The Edmonton Oilers are now 17–14–1 on the season, good for 35 points and the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The team has managed to stay floating in a wildcard position for a while now, relying heavily on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to win games. Although an argument could be made that this is mostly due to the many injuries the club has suffered this season, it also seems like some players have failed to achieve the same success they had last season.
This spurs the question: which Oilers player is having the most disappointing start to the season?
We asked, you answered. Let’s take a look!
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With about a quarter of votes is Darnell Nurse, who is on the first year of his new massive eight-year $9.5M contract. Nurse currently has four goals and 16 points on the season with a plus-minus of 11 – these are pretty good numbers when compared to last season.
Nurse has struggled with giving the puck away this season with 40 giveaways in 31 games while he only had 67 all last year. Most fans have etched in their minds the giveaway and bad defensive coverage in Thursday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues, which cost the club a guaranteed two points with 20 seconds left while on the power play. Or the bad giveaway behind his own net against the Minnesota Wild on Friday last week. These giveaways are a concerning reoccurring trend in his game this season, and when looking at his trajectory for giveaways, he is on pace to set a new career-high of 106 in 82 games.
That being said, there are still 51 games left for him to clean up his play in the defensive zone before the playoffs, and chances are he does well before then, but as the leader of the defensive core, he needs to bare down and lead by example.
Less than a percentage of votes went to Evan Bouchard, who is a restricted free agent at the end of this year. Bouchard has had a slower start to the season than expected scoring only three goals and 12 points in 31 games with a plus-minus of -13.
Since Duncan Keith‘s retirement over the offseason, Bouchard has been expected to take charge of a role in the top four, and that has not come without some growing pains. He has now been dropped back down to the third pairing with Philip Broberg where the two have been holding their own.
Bouchard’s biggest asset has to be his incredible shot and puck-moving ability. When looking at his shooting percentage this season, we can see that it is considerably lower, going from 5.9% during the 2021–22 season to 4.3% so far this year. The considerable change could be attributed to a confidence issue and magnified by the fact that Tyson Barrie has been Jay Woodcroft’s go-to man on the first unit power play this season.
Although Bouchard had a slower start to the season, he does seem to be gaining more confidence as the year has gone along, and most fans are not too concerned as he is only starting his second full season in the NHL.
Coming in at 11% of poll voting is Jesse Puljujarvi, whose offensive numbers have been anemic since the start of the season, getting one goal and six points in 31 games, and plus-minus of -12.
Puljujarvi has played decent defensive hockey this season, but for a player who has played an extensive amount of time in the top six with McDavid and Draisaitl you would expect higher offensive numbers. Puljujarvi’s shooting percentage is at a career-low of 2.3%, a drop of 6.5% from last season.
Puljujarvi signed a one-year $3M deal with the Oilers in the offseason, and for a player making that kind of money, obviously, the team and fans have high expectations, and as of this moment, unfortunately, have not been met.
Two-thirds of votes went to Jack Campbell, who signed a five-year $5M AAV contract in the offseason with the Oilers, and has had a disastrous start to the season with a .875 SV% (74th among NHL goalies) and GAA of 4.04 (75th among NHL goalies) in 14 games this season. These are the worst numbers he has had since his first NHL season in 2016–17 season with the Dallas Stars.
Campbell did have a good game in his last appearance against the Nashville Predators, where he faced 32 shots and saved 29 in a 6–3 win. Campbell, like Puljujarvi, plays his best hockey when he’s feeling confident. Hopefully Campbell will be able to build off this performance and start to turn this season around.
That’s a wrap
Thank you to everyone who took part in the poll, stay tuned for next week’s Sunday Census!
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire