Though most outside of Edmonton didn’t give the team much of a chance, the Oilers’ goal this season has always been to make the playoffs. But thanks to solid goaltending and defence and next-level play from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers have put themselves in an early position to prove everybody wrong.
Any chance LA needs a cowboy? https://t.co/gJLz4BnH13
— Baggedmilk – Oilers Beet writer (@jsbmbaggedmilk) October 30, 2019
The team sits at the top of the Pacific Division at the end of October with a 9-4-1 record, and while there’s plenty of hockey left to be played, you can certainly see this group is confident and hungry to get back into the playoffs. But while many things are going well, there still are some glaring holes on the roster. Most notably, as we’ve discussed over and over again, is the lack of scoring depth.
Generally, by American Thanksgiving, you can tell which teams are in the mix and which ones are out. Of course, the St. Louis Blues proved last year that there are exceptions, but if you have a good record at the end of November, you’re more than likely competing for a playoff spot.
If the good times keep rolling and Oilers are in the mix at the end of November, Ken Holland will have a decision to make. Though his priority might ultimately be on the long-term health of the organization, it’ll be hard not to make additions to help push the team into the playoffs. A key goal for Edmonton’s new general manager is undoubtedly keeping Connor McDavid happy, and making additions to help the team get back into the playoffs would certainly go a long way in proving to the captain that things are looking up around here.
I would imagine that Holland would like to avoid trading away the team’s first-round pick in 2020 or any of the organization’s top prospects. Holland has always been a type to value the importance of internal development and the Oilers, for the first time in a long time, have a fairly deep wave of prospects coming up through the system.
With that mind, Edmonton likely won’t be in the mix for this year’s top players on the rental market. We talked about a Taylor Hall reunion with the Oilers, but, for a wealth of reasons, it isn’t really feasible right now. Instead, Holland could look at more buy-low options to add some much-needed depth up front.
One name that comes to mind immediately for me is Tyler Toffoli. The Kings are most certainly going to be in fire sale mode in the New Year given the fact they’re nowhere near playoff contention and they have their eyes set on the future. Last year, they dealt Jake Muzzin to the Leafs in exchange for a nice package of futures. This year, they have Toffoli, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, and Derek Forbort as impending unrestricted free agents who could be moved out to contenders as rentals.
This would perfectly fit the bill as a buy-low option for the Oilers with major upside. Toffoli had a miserable season last year, posting just 13 goals and 34 points, but a lot of that came down to the fact the Kings were a complete disaster as a whole. They were a step behind everyone, finishing 30th in the league in both goals scored and shots on net.
While Toffoli’s 13 goals was the lowest total he had posted since his rookie season back in 2013-14, there’s some reason to believe that he could be a bounce-back candidate. He had a career-low 5.8 shooting percentage despite putting up strong underlying numbers. Toffoli was getting his chances to score, but, like everyone else on the Kings, he wasn’t converting.
It’s been more of the same for Toffoli and the Kings this year. Los Angeles is on their way to another finish in the basement, with a 4-9-0 record through October, and the team ranks in the bottom third in the league in goals scored. Toffoli has just three goals and five points so far, putting him on pace to put up roughly the same 34 points he did last year. He was also a healthy scratch on Wednesday, ending a consecutive game played streak that dated back to February of 2017.
One of Edmonton’s biggest needs right now is a final piece for their top-six. McDavid and Draisaitl are rolling with Zack Kassian providing support on the top line. James Neal has been lethal on the power-play but him and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lack a true quality winger to round out the Oilers’ second line.
Toffoli, who’s just a couple years removed from scoring 24 goals, could be the missing piece of the puzzle. And given how things have gone early on for him in L.A. this year, it might not cost Holland that much to acquire him.