The Edmonton Oilers season starts this Wednesday and it’s the first time in a really, really long time that they’re entering the year as Stanley Cup contenders. The Oilers roster hasn’t changed all too much from the one that lost against the Avalanche in four, but there are some variables to consider and to factor in when formulating an opinion on how well this team will do this season. Besides the universal idea where it’s the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl show, the Oilers have a lot more going right for them as well.
The depth of the Edmonton Oilers was always a question mark and until recently it still was. However, the additions of Zach Hyman, who not only had a career year but a fantastic playoff to go along with it. The controversial signing of Evander Kane and the emergence of youngsters Ryan McLeod and Dylan Holloway have made this forward core the deepest they’ve had since the dynasty years in the 1980’s. As well you still have your Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto’s, and Jesse Puljujarvi’s of the world. Besides McDavid and Draisaitl, who are locks for 40-50 goals each barring major injuries, players like Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins can easily pot in 20-30 goals and Kane, if he can keep up his play from this past season, could hit 40. The rest of the guys mentioned are still young, but they’re so immensely talented that they could hit 15-20 goals as well. This Oilers team can score, no doubt about it.
For years, they’ve been carried by their two superstars and they would lead them to a playoff spot. Having a much deeper roster will certainly help the Oilers going forward.
It’s no secret that the Pacific Division is the weakest in the league. You could make an argument about the Central with Chicago and Arizona seemingly locks for bottom-two in the league. Even then, with the likes of the San Jose Sharks, a still young-rebuilding Anaheim Ducks squad, a top-heavy no depth Vegas team, an inconsistent mess known as the Vancouver Canucks, and a young and still brand new team with the Kraken. The Oilers only major worries are the LA Kings and Calgary Flames, who the Oilers both beat this previous playoff run.
With LA, there’s a major question in the net. Could Jonathan Quick repeat his renaissance year from 21/22? Will the major new additions in Calgary gel correctly with Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, and Nazem Kadri? The benefit here for the Oilers as well comes with the fact that they only play Calgary, who is probably considered the best team in the Pacific still right now, three times. Who knows. Maybe an extra game against a much weaker team could propel the Oilers to a divisional title over the Flames.
The Edmonton Oilers started last year 16-5. We all know what happened from there, and the fallout wasn’t shocking to many unless you were naive or a writer for the team. Carried by special teams, Dave Tippett and his terrible 5v5 system crashed and burned and went 2-9-2 in a 13 game stretch. Funny enough, those two wins weren’t under Tippett, rather than assistant coach Glen Gulutzan. After somewhat rebounding collecting a record of 5-0-1, once more the Oilers struggled out of the All Star Game and the long overdue firing of Tippett finally happened.
Jay Woodcroft and his right-hand man in Dave Manson came up and the Oilers were phenomenal. They made major improvements in not just their 5v5 play but their overall play as a whole. Woodcroft had a record of 26-9-3 (.724 points percentage). Over an 82 game season, that’s 59 wins. Now, I’m saying the Oilers are going to be close to a 60 win team next season. That’s ridiculous. But the point is that Woodcroft got this team back into the playoff hunt when they were practically done for, which lasted all the way up to the final four. He’s a great coach and the Oilers are lucky to have him for a full season now.
Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell are the newest goaltender duo in Edmonton. After a long three seasons of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen splitting the net, the Oilers finally decided to make a switch in that department. Skinner is 24 years old and is gonna enter his first FULL season. He had a cup of coffee in the NHL last year and looked pretty good. Jack Campbell is coming off an up and down year in Toronto. In the first half, he was unstoppable but in the second half, he suffered a rib injury and fell off a cliff. He also has a lot of injury and consistency issues similar to Smith. If the Oilers want to contend for a cup, all Jack has to do is be average. If he is, the Oilers should have no problem getting back to the Western Conference Finals.
The Oilers finished with 49 wins last year. That’s despite the 7-13-3 stretch aforementioned and the lack of quality goaltending from Smith and Koskinen. Evander Kane is also here for a full season and I haven’t even touched on the blue line.
Evan Bouchard who was already very good the previous season will also take another huge step in his development and Brett Kulak looked like the perfect fit here as we saw during the playoffs.
A full year under Jay Woodcroft as well should give this team some extra points in the standings. The Oilers should be a 50+ win team this season and the expectation is that they make it back to the Conference Finals and at least win a game or two. Small, baby steps in the right direction is key for this organization. One thing is certain, the Oilers are a good team
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