The past year has been turbulent for the Edmonton Oilers. These changes range from lows requiring new coaching hires to utmost highs of a Western Conference Final appearance, and a city’s love and admiration for a young fan. This article reports on the Oilers’ successes from the past year, individually and as a unit.
The Oilers saw many successes in 2022
Western Conference Final
The highest of highs. A deep playoff run was needed, not only for the rabid fanbase, but to showcase to the team’s stars and inspire confidence in management that this team can contend and is on the precipice of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
During this run, the Oilers disposed of the Los Angeles Kings in a hard-fought seven-game series that showcased the Oilers’ resilience, leadership, and drive to overcome adversity and play up to expectations.
Next on the docket, the Oilers extinguished the provincial rival, the Calgary Flames, in five high-scoring games that had fans on the edge of their seats due to being one of the highest-scoring series in playoff history. Unfortunately, the Oilers were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Colorado Avalanche. The issues that plagued the team during the season, such as unreliable goaltending and defensive play, could not be mitigated through scoring prowess or slowing down the dynamic duo of Cale Makar and Nathan McKinnon.
Heroic, inspirational, courageous – no more words could describe Ben Stelter and the resounding impact he had on the Oilers, the fanbase, the community, and other NHL teams. From making his first appearance as the Oilers player of the game as a flag-bearer, to pregame fist bumps and post-game press conferences, to the embracement of the song and line, “Play La Bamba Baby!”, Stelter provided many iconic moments that will continue to contribute to his growing legacy.
The Oilers’ organization also continue to contribute to his memory, including the Ben Stetler fund. Stelter proved hockey is more than just a game, providing a motivational memoir and highlighting the emotional humanization of the fanbase and sport.
Although Ken Holland has been guilty of overpaying for contracts, such as the debated Duncan Keith deal, the 2022 year had noticeable trade wins that are still reaping dividends.
First, at the trade deadline, acquiring Brett Kulak for William Lagesson, a second, and seventh-round pick, seems like a steal as Lagesson is currently in the Carolina Hurricanes farm system. Kulak has stepped into a top four role on the backend while also being extended for another four years over the summer. This season in 36 games played, Kulak has collected two goals and eight points. However, he has underperformed in shot quality mitigation relative to the league average. He is second on the Oilers in blocked shots and shots blocked per 60, providing much-needed stability to the void left by Keith.
A minor swap of two disappointing prospects at the 2022–23 season start has proved a very needed win. Acquiring Klim Kostin, also known as the Real Klim Shady, for Dmitri Samorukov has helped fulfill a much-needed physical, in-your-face style depth role. Though the stat sheet reports five goals and nine points, he has posted almost league norm underlying shot quality and control metrics. Kostin’s most significant impact has been filling the void left by Evander Kane, not only with his tenacity, swagger, and exuberant personality but with his toughness. Kostin has recorded 65 hits in 20 games played, ranking second among Oiler players in half of the same amount of games played, outpacing even Markus Niemelainen hit rate as Kostin is laying 18.5 hits per 60 minutes. On the other hand, Samurukov is yet to suit up for a game with the St. Louis Blues.
Individual Oilers also had their own victories
What else can be said about Connor McDavid? He netted 57 goals, 86 assists, and 143 points during the regular season of this calendar year. Additionally, McDavid tacked ten goals and 33 points in the playoff run. Pretty remarkable numbers across the board to only earn the Art Ross Trophy at the 2021–22 awards, though this could be due to Auston Matthew’s unbelievable year and voter fatigue.
McDavid’s 2022–23 seasonal play has also seen progress defensively. He posted above-league-average shot control at even strength and elite possession numbers in all situations. Although he was a winner of only a single trophy at last year’s awards, McDavid should begin clearing space for another Hart or Art Ross, the Ted Lindsay, and his first-ever Rocket Richard trophy.
One of the largest 2022 wins was the Oilers finally drafting and developing a starting goaltender. Stuart Skinner’s emergence as a starting goalie has catapulted him into the Oilers’ starting netminder role and a 2022–23 potential Calder trophy winner. His play has performed admirably with a record of 12–9–1, 2.78 GAA, 0.917 SV% and 2.5 GSAX, ranking him 25th, 15th, and 28th league-wide among 57 qualified NHL goalies.
Outplaying counterpart Jack Campbell is one stepping stone accomplished for Skinner’s young career, but beating out the likes of Pyotr Kotchetkov, Logan Thompson, and Matty Beniers would provide the Oilers their first-ever Calder trophy winner.
Redemption is an aspect of story-making that proves a good narrative. Evander Kane’s narrative has been a role reversal from previous NHL stops. His duration with the Oilers has been full of goodwill and giving back to the community via hospital and children’s foundations. On the ice, Kane fit seamlessly in with the Oilers’ top six, providing not only needed finishing when playing alongside McDavid but bringing a level of swagger, toughness, and cockiness that meshed very well within the Oilers leadership group and team culture.
Statistically, Kane has been dominant. In the 2022 calendar year, Kane has played at a point-per-game pace, netting 27 goals, 30 assists, and 57 points in 57 games. Additionally, he led the team in hits, showcasing the physical power forward talent and tenacity he brings to an Oilers squad. The underlying metrics support Kane’s strong play, as he finished with above-league norm possession statistics and had an absurd 46.2 expected goals, implying he is underscoring his current goal pace. Returning from injury will be an excellent time for the Oilers, as they may have lost Kostin for a significant time in the New Year’s Eve game.
Hyman has also enjoyed a relatively successful 2022. Riding shotgun with McDavid and Draisaitl, Hyman posted 33 goals, 42 assists, and 75 points in 85 games. In the underlying metrics, Hyman has enjoyed most of his success during the 2022–23 season. As although these point totals are career highs, the difference between his expected goals, 25.8, and actual goals, 17, infer Hyman should have netted 8.8 more goals to his totals. At this rate, he is posting the best-expected and expected goals per 60-minute metrics league-wide. Thank you Toronto for providing the Oilers with the hard-nosed and hard-working winger McDavid requires to succeed.
What will 2023 bring for the Oilers?
The following 365 days mark another of importance for the Oilers. Not only do they have many successes to build off of in 2022, but the depth and current construct of the team, with a few additions, provide reasons for optimism and hope that the lifting of Lord Stanley’s chalice may be written about in the write up of 2023 successes.
All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com and MoneyPuck.com.
Photo by Katherine Gawlik/Icon Sportswire