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Nation Takes: Do the Edmonton Oilers need a tough guy or energy player in the lineup next season?

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Woz
By Woz
7 months ago
As the Edmonton Oilers march into the 2023/24 season, there may be one area in their lineup that’s lacking: someone who can bring in toughness and energy. The fear from some fans is that the team is lacking grit, toughness, and energy players you can find on the third or fourth lines with the loss of Klim Kostin this offseason.
I asked on social media for thoughts from Nation Citizens if they feel this void is missing in the team’s lineup.
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Over on Twitter, Chris Young believes the Oilers need to forget about trying to show how tough they are and stick to their game plan. Having a little toughness does help to an extent but I agree with Chris, it’s important for the Oilers to stick to an identity that is high octane, scoring hockey and outplaying the opponent purely with skill.
Stud Muffin adds they simply need good hockey players. I do like how he points out that these ‘tough guys’ have more deficiencies than pros in their game. Kostin was loved for his bruising and streaky scoring but the long period of no goals mixed in with spending time in the box or stapled to the bench for the majority of the night didn’t help in the grand scheme of things.
The Oilers already have plenty of players who are willing to stick up with one another. While it’s not apparent as someone like Kostin, it’s wise for them to pick and choose their battles. Kane is a great example of someone who will stick up for his teammates and the same with Darnell Nurse.
Nugent-Hopkins is another prime example when he fought Justin Holl after Holl had a big hit on Kailer Yamamoto last season.
Dyl says the Oilers are paying Nurse and Kane to be one of the “tough guys” while playing in their best positions. The Edmonton Oilers don’t need to add a player who won’t provide much aside from hits and fights when they can upgrade the defence and find a better partner which will be more beneficial in all aspects for the team.
This reply from Paul is music to my ears. The Colorado Avalanche in 21/22 didn’t have that bottom-six bruiser. Certainly wasn’t why they swept the Oilers in 21/22. Give me another Derek Ryan who you can use in multiple situations and never give you any issues instead of someone who’ll end up in the box most of the time.

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Instagram had a few differing opinions on this one.
wwhite52: “100% they DO. Have him on the 4th line you don’t want Nurse and Kane doing your fighting”
I understand this perspective as no team wants its top players throwing fists however I do feel fighting is diminishing at the NHL level. I love a good scrap don’t get me wrong but right now that ‘enforcer’ role is phasing out of the game very quickly with little to no value in today’s game.
tribinod_: “No. Oilers weren’t eliminated in the last two years based off of toughness. Avalanche had more depth and defensive talent, while Vegas was more opportunistic on bad turnovers and poor goaltending. More toughness wouldn’t have changed those series outcomes”
The Oilers’ depth has improved over the years but hasn’t been near the level that the Avs had in 21/22. One could argue Edmonton ultimately lost to themselves and couldn’t outwork the Vegas Golden Knights in 22/23. Can’t forget to add how lucky Vegas was based on their PDO.
Makalo.walker_: “It fully depends from game to game but in my opinion, with that last fourth-line spot still open, it wouldn’t hurt to consider it. I played hockey for 13 years and I can say that having a hype guy or a guy who you know can absolutely level a guy was always a huge contributor to my peace of mind and my ability to play.”
A fresh perspective from the ice, and I won’t lie this never crossed my mind. I believe the Oilers are great at hyping themselves up but that smasher-type player could be lacking but will only matter if the team depends on it. Evander Kane is imagined as that player but doesn’t toss fists at every player who gets under his team’s skin.
Kane can talk smack, and get into it when things escalate but can’t always be relied upon to teach someone a lesson. It’s possible this is an area the Oilers feel needs to be addressed mid-season. Let’s be real, I doubt anyone expected Kostin to have the impact he had when first traded to Edmonton.

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Dave on Facebook says the Oilers need to fill that. I think time will only tell how big of a loss Kostin will be. I’m sure Edmonton wanted to keep him but just didn’t want to spend $2-million on him in cap space. Also important to add that Kostin’s shooting percentage at 19.64 per cent was higher than Alex Ovechkin’s this season, at 14.29 per cent.
The odds of Klim Kostin repeating that the following season are slim.
“We absolutely need to fill that roll. That’s a bigger loss then people realize. We can’t have Kane and Nurse jumping in to fight. Kostin was perfect and he could play the game.”
“Kane and Nurse are pretty tough guys. Not “enforcers”, but tough guys. We don’t need some guy who sucks at everything except banging bodies, but it never hurts to have physically imposing players, but there’s not much room left in the budget or roster for someone else.”
Kostin feels like a unicorn based on what we saw from him last season. He could bang bodies and score goals. His scoring was streaky but John points out why he isn’t an Oiler anymore. The budget for him just simply wasn’t there.
“Yes, yes we do. Not having a true enforcer will only hurt us. Everyone will think Edmonton is a push over team and do whatever they want to our star players. Need someone to throw down and protect.”
Fans will always value enforcers but I do wonder how many of them are truly left in the NHL. Edmonton in my opinion, has shown they don’t let many push them around. Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl, Hyman, and even McDavid aren’t afraid to toss a hit or stand up for themselves or their teammates.
I feel this team is more mature than people think and they’ve grown a ton in the past few seasons. The top guns know how to handle the toughness the NHL brings. The Oilers may miss a certain physicality that someone like Kostin brought, but it’s not going to stop them from achieving the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.

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