Earlier in the week, Connor McDavid made it be known that he wants to score more goals this year so I gave you a list of what the rest of the Oilers forwards should want from the upcoming season. Time to follow up with a look at the back end and the duo between the pipes.
Oscar Klefbom should want to play 82 games. Let’s just start there and keep it simple. The most important thing for both Klefbom and the Oilers this season will be for him to stay healthy. The Swedish blueliner has only played more than 66 games once in his four years as an Oiler regular. If he can stay on the ice for even 75 games I’d consider it a success.
Adam Larsson should want Taylor Hall to struggle this year. I’m not going to bring it up with him but you know someone in the media is going to ask him if he feels more pressure this year because Hall won the Hart Trophy, stupid question in my opinion. Adam Larsson should really want to find some consistency this season because I believe he’s still a very good defenseman when he’s on his game.
Darnell Nurse should want a contract. Yes, I’m taking the easy way out on this one. Once he signs a new deal we can start looking at all other aspects of his game, until that happens the contract will dominate the discussion. I’m thinking 2 years with an AAV of 3.3, is that too much?
Kris Russell should want a solid start to the season. If Russell can come out of the gate and avoid major mistakes that directly impact losses he will have an opportunity to win some people over. If the Oilers plan on bouncing back they will need a steady season from Russell at even strength and on the penalty kill.
Matt Benning should want second unit power-play duty. If you pencil in Oscar Klefbom on the first power-play unit I think it’s pretty clear Benning should be getting the first look with the second group. However, if Bouchard makes the team this conversation will most definitely change.
Andrej Sekera should want a full recovery. I don’t care how quickly Sekera recovers, even if he does play this season he once again won’t be anything more than a shadow of his former self. He needs a full recovery and more than enough rest time to attempt to salvage the final few years he has remaining.
Jakub Jerabek should want to play 60 games. Jerabek started with the Hab’s AHL affiliate last season and end it by lifting the Stanley Cup with the Capitals. The 27-year old played just 36 regular season games in 17-18 so I don’t think it’s reasonable to set a target around 60 this year.
Kevin Gravel should want to not be in the American Hockey League. Gravel has a contract and a number with the Oilers but I’m still not sure he begins the season in Edmonton. Gravel could start the year with a trip to Bakersfield if Bouchard impresses in camp and the team likes what they see from Jerabek. A trip down south wouldn’t be a surprise for Gravel who has played just 70 NHL games over his five year pro career.
Jason Garrison should want a chance to earn a contract, somewhere. Garrison could end up using the Kris Versteeg strategy and sign a deal elsewhere after spending the pre-season in Edmonton. While that may be a good back up plan for Garrison I don’t think it’s too hard to believe that he’s looking at the Oilers blueline and believing he can outplay Jerabek and Gravel in the pre-season, which he might be capable of.
Evan Bouchard should want at least nine games. After the draft, most folks were thinking Bouchard would at least get a nine-game look with the Oilers but since then the team has added Jerabek, Gravel and now possibly Garrison. The one thing Bouchard has going for him is that none of the d-men listed above shoot right. If the rookie can provide a spark on the power-play it may prove to be enough to stick around.
Ethan Bear should want 15 games this season. I’d be surprised if Bear isn’t the first man to get the call from Bakersfield when injury strikes. We need to remember that he is a 5th round pick entering his second-year pro, if he can see action in 10-15 NHL games this season I’d consider it a success.
Cam Talbot should want to bounce back to the norm. Talbot finished with a .908 save percentage last season, well below his career average. Prior to last year his lowest save percentage was the .917 he posted in his first season with the Oilers. If he can bring that number back up to .915ish the Oilers will be just fine.
Mikko Koskinen should want to win more games than he loses. I’m still not quite sure what the Oilers have in Koskinen but I do know if he can go 12-8 in 20 or so starts most people will be happy with that contribution.
WHAT I WANT
Dustin Nielson should want something to talk about in February. As a selfish radio host/blogger/man about town I honestly just want something to talk or write about in February. I’ve been in this market for almost a decade and only two or three times have the Oilers been worth talking about in March. Maybe I’m selfish, maybe I’m to blame.