One of Ken Holland’s priorities includes fixing the Oilers’ bottom-six forwards. I’d go even further and extend that to the Oilers top nine. Quite simply, for every season but one in 2016-17, the Oilers without Connor McDavid on the ice have given up what McDavid’s created and then some.
It’s easy to spot the lone playoff year. The Oilers managed a -4 goal differential without McDavid on the ice in 2016-17, the best effort of McDavid’s career thus far. Cam Talbot’s .929 save percentage at 5-on-5 helped, as the non-97 goals only dropped by seven the next season, but outside of 2016-17, the Oilers can’t hold their own with their superstar on the bench.
The Oilers should be concerned with the drop in both goals and shot attempts with McDavid on the ice in 2018-19. That can’t all be attributed to Talbot’s decline and Mikko Koskinen’s slip as the season went on. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl spent the most time together in their careers last season, too.
- Players in red did not return the following season. Players in blue are new additions and players with a strikethrough were traded in-season.
It’s hard to see the 2015-16 non-McDavid list and not think of Taylor Hall potentially playing 1000+ 5-on-5 minutes without McDavid on the ice. The Oilers would have had two lines with an elite playdriver and coaches would fits deciding how to linematch.
Even with Hall gone, the Oilers should still have Draisaitl playing big minutes without McDavid. But Draisaitl was summoned to the McDavid line in 2016-17 and they’ve played huge minutes together since. Both Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock routinely went back to McDavid-Draisaitl as their top line.
Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian have seen a bunch of ice time when McDavid wasn’t on the ice. Ryan Strome led the non-McDavid minutes in 2017-18. Strome only played 56 minutes with McDavid at 5-on-5 that season.
The Oilers badly need more quality forwards. Expecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, along with Alex Chiasson and a European forward new to the NHL, to hold the fort while McDavid’s on the bench screams more hope than anything.
Being comparable to the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators in any capacity is not a good sign, but oh man, the Senators are in for a tough season without Mark Stone. Not to mention Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel either. Otherwise, the Oilers are next to some other bad teams: New Jersey, Florida, Buffalo, and Detroit.
Sabres fans, look away.
Dallas at the bottom without Tyler Seguin is interesting. Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry should help next year.
Colorado should be better with Nazem Kadri, Joonas Donskoi, and Andre Buravosky.
Sidney Crosby’s still got it.
I’m very surprised at Montreal with Phillip Danault on the ice. What an underrated player.
Sebastian Aho deserves more money.
Holland and the rest of Oilers management should be looking into why the Oilers were barely break even in goals, and just below in shot attempts, when McDavid was on the ice. The Oilers have a lot of work to do. McDavid is their nuclear weapon and they should dominate with him out there. Last season, without Draisaitl the Oilers were outscored 31-20 with McDavid on the ice. The Oilers were similarly outscored 29-17 with Draisaitl and no McDavid. McDavid had previously outscored the opposition comfortably with or without Draisaitl.
Holland’s talked about rebuilding the Oilers’ bottom six, but that leaves Nugent-Hopkins with little help if Dave Tippet insists McDavid and Draisaitl stick together. McDavid and Draisaitl can only play so much. They were pushed to the limits and the Oilers were still well out of the playoffs.
We know Tobias Rieder and Ty Rattie will not return. Kyle Brodziak might spend more time in Bakersfield than Edmonton. Markus Granlund and Joakim Nygard will get a shot in the top nine. Gaetan Haas has a chance. Tomas Jurco could be this year’s Chiasson (emphasis on could be)
Who will be on the ice when McDavid’s not? Barring injury, Nugent-Hopkins should play the most non-McDavid minutes, with some combination of Chiasson, Milan Lucic, Sam Gagner, and Nygard as his wingers. That’s asking a lot from Nugent-Hopkins.
Tyler Benson has the red carpet to an NHL spot laid out for him. Depending on if Draisaitl plays to the left or right of McDavid, Benson has to play better than Lucic, Nygard, Granlund, and Khaira. None of those players had more than 22 points or 12 goals in the NHL last season.
Cooper Marody had a great season in Bakersfield and could be the Oilers’ third-line centre.
There’s still time to alter the roster, though the NHL’s standard transaction period is usually around the draft and free agency. This Edmonton roster is very similar to the previous Oilers rosters that weren’t good enough. The Oilers will be over-relying on McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins once again. They don’t have the players to stay afloat when McDavid’s on the bench.
Follow me on Twitter: @chrispagnani.
After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.
- When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
- Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
- How much – $1000/team or get in on the $900 Early Bird price until July 10th
- Teams – Groups of Four (4)
- How – Book your team here
As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.