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Four reasons why the Oilers should bring back Connor Brown next season

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
15 days ago
It’s time to have the conversation. What conversation, you may ask? Well, it’s time to write whether or not the Edmonton Oilers should re-sign Connor Brown at season’s end.
If you’ve read any of my articles, especially this one, you’ll know that I like Connor Brown, even during that phase when he couldn’t buy a goal and we all wondered if he would be the next Toby Rieder. With that being said, there are some fair arguments as to why the Oilers should not re-sign him.
For starters, Brown was held goalless in his first 54 games, assisting on just five goals and shooting the puck 88 times without results over 700 minutes on the ice. 
The other concern of course, is how much he’ll make (and how much he’ll count towards next season’s cap hit). Brown is making a minimum salary in 2023-24, however, $3.225 million will count towards next season cap as he hit his bonus after playing 10 games. Why wasn’t this a performance-based bonus? No idea. Why wasn’t he cut after an injury during the ninth game? No idea, but it actually may have been the right call all things considered.

Brown is a good penalty-killer

This season, Brown has killed 108:31 minutes of penalties, which is the third-most for a forward and seventh-most for any player on the Oilers. Only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (125:19 minutes) and Mattias Janmark (109:16) have spent more time on the penalty kill.
On the ice, Brown and the Oilers have given up 13 goals while not scoring on their own. However, it’s not for lack of trying because when Brown is on the ice, the Oilers have 12 high-danger shots, the third-most of any Oilers player, with only Darnell Nurse and Mattias Ekholm being on the ice for more chances, with a lot more time on the ice.
In addition, his HDCF% (basically just high-danger shots for and against) is 24.49%, meaning that for every three high-danger shots the other team gets, the Oilers nearly get one of their own. Of any player on the Oilers with 60 minutes or more on the penalty kill, only Warren Foegele had a higher HDCF%, at 29.63%.
Expanding the scope to any forward in the league with 100 penalty minutes killed, Brown’s HDCF% of 24.49% ranks as the fifth-highest of those who qualify, and the sample size is 107 different players.
Of course, a penalty kill relies on teamwork, so it’s not always Brown generating chances. But the fact that the penalty kill spends time in the other team’s end generating good looks is a testament to how good it is when Brown is on the ice.

Brown can score goals

Brown, despite not scoring for 54 games, certainly had his chances. In fact, he even scored in Edmonton’s December 10 win over the New Jersey Devils… Unfortunately, the goal was called back. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player this snakebitten and at a certain point, it was just pure unluck rather than what Brown was doing.
Finally, in his 55th game of the season, in a blowout, Brown scored his first goal since March 2022. For a player lacking luck all season, this goal was rather lucky, as it just kind of bounced off him and past the netminder. Interestingly, it was against his former team, the Washington Capitals, whom he played four games with before his ACL injury in 2022-23.
However, since coming off the schneid, Brown has three goals and four points in the last six games, with a shooting percentage at the very sustainable 42.9% and 71:15 minutes on ice. His second goal was probably the easiest goal he’ll score in his life (that he probably doesn’t score to begin the season), as Sam Carrick found him with a beautiful pass with less than 10 seconds left in the game, once again, in a blowout.
It’s the third goal, though, that is a very encouraging sign. At times this season, I was screaming “SHOOT” when Brown had the puck. This time, though, Brown uncorked a laser of a wrister that beat Connor Hellebuyck, one of the best netminders in the game. Not only that, but this was an important goal for the Oilers, as they went up 2-1 against a contender in the Winnipeg Jets.
He’s heating up, and everyone loves it.
 

Brown is very likeable

There’s a line between fair criticism for a multi-millionaire hockey player and just going too far. Thankfully, Oiler fans never went too far in their criticism of Brown, at least that I saw. Sure, it was frustrating he passed up a chance to shoot on a two-on-one. Sure, it was frustrating that he was brought in as a second-line winger and wasn’t scoring for the first 54 games. And yes, it’s frustrating for Oiler fans that he’ll cost $3.225 million towards the cap next season.
But when Brown scored his first goal of the season, you can tell how much it meant to the fans. The snakebitten Brown received a long-standing ovation after scoring his first goal, and even hats were thrown on the ice. To me, that’s a sign of appreciation usually reserved for a hat trick (and Zach Hyman’s 50th goal, there was a lone hat on the ice).
The reaction from the Oilers’ bench that night reminds me of a Game 7 celebration. Everyone on that bench loves Brown and knows how much that means for him. Even Brown himself looked relieved, happy, and on the verge of tears. That goal, despite it being in a blowout, was one of the best moments this season and just shows how well-liked Brown is in Oil Country.
 

The Connor Brown Redemption Tour™

Will there be better penaltykillers available in this upcoming free agency? Probably. Will there be more clinical scorers available to fill the second-line winger gap? Absolutely. Will they be cheap? Absolutely not.
Regardless of how you feel about Brown, his lack of goal-scoring prior to his last six games, as well as his bonus, the Oilers are going to pay Brown $3.225 million in 2024-25, no matter what they do. So let me pose a question: Would you rather pay Brown over $3 million to play elsewhere, or pay him a league minimum deal to play for the Oilers in the Connor Brown Redemption Tour™?
Prior to this season, Brown wasn’t just some fourth-liner. From 2016-17 until 2021-22, Brown scored 89 goals and 210 points in 437 games, with all but 15 of those goals coming at even strength His best point production season came in 2019-20, when he scored 16 goals and 43 points in 71 games. The next year, he scored a career-high 21 goals and 35 points in just 56 games.
Despite the obvious concerns of an ACL injury, there’s a track record there, and these last six games have shown us that maybe, just maybe, Brown could still produce upwards of 30 points a season as he did prior to joining Edmonton.
Why not just call it an even four million, of which only $775,000 will be added to next season’s cap, and let him go off?

If you enjoy my content, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

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