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
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?
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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