Welcome back. I wrote a preseason preview of what I felt was wrong with the Edmonton Oilers going into the season. I said we had an A+ forward core that could sustain an injury to Connor McDavid. Currently, that is aging very poorly! I said our defence is not good enough to carry us to a Cup. I said our goaltending is not good enough either. We are now entering game 10 and we have been awful. I absolutely did not see that coming. It is a good team that was built for regular season (not playoff) success. It’s shocking how bad they’ve been. I think we are one move away from righting the ship though. I blame GM Krn Holland and I wouldn’t panic just yet!
What is going wrong for Edmonton
A lot of my hope was based on Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway taking next steps and advancing their careers. So far, that definitely hasn’t happened. Both have 0 points. Broberg has been sent down to the Bakersfield Condors. Does this mean they won’t continue to improve? Absolutely not but, today, they aren’t doing nearly enough and Holland needs to realize the “answer is NOT in the room” for our defence and goaltending. As a gripe, I do think Holloway has looked excellent and should’ve been the first guy tried out in top six after Connor Brown’s demotion. Putting Mattias Janmark in top six is not effective. We know exactly what he is and what his celing is (bottom six NHLer). Holloway does have a top six ceiling and felt like a missed opportunity.
Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner have both been very bad. A theory I’ve developed (as an Oilers’ fan who has spent decades watching mediocre goalies) is that bad goalies make amazing saves! They are consistently out of position and forcing themselves to make ten bell type saves and, sometimes, they do:
That may be the save of the year (Patrick Maroon isn’t exactly a finisher at this stage in his career) but the number of weak goals allowed is growing! Campbell is now around 40 games as an Oil goalie and well below .900. Skinner was exposed in the playoffs and has yet to rebound back and show the excellent form that made him an All-Star and (rare) Calder nominee for the Oilers. At this point though, I say, stay the course with the goalies. Do nothing for now. NHL introduced NHL Edge this year and it’s got some great breakdowns for goalies. Here is Campbell and I’ve highlighted all his stats that are well below average:
Here is Skinner:
Where is the defence?
The defence has been even worse. We are still one good player away. We were one player away in the playoffs. We were one player away in the offseason. Holland got us Mattias Ekholm and that was brilliant. His finest trade. However, that was half the job as we needed two guys. Guys that have been available since then include Jakob Chychrum, Radko Gudas, Ivan Provorov, and Filip Hronek. We don’t need Cale Makar to save the ship. It would be nice but what we need is a guy that is worse than Ekholm and better than Cody Ceci. Amazingly, the first name that comes to mind is Adam Larsson. He’d be a perfect add to our D. It won’t happen as he’s not interested in coming back here but he’s the exacty type of player we need. Darnell Nurse with Ekholm. Evan Bouchard with a steady top four partner who can defend. Brett Kulak and Ceci on bottom pair ready to step up when needed. Coming back with the same D core and adding Brown was not the way to go this offseason.
Given our need for a D for so long I would assume the Oil pro scouts and Holland have several targetted players to try and acquire. I hope they are not still waiting for Broberg or Vincent Desharnais to become top four D anytime soon. I hope they realize that we have gotten the absolute best of Ceci and he can only regress.
What moves can be made
We do have assets that can help us get a defence like this. We are in win now mode. Leon Draisaitl’s contract is two years from expiring. This is our Cup Window and we need to be aggressive. Warren Foegele is off to a nice start, he should be the first contract to go. We have first round picks, Xavier Bourgault, Holloway, Broberg, and Skinner as desirable pieces.
It is true we have no cap space. It is true these players don’t grow on trees and are hard to acquire; I listed three that were all available in Hronek, Gudas and Chychrum. It is also true that our GM makes $5M year to build a Cup Winner and he’s on Year 5. This is the team Holland created and it’s not good enough. It’s close. It’s definitely not as bad as the game record indicates. However, it’s a team that needs our $5M GM to get creative with. We will lose some good pieces unfortunately to free up cap and acquire a player. Staying the course would be a mistake at this point. American Thanksgiving is a very accurate cutoff time for playoffs. American Thanksgiving is 19 days away. We need to right the ship and get in the playoff picture by then.
What we don’t need? More forwards. To hope Connor McDavid returning is the answer. We need to build around McDavid and Draisaitl. Lavoie is having a very strong campaign being called up and might be a nice boost to the top six. Do not call him up to play eight minutes a night on line four though. He won’t succeed there.
There is lots of blame to go around. Here is my list of guys that I would not blame for now. McDavid, Woodcroft and coaching staff, RNH, Drai, Foegele, Hyman, and Nurse.
While Bouchard’s defence has been very concerning. He’s at over a point per game pace and is doing very well offensively.
Zack Kassian retired this week. His January signing for $12M contract may be one of the worst contracts in Oiler history. He came here, played hard, was a great citizen, and got his life on track. I applaud him but he was never that good a hockey player for us. Spent a lot of time glued to McDavid or Drai (or both!) and had one season over 30 points in his career. His retirement reminded me of our protected list for the Expansion Draft. At the time I called it the worst Protected List in NHL history:
- Forwards: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Zack Kassian, Josh Archibald
- Defencemen: Duncan Keith (NMC), Darnell Nurse, Ethan Bear
- Goaltender: Stuart Skinner
Puljujarvi has no contract and is not in the NHL today, Yamamoto was bought out, Kass retired after a failed PTO and two-point season, Archibald is not in NHL, and Bear does not have a contract. Caleb Jones is in the AHL as well. This is a great example of what Holland has surrounded our Generational Superstar with through his tenure.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire