It has not been the most fantastic start to the season for the Edmonton Oilers nor have they lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon them in the offseason. The team currently has a record of 18–15–2, ranking them fourth in the Pacific Division while fighting for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. There are reasons for optimism though, including valuable players returning from injury post-Christmas break and playing a complete game of the season against the Central Division leading Dallas Stars.
T’was the night before Christmas…
A review is not the focus of this article, as it is the holiday season. But instead, the concentration is on generating the festive spirit and granting each Oiler player a Christmas wish. The list includes all players who have played at least one game this year, the power stance man, Jay Woodcroft, and the team’s blueprint architect, Ken Holland.
Donning our magical Santa hats, we begin with the goalies:
Stuart Skinner: A bigger wallet and bank account – As most individuals know, 2022 has been Skinner’s year. Skinner’s biggest wish could be a capable backup who could give him a night off, as he has played in 20 of the Oiler’s 34 games this season which at an 82-game pace is 48 games started. Instead, his wish was to receive a more extensive bank account and wallet due to Skinner’s recent $7.8M three-year extension. Money well deserved due to this season’s play and taking control of the Oiler’s starter net.
Jack Campbell: The season to restart – Campbell’s wish centers around a season reset and has been one to forget per date. However, signs are beginning to show of Campbell heating up, including a few unbelievable saves in his last game started against Nashville. It is still tough not to question Campbell’s play in the first year of his $5M five-year contract. A career-worst season, Campbell currently sports a 4.02 GAA, 0.876%, and -10.8 GSAX, which, compared to 57 qualified goalies playing at least ten games, rank 55th, 53rd, and 52nd.
Philip Broberg: A new set of shin pads – It could be discussed Broberg’s biggest wish could be not to get injured at the start of the season or lose the roster spot defenceman battle to Markus Neimaleinen. Instead, Broberg’s biggest wish is new shin pads, as in the small sample size of play, Broberg is blocking 5.26 shots/60, ranking first among all Oilers defencemen.
Ryan Murray: To return from injury – Unfortunately, Murray must also wish for a return from being out of action for up to a month. Signed as an affordable, Murray has at least played up to his contract, though at a slightly below-league level at controlling shot quantity and quality.
Markus Neimaleinen: Padded shoulder pads – Although hockey is known for its physicality, Neimaleinen takes his strength to the next level providing reason for padded shoulder pads as he currently ranks third on the Oilers in hits in half the games played by others. Put into context, Neimaleinen is laying the body three times per game as he averages ten minutes TOI; however, this equates to leading the Oilers with a staggering 17.5 hits/60 minutes.
Tyson Barrie: Keep the opposition penalty chances coming – Barrie is an offensive defenceman. When paired with elite talents such as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, his ability helps push the Oilers’ powerplay over the top. Not only is the Oilers’ powerplay currently number one league-wide, but Barrie ranks second among all NHL defencemen in powerplay points with 16 (2 G, 14 A), only behind Rasmus Dahlin.
Brett Kulak: To find last season’s form – Kulak has not been disappointing, but it is fair to state that he has looked overwhelmed when consuming top four minutes. Reclaiming the form that equated to Kulak being worth a second round pick would help solidify the defensive depth and strong defensive metrics he posted last year post-acquisition.
Cody Ceci: Another defensive defenceman – Ceci was one of the pleasant surprises from last year’s offseason signings. However, with the loss of Duncan Keith, it led to the defensive void on the second pairing (sorry Kulak). Ceci wishes for another hard-nosed, shot-mitigating defenceman who can capably fill within the Oilers’ lineup. Another defenceman would allow Ceci to at least catch his breath, as he currently plays 35% of each game and mostly against opposing teams’ top line.
Evan Bouchard: Positive shooting regression – Although he was recently benched, Bouchard has the best-expected goal percentage (XG%) and Corsi percentage (C%). For Christmas, the “Shin-Pad Destroyer” wishes to see a more significant portion of his shots miss opposing players and receive an increase on his below-league-average shooting average, which currently sits at 3.1%.
Darnell Nurse: For a more relaxed fan base – Coming off a severe injury and with the size of his current contract, Nurse was paid to be the go-to #1 defenceman. And although he logs an outlandish 39% per game on the ice, the fan base has not viewed his play favourably, as too many costly blunders have led to game-changing errors. Therefore, although Nurse likely wishes for another defenceman to share the workload with, the screaming and constant armchair managing will not change the fact that he is still the Oilers’ long-term #1 defenceman. Nurse leads the Oilers in various categories, ranking first in expected goals (XG), blocks, hits, and third in C% among members of the Oilers’ defensive corp.
Tyler Benson: Another chance to re-enter the lineup – An NHL-AHL tweener, Benson has always teased the potential that made him a second-round draft choice. By receiving another opportunity with the big club and playing above the fourth line, Benson can show off the talent that has lit up the AHL since being returned earlier this season (six points in eight games).
James Hamblin: To remain with the club as a contributing centreman – Similar to Benson, Hamblin wishes to remain with the big club. However, to do so in a contributing capacity, Hamblin’s wish must come in the faceoff circle, where he has a 63.2% win rate during his Oilers tenure.
Brad Malone: To see positive regression on his PDO (shooting%+sv%) – Although now also with the Bakersfield Condors, Malone’s return to the NHL should come with additional on-ice success as he currently holds the worst PDO, a stat measuring an individual’s puck luck, of all Oiler players.
Evander Kane: To return early with a clean bill of health – Kane’s injury left a void that still needs to be filled, as the depth has not been able to compensate for his lost swagger or scoring touch.
Klim Kostin: To keep on keeping on – To be brutally honest, I did not believe swapping two disappointing prospects would yield such fruit. Kostin has provided a spark to the Oilers’ depth by positively impacting each night on the scoresheet (2G, 4A in 18GP) or with his forechecking and physicality. Additionally, Kostin has noticeably brought an exuberant personality seen throughout practices and has even playfully told off the media.
Mattias Janmark: To play against his former teams every game – Although recently dropped to the third line, it was surprising to see Woodcroft continually play Janmark in the top six. Janmark’s biggest wish is to always play his former teams, as five of his six points this season came against either Chicago or Dallas.
Ryan McLeod: New front teeth – McLeod has been a breakout for the Oilers, steadily providing depth, and forming a competent checking line alongside Warren Foegele and Jesse Puljujarvi. The best sight is the big grin after a goal, a smile that would be great to see graced by two new front teeth.
Kailer Yamamoto: To start earning his new contract – Alongside Puljujarvi, Yamamoto’s contract was initially received poorly. However, post-injury return, Yamamoto has scored four points (2G, 2A) in six games, a pace not seen since the end of the 2021–22 season, indicating Yamamoto may just be starting to heat up.
Warren Foegele: To keep playing with Draisaitl – Foegele’s wish is simple, and that is not only to keep having a bounceback season but to keep riding shotgun on Draisaitl’s wing. Foegele historically had team-leading underlying metrics during his Carolina Hurricanes tenure. While complementing Draisaitl with his hard work and skating, Foegele continues to prove his worth among all Oiler players. Ranking second in XG/60, third in XG%, and above league-norm C%, implies he strongly drives offensive play while maintaining control over shot share and quantity.
Devin Shore: To improve his shot control and quality metric – Shore’s season is the exact opposite of Foegele’s, and he may soon find himself riding the 13th forward or waiver train. To maintain his spot in the lineup, Shore requires greater C% and XG% maintenance, as he currently posts the second worst C% and XG% on the Oilers. Improvement may lead to fewer times being healthy scratched.
Dylan Holloway: To keep getting looks in the top nine and to hit the net – Holloway is beginning to earn his playing time being deployed more in the top nine and no longer relegated to the fourth line. However, his high draft capital implies he has more significant talent than missing the net 42.9% of the time.
Zach Hyman: For more pucks to find the back of the net – Hyman could be wishing he could have signed with the Oilers in 2017–18 rather than the 2021–22 season. Although Hyman does not have the personality of an individual focused on personal stats, he currently holds the best XG and XG/60 among all players in the NHL. Even though he has 15 goals on the season, that is eight less than his XG perpetuates he could have.
Derek Ryan: To contribute to the penalty kill and keep his role on the team – Like the rest of the depth, Ryan’s role becomes increasingly risky with players returning from injury. His primary role has been killing penalties, where the Oilers rank 26th among NHL units. Ryan may watch from the press box if the Oilers feel a shakeup is needed.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: To keep up the season of Nuge – Aptly named the season of Nuge, Nugent-Hopkins is currently on his career-best pace for points in a season with 97. Helped by the powerplay, Nugent-Hopkin has collected 23 of 41 points from his customary bottom-of-circle office. Additionally, he also sits third league-wide among powerplay points by NHLers.
Jesse Puljujarvi: A big “finn”ish – Akin to Yamamoto, Puljujarvi has a new contract to live up to. Yet, the big Finn has constantly been the subject of trade rumors since day one, especially since only registering eight points in 34 games. However, to cash in on his next contract (I do not see him staying with the Oilers) and for the mutual benefits of both parties, Puljujarvi finding his scoring touch would leave a remembered fondness for the Bison King.
Leon Draisaitl: Every game to be played against Nashville – Draisaitl is the owner of Nashville, netting 35 points in 23 career games against the Predators. Secondarily, an additional wish could be an endless supply of burgers for his burger flipper of a stick, and the sweet cheese of backdoor passes he consistently feeds McDavid.
Connor McDavid: A new hat rack – At the 70-goal pace McDavid has been scoring at equated to an 82-game season (29 G in 34 GP), he may require room for a Rocket Richard Trophy as well. But it would not be surprising to net two to three more hattricks against the subpar goaltending of the Pacific Division.
Jay Woodcroft: To rekindle last year’s magic – Though the team still retains a wild card spot, they are yet to meet playoff expectations. Woodcroft’s wish to return to last year’s lockdown defensive style that mitigated high-danger chances and kept opposition shots outside the slot would greatly benefit and be the gift that continually keeps giving.
Ken Holland: To hope the cost of acquiring a defenseman lessens by the trade deadline – The Oilers need a top four defensive defenceman to help ease the load on the Nurse-Ceci pairing. That has been illustrated continuously by multiple outlets; however, Holland’s wish for a trading partner will require the acquisition cost to deteriorate. As proposed by one report, trading Xavier Bourgault and another first-round pick for Joel Edmundson seems way too high of a price for a shutdown defenceman.
Edmonton Oilers: For the penalty kill to improve – As been already highlighted, for the Oilers to succeed and endure a lengthy playoff run, the penalty must improve to be at almost league average, as retaining the seventh worst in the NHL is not a recipe for success.
As the Oilers have entered the holiday roster freeze portion of their schedule, it begins a season to reflect on the happiness and festivities of family and friends. From all of us at theoilrig.ca, we wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire