In advance of this afternoons Penguins-Oilers matinee puck drop at PPG Paints Arena, we sat down with Jeff Chapman, managing editor of Copper and Blue, the Edmonton affiliate here on SB Nation. I threw a few questions his way to get his general thoughts on the Oilers right now to give a little perspective into the team the Penguins will be facing today.
Mike: Sum up the James Neal trade in a few sentences. Obviously you have to be feeling good about it so far.
Getting anything of substance for Milan Lucic’s unproductive NMC was quite a coup for the Oilers. Having James Neal go on a heater of a lifetime helps as well. I have him for 35 points this year, anything else is gravy on top. Plus, there’s the satisfaction of Calgary having three more years of a guy who scored 20 points in 2018-19.
Agree completely here with Jeff. Often, dealing such a poisonous contract as Lucic’s, you don’t expect much in return. The icing on the cake being that he was dealt to a division rival is fantastic theater.
Mike: Speaking of James Neal, how long can the top line (of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Neal) sustain its success?
Forever, hopefully. The Oilers haven’t been able to depend on any of their bottom six yet, and there’s no sign that will change. The bottom six is comprised of 20 point players. Until there’s something to add to that, it’s going to be tough sledding.
This is kind of where I see the Oilers struggling. You look at the composition and see a roster that’s a key injury away from being a very bad team.
Mike: What is the biggest weakness on the Oilers roster right now?
Goaltending may have been suspect coming into the season, but they’ve held their ground so far. The bottom six is clearly the tough area. Until this week, no one had a 5 on 5 goal on the bottom six. The goal that Jujhar Khaira had was while he was on the second line.
Zero 5v5 goals in the bottom six. Yikes. That needs to be a thing the Penguins try and combat having last change today.
Mike: How do you feel Ken Holland has done so far?
So far, Holland has been a bit better than average. He was able to get out of the Lucic deal, which deserves a parade day. Signing a bunch of 20 point players to fill the bottom six hasn’t been proven to be effective yet, but getting away from the toxic Lucic deal can’t be understated.
You have to take the good with the bad I suppose and mostly be enamored with the Lucic trade.
Mike: What are your general thoughts on being able to watch a 1-2 punch of McDavid and Draisaitl for the next years to come?
Ideally, you’d want to split them to have two lines of power, but they’re too good right now to split. No one is going to complain about 225 points between two players, but the day will hopefully come where two lines are the norm.
Agree with this sentiment as well. You don’t complain about it in the immediate, but would like to be able to build around them both to have a stronger team in the long run.
Much thanks to Jeff for stopping by and giving us some scoop on the Pens opponent this afternoon!