is getting the most fantasy points (2.3 FPPG in past five), but Bjorkstrand isn’t far behind (2.06 FPPG in past five) and is much more available (84.45% available).
Andrei Svechnikov, W, Carolina Hurricanes: It’s been a sleepy return to action for Svechnikov, who has just four assists in his seven games this season. Last spotted on a line with Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis, better days are ahead.
Luke Hughes, D, New Jersey Devils: Luke must enjoy the company of brother Jack Hughes on the ice. Luke has gone cold in the past four games, which lines up precisely with when Jack was carted off after crashing into the boards. Both Jack and Nico Hischier are due for an injury update before the Devils play on Tuesday.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Detroit Red Wings: As goes the Wings power play, so goes Gostisbehere. He cooled off so much he was a healthy scratch for the Wings last Thursday. He’ll run hot and cold depending on how the advantage is doing, so it’s to be expected.
Scott Mayfield, D, New York Islanders (89.35% available): With 10.4 fantasy points (2.08 FPPG) in his past five, Mayfield is a solid pickup for the start of the week with games Monday and Wednesday. As a bonus, the Oilers have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing defense this season.
Simon Holmstrom, R, New York Islanders (99.88% available): Playing on the top line with Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal, the Oilers (Monday’s opponent) have allowed the third-most fantasy points to forwards this season. Wednesday’s opponent, the Canucks, are a little tougher though (29th in allowing fantasy points to opposing forwards).
Connor Brown, W, Edmonton Oilers (65.26% available): What’s the harm in giving this dynamic one more shot? Connor Brown and Connor McDavid terrorized the OHL on a line together under coach Kris Knoblauch in 2012-13 and 2013-14. They are all back together again once Brown is healthy. He was listed as day-to-day headed into this past weekend.
Jaden Schwartz, C, Seattle Kraken(52.57% available): In his past five games, Schwartz has 14.6 fantasy points (2.92 FPPG). Both opponents on Monday and Wednesday, the Avs and the Oilers, have been allowing plenty of fantasy points of late. Sounds like a good combination.
Cam Fowler, D, Anaheim Ducks (43.1% available): The Ducks play the Predators on Tuesday (fourth-most fantasy points to opposition defense) and the Devils on Wednesday (fifth-most fantasy points to opposition defense). Fowler should be in for a couple of quality games having averaged 2.28 FPPG in his past five.