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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The beginners guide to the 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers: the team

This is an article idea that I got from friends over at TheLeafsNation, where writer Scott Maxwell did the same style of piece about the Leafs.

As the NHL continues to look to grow the game, I want to be able to do the same here at OilersNation. If you’re a first-time hockey fan, welcome! This is an inclusive space where I’ll help you learn about your new favourite team, the Edmonton Oilers.

It’s the first of three pieces you’ll see here ahead of puck drop Wednesday. This article will breakdown the organization from top to bottom, while part two will look at the Oilers offence and powerplay. Part three will cover the Oilers defence and penalty kill.

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So without further ado, let’s get started.

The history

The Edmonton Oilers are one of the NHL’s most storied franchise. They entered the league in 1979 bringing over their team from the World Hockey Association to the big league. While those Oilers at first struggled to adapt to the new league in years one and two, they blew up as the ’80s rolled on.

Between 1983-1990 the Oilers won five of seven Stanley Cups lead by some of the best players to ever play the game in Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and countless other legends.

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But as the decade came to a close the Oilers entered a rebuilding phase. They traded Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and Kurri by the time the ’90’s came and the Oilers were never the same. They managed to make some playoff appearances and post some solid regular seasons, but they weren’t the same.

Edmonton’s next cup run came in 2005-06 when the Oilers made a cinderella story run to the finals. As an 8th seeded team, they cruised through the western conference and earned a date with the Carolina Hurricanes in the finals. Edmonton fell in seven games, and the team entered the Decade of Darkness. Between 2007 and 2016, the team failed to make the playoffs.

The team has seemed to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding but now appear to be ready to take a step forward. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two of the best offensive players in the league, lead the Oilers in a North Division against all the other Canadian teams.

The expectations

July 28, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA; Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a goal during the first period of an exhibition game against the Calgary Flames prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 28, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. Mandatory Credit: Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

This season is a unique one in the NHL with the league restructuring their divisions due to COVID-19. Edmonton will be playing in the Scotia North Division alongside the six other Canadian teams in the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.

The Oilers had a disappointing exit in the return-to-play last year being eliminated by Chicago in the qualifying round. This, all the while being one of the better teams in their Pacific Division and in contention for the top spot in the division when the league shuttered their doors in March.

The expectation this year is nothing short of a playoff berth, and I could see the Oilers even contending for the division title in a weak division.

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The competition

Nov 17, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) and left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) fight with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and center Leon Draisaitl (29) during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the other teams in the division.

The Calgary Flames are the Oilers nearest division rival and a definite threat in the division. Calgary’s only a few years removed from an incredible regular-season winning the conference before a first-round dispatch. While they’ve lost some pieces this offseason, they also got the top free agent in Jacob Markstrom in net. Edmonton and Calgary have some bad blood dating back to last season with a few firey games that saw a goalie fight.

The Vancouver Canucks are a team who will likely take a step back this year having lost a number of players in free agency this year. Markstrom, defenceman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo left for Calgary, while deadline acquisition forward Tyler Toffoli left for Montreal. Despite that, they have some elite talent in young players like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser.

Moving east, the Winnipeg Jets are likely to be one of the worst teams in the division. While they have one of the best goalies in the league in Connor Hellebuyck, their defence struggles and bleeds chances. But they have some solid players upfront in Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, despite the latter maybe being traded in the next year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are likely the best team in the division featuring some elite offensive talent in Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. While they’re weak in the defensive zone, they have a very good goaltender in Frederik Andersen. They’ll definitely be in contention for the top spot in the division.

In Ottawa, the Senators are more likely than not going to be the worst team in the division. They were at the bottom of the league last year but had two top-10 draft picks. The Sens made a few solid acquisitions including getting goaltender Matt Murray in a trade. They’ll take a step forward, but still struggle.

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Montreal, meanwhile, is one of the most interesting teams to follow. They have one of the best goalies and defencemen n the league over the last decade in Carey Price and Shea Weber, respectively. They have solid offensive contributors, but no big-name superstars upfront.

The management

Both entering their second year, it’s not time to look at the Oilers making an impact not on the ice.

Ken Holland

Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland came to the club after spending decades with the Detroit Red Wings. There, he ran one of the best organizations in the NHL winning multiple Stanley Cups. In Edmonton he didn’t make major moves in the first offseason but this year he’s brought in a number of players through free agency that will have impacts on the ice.

He brought back Jesse Puljujarvi and Tyler Ennis, while inking free agents Kyle Turris and Tyson Barrie. All four are expected to be solid contributors for the Oilers this year.

He took shots at the NHL Trade Deadline last year showing he was willing to make moves to try and better his roster for a playoff push. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do something similar this year.

Dave Tippett

Also in his second year is head coach Dave Tippett, who comes to the Oilers with a wealth of knowledge behind the bench. Last year was his first coaching in three years after finishing a five-year stint with the Arizona Coyotes.

Tippett is a motivator and a players coach showing a great ability to build chemistry with those on the team. He coached the Oilers to a 37-25-9 record last year and the expectation is he gets the Oilers to the playoffs once again.

On Twitter: @zjlaing