This afternoon, the Wings take on the Edmonton Oilers at the Joe Louis arena. As a result, today we're welcoming Derek Zona from The Copper & Blue, SB Nation's Oilers blog. Some of the best advanced stats analysis come out of their corner of the internet and they know their hockey. They also willingly root for the Oilers, which is probably the best choice if you're going to pull for any of the Northwest teams.
1. What are expectations on the Oilers looking like so far this year overall? How realistic are those expectations?
Derek Zona: It depends on who you're talking to. I think the fanatical, those believing in the Tambellini Rebuild v3.0 believe they are on the verge of the Stanley Cup. For the more even-keeled fan, I think being in contention for the 7th and 8th spots in the Western Conference would be enough of a sign that things are changing. For the pessimists, I think they look at a roster far too short on defensive depth and a team that lacks a solid defensive team game and they see change coming, but far too slowly. Combine that with the Oilers being a Devan Dubnyk injury away from Nikolai Khabibulin to finish the year and they see a bottom five finish in the conference.
2. Can you tell us a little about how Justin Schultz has looked so far? He chose Edmonton to get his chance to shine on a defense that needed him. His offensive production looks good so far, but how is he in his own zone?
DZ: He's looked really good. He's been amazing at times, to be honest. He moves like a forward and handles the puck like a centre. He's always going to create offense because of that. He likes to pinch down to the top of the circle to be in place for loose pucks so there is some added pressure on the other team in their own zone. In his own zone, he's holding his head above water. I've not noticed any enormous deficiencies in his game except the need to get a little stronger against the cycle and ride guys out of the way. He's getting caught up ice a little too much for my liking, but I guess that's the price the Oilers will pay for the added offense. The coaching staff has paired him with Nick Schultz, a defensive-minded defenseman if there ever was one, and they've worked very well together thus far. I imagine by the end of the season, Justin may owe Nick a few beers for facing the 2-on-1s.
3. While Calgary seems the easy answer because of proximity, which team/fanbase is enemy number 1 for Edmonton's fanbase?
DZ: It's Calgary. Though there hasn't been much of a rivalry lately because the Oilers have been so terrible and Calgary has been unendingly mediocre, proximity breeds hate. Each battle of Alberta gets more hype than a normal game, and though the Flames have owned the Oilers over the last five years, Rexall is extra loud when the Flames are in town.