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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Good Health…

The Edmonton Oilers’ good health was crucial in their improvement up the standings. Edmonton’s top-six forwards played every game. except for Patrick Maroon missing the last game of the season. On defence, Kris Russell was the only regular top-four guy to miss significant time, and he was their most replaceable top four option.

The Oilers have had some weird injuries in the past. Taylor Hall had his face stepped during warm ups and injured his ankle in a fight. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hit a rut in the ice and injured his shoulder. Oscar Klefbom had a hand injury that turned into a staph infection in his ankle. Connor McDavid flew into the boards on the penalty kill and missed 34 games his rookie year.

Looking at the Oilers’ total five-on-five ice time shows the impact of these injuries and how quickly it can decimate a team’s depth. Every team gets hit by injuries of some sort, but Edmonton was far more fortunate with its injuries last season and it showed.

Edmonton Oilers’ total 5-on-5 TOI 2012-17 Seasons

Forwards

TOI Rank 12-13 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17
1 Eberle RNH Eberle Hall McDavid
2 Gagner Eberle RNH Draisaitl Draisaitl
3 Hall Perron Purcell Eberle Maroon
4 RNH Hall Yakupov Letestu Lucic
5 Yakupov Gagner Roy RNH Eberle
6 Smyth Gordon Hall Maroon RNH
7 Paajarvi Smyth Klinkhammer Korpikoski Kassian
8 Hemsky Hendricks Hendricks Hendricks Pouliot
9 Horcoff Yakupov Pouliot Yakupov Letestu

Defense

TOI Rank 12-13 13-14 14-15 15-16 16-17
1 Petry Petry Schultz Sekera Klefbom
2 J. Schultz Schultz Ference Nurse Larsson
3 Smid Ference Klefbom Fayne Sekera
4 N. Schultz Belov Fayne Gryba Russell
5 Whitney Marincin Marincin Davidson Benning
6 Potter Fraser Nikitin Klefbom Nurse

It’s easy to see why the Oilers were so bad for so long. Having players like Teddy Purcell, Nail Yakupov, Mark Letestu, and Sam Gagner playing a lot of minutes isn’t a recipe for success. Those are bottom of the roster players, with some not even in the league anymore.

The most important changes are Connor McDavid and Oscar Klefbom filling the number one forward and defence slots. Having those two at the top pushes everyone down into a more suitable role.

This also highlights one of the few flaws a player like Taylor Hall has. Hall played every game in 2015-16, but otherwise, he missed a decent amount of time in four of his seven NHL seasons. Hall’s a great player, but he can’t contribute when he’s not on the ice, leaving a lesser player to play more minutes.

On defence, Andrew Ference and Mark Fayne played a lot on bad Edmonton teams. 2016-17 saw Darnell Nurse shift to a more appropriate role. Edmonton’s top three of Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, and Andrej Sekera might be the best it’s had in a decade. Klefbom’s health is key to the Oilers defence.

Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are further down than previous years despite both playing a full 82-game season for the first time. Having those two in the five/six spots was huge compared to a Boyd Gordon or Sam Gagner.

Cam Talbot also played more than 50 games in both seasons in Edmonton so far.

I’ll always wonder what the 2015-16 season looks like with a healthy McDavid and Klefbom. If they’re healthy, it’s hard to see Edmonton in a position to draft Jesse Puljujarvi.

What about next season?

Mar 16, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) celebrates teammates after defeating the Boston Bruins 7-4 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Well,  you never really know when your star player will suffer a long-term injury, so are these Oilers’ healthier or just fortunate?

Edmonton parted with Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Eberle, and while Pouliot missed significant time every year, Eberle didn’t miss much time save for the 2015-16 season.

Milan Lucic has been a player you can count on to play 80+ games. He’s only missed 10 games since the 2010-11 season. There’s real value to a player that plays every game.

Leon Draisaitl doesn’t miss a lot of games unless he’s spearing someone in the junk.

New additions Ryan Strome and Jussi Jokinen have had a couple injuries in the past few years. Jokinen played 81 games the past three years before dressing in 69 of Florida’s game in 2016-17. Strome had a wrist injury that ended his season but hasn’t missed many games to injury otherwise.

The Oilers will be without Andrej Sekera to start the season, although there are reports he might return earlier than expected, so any more injuries to their defence would make things difficult. Edmonton was very fortunate with their injuries last season after a long period of having the most man games lost. Maybe the voodoo from Rexall Place is gone with the new Rogers Place.

Edmonton didn’t alter the roster much this summer. They downgraded from Jordan Eberle to Ryan Strome and extended Kris Russell. Jussi Jokinen is effectively Benoit Pouliot’s replacement. Even if they aren’t as healthy as 2016-17, it might not matter as long as McDavid, Klefbom, and Talbot are on the ice.

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  • Fireball

    Strome had season ending injury last year and don’t normally miss many games other than a few.. hasn’t been in the league very long so I guess that would be a significant amount of games missed. Starting the season not knowing when / if Sekura will be back worries me. Easy to say he’s progressing quickly and may be back early but plenty of Older players never fully recover from serious injury. Starting the season without having a replacement for our # 3 D worries me the most. Sure we have guys whole can step up but the defence will be weaker. Signing Russell was just that retaining our # 4 from last year. I have no worries about Lauren. He played really well last year and just needs a chance to ride it out when he has a big game. If he’s winning let him play the next game. Hard to get better when your not playing and under future Cap restraints ya might want someone to replace your # 1 so you don’t have to pay a fortune for your goalies., Kleff finally played a full season for the first time in his career., Maybe Pete has some moves left. Leon isn’t signed yet

  • omahalloyd

    I cringe when the word downgrade is used in reguards to Ebs and strome Ebs although not a total goal suck leaned in that direction I believe in 2 years no one would make the trade back back for Ebs

    • btrain

      When you remove salary argument, there is no question Eberle is the better player and its not even close. The fact is a 15 goal season should be viewed as a good to great outcome for Strome, whereas a 20 goal season is considered a down year for Eberle. Strome certainly may have some other aspects to his game that are superior to Eberle but we have yet to watch him play night in night out in order to actual make that comparison. We are overexposed to Oiler players for good and bad, whereas we are underexposed to players on other teams, particularly those in the Eastern states. How you can come to any unbiased conclusion where Strome comes out as an upgrade, on an individual level, without even seeing him play much, is beyond me. I am definitely optimistic on Strome but as a 3rd line guy who can provide some secondary scoring and be promoted to the top 6 when needed. At 2.5 million, I think this is a realistic expectation and if he does it well, this will be a great outcome for the Oilers. Anything beyond that is a bonus. The Islanders on the other hand would be disappointed if Eberle was occupying anything but a 1st line role. Like Larson, Strome may turn out to be better for the Oilers, but this doesn’t make him the better player.

        • Christian Pagnani

          Strome: 8 points in 15 playoff games.
          Eberle: 2 points in 12 playoff games.

          I doubt Eberle scores this little in the playoffs going forward, and 12 games is nothing compared to his career. Eberle’s been the far more productive player.

        • I am Batman

          Thank you.
          If Eberle had contributed 4 more points (total of 6) in his 12 playoff games , as Strome does …. we could be talking of the Oilers making the next round…. or not, but at this point, I take the gamble for the younger, stronger, cheaper player.

          • JimmyV1965

            The islanders have repeatedly tried Strome on the Tavares line and he has never been good enough to stick. If he succeeds here, it will be the magic touch of McDavid. Just as Eberle has clearly shown he’s a lazy player (LOL) Strome has clearly shown he’s simply not that good. Who knows though. Mcdavid will unlock the talent of many players throughout his career. Maybe Strome will be one of them.

        • I am Batman

          @ Jimmy.

          The Oilers tried Lazy repeatedly with McDavid and wasn’t good enough to stick…. if he succeeds ever (which he won’t) it will be because of divine (or satanic) intervention.
          When you are lazy, you are lazy….

  • omahalloyd

    I believe the better player is the better player using all facets but if you think his points mean so much and are not just because he was allowed to play one way hockey on the worst team in the league i suppose your argument holds water I do not