Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Year in Review: There’s nowhere to go but up for Milan Lucic after disasterous season

This is one part of a player-by-player Year in Review series we’ll be doing over the next couple months as we look back on the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers season. 

2017-18 Edmonton Oilers No. 27: Milan Lucic

GP: 82 – G: 10, A: 24, PTS: 34

Milan Lucic’s 2017-18 season was nothing short of a complete disaster. He scored just 10 goals, his lowest total in a full season since his rookie year, and he had a span of 29 games between late December and early March in which he didn’t put the puck in the back of the net once.

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His season was so bad that it spiralled into rumours that suggested his time in Edmonton was most certainly done. It was reported that the Oilers wanted to move on from Lucic and that Lucic, likewise, wanted to move on from the Oilers. A trade seemed inevitable after just two seasons into a mammoth seven-year contract. But nothing happened. The draft and free agent frenzy came and went and now it’s the middle of the summer and Lucic is talking about how excited he is to return to the Oilers for a rebound season.

I don’t think there’s too much need to dive into an extreme amount of detail to explain Lucic’s 2017-18 season. We know it wasn’t good, he knows it wasn’t good, the Oilers know it wasn’t good. Lucic said that he likes to have a “prove people wrong” kind of mentality. That’s a good thing, because, after last year, he’s got a lot to prove.

Lucic, as I mentioned, scored just 10 goals last year. It’s one thing that he scored just 10 goals under the expectations of a $6 million annual contract, it’s another that he only managed to score 10 goals with the favourable ice time he was given. Lucic played 419:31 even strength minutes with Connor McDavid and frequently saw time on Edmonton’s power play. The contract is obviously already an anchor, but the Oilers need players to be scoring goals when they’re being given those premium minutes.

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Much has been said about whether or not Lucic can continue to play effectively at this level. I think everyone knew that when he inked that seven-year deal it would eventually end up looking bad. That said, I don’t think anyone assumed it would look bad after just a couple of years. The league, of course, has gotten a lot faster and less physical since Lucic’s heyday with the Boston Bruins. But still, Lucic was an effective contributor on the Oilers in 2016-17, so it isn’t like the landscape of the league shifted so dramatically over the course of one summer that he completely fell off a cliff just like that.

When listening to Lucic on Barstool’s Spittin’ Chicklets Podcast, it’s pretty clear a lot of his issues were mental.

“For me it’s just mentally having fun going to the rink again and mentally looking forward to the challenges we face as a team and as an athlete every single day, where I think my mindset got very negative last year. So I was almost my own worst enemy, where this year I’m just going in with a happy, healthier mindset. I think that’ll help me get back to the player I am and I think when you’re playing with the best player in the world, you know, it gives you a vote of confidence to try and step up and not let him down. I think we’re all feeling that and we all had fun in the 2016-17 season so we want to get back to being that team and winning on a nightly basis..”

He was basically the poster boy for everything that went wrong with the Oilers last season. He looked lost on the ice, lacking the swagger that made him a feared force in the league for years, and the play frequently died on his stick. There were games where he’d come out like a locomotive in the first couple shifts, but then he’d bobble the puck in front of the net, and he was invisible for the rest of the game.

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What the Oilers are going to need to do with Lucic is start from scratch. They need to forget about the $6 million annual deal and where that contract suggests he should exist in the lineup. Based on his 2017-18 results, Lucic can’t be spoonfed top-six minutes and power play time. He has to start lower on the depth chart and prove that he can still be a productive offensive contributor in the NHL.

At the very least, if he isn’t in a high-pressure role to contribute offensively, he can do what he knows he can do well, which is skate around and be an intimidating physical presence in a bottom-six role. That’s a great opportunity to prove everyone wrong, right?


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  • Sammy27

    I have faith that Milan will have a better season, he will find a way to contribute, it just might not be on the scoreboard as consistently as we like though.

    • OilerForLife

      He’s rather gutsy, making some brave statements. He’s not happy with the last half of last year, and I’m looking for him to make a statement when he steps on the ice showing some emotion, and determination. I’m pretty sure he will set his mind straight on the off-season, and heads up when the puck drops.

    • ed from edmonton

      Given that ML had two seasons in one least, quite effective up to the new year and amongst the least effective players in the league after that, I agree assuming he will improve is hard to assume. Of course I hope he returns to his 2017 form, but who knows.

    • Corbs

      There’s a very real chance you’d make a comment that wasn’t a completely whiny and negative…but it hasn’t happened and likely never will. So I guess there is no way to go but up for you Serious Gord!

  • C U Next Tuesday

    I don’t really care about Looch’s contract too much. I mean there’s nothing you can do about it. If Looch scores 10 goals again this year while destroying the other teams…I’ll be happy. If he scores 50 points…awesome! I read some articles this summer suggesting that Looch was just as physical as he has been. I totally disagree. I hardly noticed him. He needs a “Mike Smith” moment in EVERY GAME.

  • McNugent

    Lucic will bounce back. He had a bad stretch. All players go through it.

    Hes physical. Hes intimidating. Hes impossible to move in front of the net on the pp.

    Its going to be a good season for him.

  • Van isl Oiler

    Milan Lucic’s 2017-2018 was nothing short of a complete disaster.

    Milan Lucic is the poster boy for everything that is wrong with the Oilers.

    Gee that’ll get the home town fans all pumped up and feeling good about their team. Why does a blog site called “Oilers Nation” dump on the team and it’s players with such regularity? At least be neutral in your writing. Is that what you’d say to Milan if you had to share a cab with him?

    “Boy oh boy, you really suck Mr Lucic. You should probably pack up and move outa town. After that disaster of a season you’re now the poster boy for everything that’s wrong with this team.”

    C’mon. You have no credibility when you write that crap.

    • McNugent

      With Maroon leaving… we have Khaira, Kassian and Lucic around to keep opponents honest with our young superstars.

      Lucic is worth much more to the team than just goals and assists.

      • McNugent

        My point is if we trade Lucic that will be quite a burden put on Khaira and Kassian.

        Kassian may not have much time left here and then it will completely fall on Khaira.

        Soon enough we will be overpaying a “tough” guy to protect our “soft” team on order to change the culture of being too easy to play against.

        This player will make too much and be target by fans.

        I really hope Lucic bounces back and clicks on the top pp unit. A productive season on the power play in front of the net could go along way to getting us back in the playoffs.

        Would hate to overpay on a guy like Reaves or Wilson to fill the hole Lucic would leave if we moved him.

        • Frank Rizza

          It always amazes me how many idiots we have cheering for this team. Don’t people remember when our skill team layers used to get face washed every shift. Don’t you remember the period from when Souray and then Moreau left the team and we were the softest team in the league. Everyone forgot?

          I’ll take Lucic on my team anyday. I wish I could trade the fans!

  • TKO

    how could Looch NOT bounce back this year?
    he will be a year younger, a lot faster than last year, and a motivated guy playing in his contract year, in a city that is the envy of the league to play in for its temperate climate, advantageous tax situation, and the ability to blend in to society with anonymity so he can enjoy his time. oh, and there’s WEM! expect him to surge!

  • Abagofpucks

    So lets talk about James Neal hes 31 making 5.5mill a yr, He will be 36 when his contract ends same as lucic . Sure he makes 500gs less and he scored 44 pts on a team that went to the stanley cup final. Now hes on the flames with a defense that isnt as good as they think they have with the same goalies . Im sure he will have a decent year for them to start, But hes well documented as being a slow skater takes a lot of dumb penalties i wonder how thats gonna look 2 years into his deal anybody have any thoughts on that .

  • OriginalPouzar

    Cam, was Lucic an “effective contributor” in 2016/17? The numbers show that at even strength he produced at an almost identical rate to this past year and his “success” was predicated completely on complete outlier of a PP heater.

    I will post the stats in a reply to this post but do want to say that, notwithstanding two horrible years at even strength, I believe Lucic can bounce back this year to 40-45 points and, just as importantly, not be an anchor in transition (at the defensive blue line and neutral zone).

    • OriginalPouzar

      From another article at another site:

      let’s take a bit of a dive into his somewhat successful 2016/17 regular season where he amassed 23 goals and 50 points while playing all 82 games.

      What the numbers will show is that Lucic was, once again, very poor at even strength and his decent production was a result of a huge career year on the power play.

      Lucic only produced 10 goals and 23 points at 5 on 5 and this included almost 500 minutes playing with Connor McDavid, who, in case you didn’t know, won the Art Ross Trophy that year. In fact, those 23 points at even strength were one less than he scored at even strength in the 2016/17 season and included four fewer goals. His even strength P/60 in 2016/17 was actually worse than it was his more recent horrendous 2017/18 season (1.21 to 1.30).

      • OriginalPouzar

        Lucic’s success in 2016/17 was predicated on a power play heater that was entirely out of line with his historical norms. Prior to the 2016/17 season, Lucic’s career high in goals at 5 on 4 was 5, which he accomplished twice as a Bruin, and his career high in 5 on 4 points was 13 which he produced back in 2010/11. In 2016/17, Lucic produced 12 goals and 25 points at 5 on 4, not only career highs but numbers that blew away his previous career highs. He more than doubled his previous career high in goals and essentially doubled his previous career high in points.

        His per 60 rates at 5 on 4 mirror the boxcars: he produced G/60 at a rate of 3.39, essentially double his previous career high of 1.71 and he produced P/60 at a rate of 7.06, materially higher than his previous career high of 4.14.

        It is absolutely no surprise that Lucic’s production on the power play fell back to within historical norms this past season leading to overall numbers that were very poor and demoralizing for Oiler fans.

        His career year on the PP in 2016/17 “saved” what was otherwise a very poor season and, in particular, a poor season at 5 on 5. Milan Lucic has produced low-end results at 5 on 5 for two straight years and, given 5 on 5 production has been the epitome of his game over the years, this trend is very concerning for Oiler fans.

        e out of Edmonton.

  • OriginalSixMachine

    I’m looking forward to the season as you all are I’m sure.. I think Looch will be hellbent on making up for last year much like the rest of the Team personally I’m glad they didn’t trade him along with Nurse nobody messes with Mcdangles it’s an expensive bodyguard forsure but worth it in my mind the dude’s a beast just wish there was chemistry between Looch Dr.Drai and JP cuz on paper it looks like a good second line….get your sheet together boys!

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    If the Oilers want him to hit the reset button, they should too. Slot him into the top 6. Having him in the bottom six tells him that they don’t have faith in him and his mentality will take another hit. Put him with Leon and x, let him get his swagger back.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Leon with a Spike Belt …. Mick David with a Boat Anchor….Porsche with a hitch???
      For heavens sake let the thoroughbreds run. Put them in the best position to succeed.

  • CMG30

    The smart play would have been to have moved him over the summer. Of course I have no doubt he’ll bounce back this season, but emotions aside, I’m not confident that this bounce will be enough to justify his addition to the lineup. Even if it is, long term we’re stuck with the problem of the rest of the years on his contract. So what happened? Perhaps there were no takers or perhaps the sweetener required was too dear for Chirelli’s taste or perhaps Chirelli just won’t part with ‘his’ guys. Anyway, none of it matters now. As long as he’s going to be on the Oilers next year I’m going to hope like heck he returns to form!

  • Oilerup!

    Milan is one of , pardon me is THE scariest guy in the league bar none. Bring your best argument and your still wrong. He’s is a very good player, not the best but very good. He is overpaid, YES…. not his fault and that’s not only a fact, but another story.
    I really think Milan will have a bounce back year….. mayb, he’ll never be like his dominant years in Boston but mayb his best years as an balanced force out there grabbing 20-25 goals and probably about the same number of assist. The force part is REALLY important to this team…. he can almost single handedly keep an opponent of 20 players on their collective toes…..WE NEED THAT presences on this club now and for a few years down the road….
    Think about the last few games last season when he decided to start “being Milan”, nasty Milan, and “proving others wrong” Anybody who knows, not just heard about him is fully aware of the entire package that is Milan Lucic.
    Better coaching overall, and a proud man wanting to prove others wrong I think is a dangerous mix!
    Prediction 50-55 point season
    Mainly in a top six role…. but sprinkled throughout the lineup where needed …. if you know what I mean?