5 highlights from the 2022-23 Oilers season
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By baggedmilk11 days ago
Listen, we all know that the 2022-23 NHL season didn’t go the way we planned. Even though we all planned for the Oilers to win the Stanley Cup and a celebration that would last for months, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t still some fantastic memories from this past year and that’s why I wanted to walk through five of my favourite moments from this past season.
CONNOR McDAVID GOES SUPERNOVA
Even though we’ve all learned to never doubt Connor McDavid at this point, the fact that he was able to put up 64 goals and 153 points over 82 games still blows my mind. It’s like every time we think he’s hit his peak as a player, he spits in all of our faces and puts up another career high campaign that no one saw coming. Even early in the year when Connor was clearly putting together a special season, fans from around the league kept saying that he was going to slow down at some point but that never really happened. Instead, he finished with more goals and points than ever before and looked as dominant as any of the greats that came before him. It truly was a remarkable season by the most skilled player the National Hockey League has ever known. And seeing as the year ended in heartbreak, I’d bet Gregor’s farm on the idea that McDavid will be using this offseason to tune up for another year that will leave Oilers fans in awe and the doubters with another round of skids in their ginch.
LEON DRAISAITL IS UNBELIEVABLE
If Connor McDavid wasn’t on the same team as Leon Draisaitl, I think more people would understand exactly how dominant he is on the ice. It’s almost like folks outside of Edmonton that don’t watch many Oilers games still think Draisaitl is only able to do what he does because of Connor, but as we all know, that’s simply not the case. In every way, Leon Draisaitl is a stud in his own right and the fact that he keeps quietly putting up 50-goal, 100+ point seasons is miraculous in every way. If you factor in what he did in the playoffs — Drai had 13G and 18 points in only 12 games played — it’s hard to imagine the guy doing any more for this team than what he did over the last eight months. If anything, this past season should cement Leon Draisaitl’s position as one of the league’s best players, and I’m not only talking about current players but of anyone to ever do it. He’s that good, and I feel so incredibly lucky that we’re able to watch him play on a nightly basis.
THE YEAR OF NUGE
Listen, I know that my boy did not have the playoff performance we needed from him, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins put up one of the best seasons we’ve seen in quite some time. With 37 goals and 104 points, Nuge blew past his career highs by a country mile and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this fanbase so happy for a guy to reach a milestone as we all were for RNH and the century mark. From start to finish, Nuge chipped in points on a (mostly) nightly basis and he did it without getting even a lick of attention from anyone outside of this market. In 2022-23, Nuge had more points than players like Elias Pettersson, Jack Hughes, Mitch Marner, Sidney Crosby, Brayden Point, Artemi Panarin, Auston Matthews, Brady Tkachuk, J.T. Miller, Kyle Connor… the list goes on and on. Even though there are plenty of people that will try to discount the year he just had because of the teammates he shares the ice with, you’re never going to ruin the shine from the Year of Nuge. This season was an incredible one for the longest serving Oiler, and I couldn’t have been happier to see him have that kind of success.
STUART SKINNER SAVES THE DAY
I think we all had high hopes for Stuart Skinner this past season — watching him work his way up as a prospect has been a lot of fun over the past few years — but I don’t know that many of us would have expected him to be the one to save the season and carry the team into the playoffs. Despite being tagged as the backup before the season started, Skinner ended the year with 50 appearances between the pipes, a 29-14-5 record, 2.73 GAA, and a .914 save%. Had it not been for Skinner’s steady play, I truly believe that the Oilers would have missed the playoffs this year and I need to give Stu a whole lot of credit for making sure that didn’t happen. Was it a perfect year for Skinner? Absolutely not, but I think we can all agree that the progress he made in his first full season as an NHL regular will prove to be hugely important down the line. The at-bats that Stu got in this year were massive, and I know that he’s going to be better next year as a result.
THE REAL KLIM SHADY
I was trying to remember the last time the Oilers made a minor trade leading up to the season that ended up being as impactful as the one that brought Klim Kostin into town. I mean, when Ken Holland moved Dmitri Samorukov for Klim Kostin back in October of 2022, there’s no way we ever would have expected that he’d step into the roster as an impactful depth piece over the second half of his first year with the club. There’s no way. In 57 regular season games played, Kostin amassed 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points to go along with 66 PIMs, five fights, and a +12 rating. That was good enough for 12th on the team in points, which is pretty damned good for a guy that didn’t play the whole year and averaged only 10:04 in TOI per night. From my side of the laptop screen, the Oilers need more players that can provide them with effective depth minutes and I would rank Klim Kostin as one of the best we’ve got. Will the Oilers agree? What would that mean for a new contract? Only time will tell, but as I look back on the season that just wrapped, it’s hard to not see Klim Kostin’s impact on the ice and culture of the team as a major highlight.
WHAT’S ON YOUR LIST?
May 3, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) warms up before the start of game one of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Do you have a highlight on your own list that I may have missed? Maybe you think the Mattias Ekholm trade was one of the greatest things you’ve ever seen. Maybe you love the way Vinny Desharnais was recalled late in the year, which is incredible in its own right given that he was a late round pick. Maybe you love the way the Oilers led the league in scoring during the regular season. Regardless of what’s on your personal highlight reel, I want to hear about those moments in the comments section.
It’s only been five days since the Oilers got knocked out of the playoffs, but I’m already feeling the withdrawals of not being able to watch the boys do their thing, and the only remedy for such a problem is to look back on some of the highlights that punctuated the year that was. Either way, I can’t subscribe to the idea that the Oilers were total failures because they didn’t win the Stanley Cup, but rather I look at this past season as the latest hurdle on our way to greatness. Am I wrong? Am I celebrating the good times even though I shouldn’t be? Let me know.
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