Edmonton Oilers on Top of Northwest: How Long Until They Screw It Up?

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Edmonton Oilers on Top of Northwest: How Long Until They Screw It Up?
Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers, about one-eighth of the way through the 2011-12 NHL regular season, are sitting in first place in the Northwest Division.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, an 18-year old sensation, leads the team in points as he has 11 on the season while 35-year old veteran Ryan Smyth has 10 points.

Jordan Eberle, himself just 21, has made his contribution offensively as he has 10 points on the year.

Between the pipes the Oilers have been absolutely fantastic so far as Nikolai Khabibulin, the main backstop, has posted a .960 save percentage. Devan Dubnyk, the backup goalkeeper, is no slouch either as he's posted a .938 save percentage in limited play.

The Oilers have won five straight, they are off to a 7-2-2 record and they hold a two-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche in the Northwest as a result. The Oilers are 6-1-1 at home so far this season and they were the first team to defeat the Washington Capitals on the current campaign.

All this success with Ales Hemsky on the sidelines for all but two of the games played.

Now how long can this last?

The Oilers are a franchise that have hardly had a good team since the conclusion of the 1991-92 season. They had Curtis Joseph in the late 1990's and he robbed a couple playoff series, but top to bottom, they weren't that good during that era.

The Oilers also had a run to the Finals in '06 but they did not have a good team for much of the season, just when it counted, as trade deadline acquisitions made a big difference that year.

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All totaled, you can count the number of months on one hand where the Oilers have had a strong top-to-bottom lineup.

Since the '06 run, the Oilers haven't been back to the playoffs and their current run on top of the division will probably only last as long as the hot goaltending lasts.

Khabibulin, like a lot of NHL goalies, is capable of putting up fantastic numbers over a short period of time. However, what real reason is there to believe that he'll keep his save percentage above .920 in the long term?

He's a career .908 goaltender and you have to go back a decade to find a year when he has posted a .920 save percentage or better as he did with Tampa Bay in 2001-02.

When he comes back down to Earth, so will the Oilers, and don't expect Tom Renney to find any answers when it happens.

The current Oilers coach is just 228-272 in terms of career wins and losses (including OT losses) with nine ties from the old days. He was fired in Vancouver in the late 90's, he was fired from the Rangers in 2009 and I don't have any confidence in him to guide the Oilers to a high seed.

Hopefully Edmonton can milk this hot streak for all it's worth but make no mistake—that would just be so the Oilers have a chance to compete for a bubble playoff spot later this season.

There's a losing streak coming as soon as Khabibulin cools off and once that gets weathered it'll be mediocrity from there.

Don't even watch: Just take my word for it.

Khabibulin will start acting like himself sooner or later, Renney won't know what to do and as far as teenaged sensations go—this is NHL hockey, not women's tennis.

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