Random Thoughts: There’s always next year and it hurts

11 months ago
What a difference a week can make. Last Monday, I was getting ready for Game 3 at Rogers Place with the thought that the Oilers would come home for their games and run the table. This week, we’re mourning the loss of another season after our boys got bumped from the playoffs by the Vegas Golden Knights in six games. Pain.


Even though I will never get on board with the people that say this season was a step back, I will agree that not winning the Stanley Cup with the group we had is as painful as it gets. Coming into this season, the Oilers had all kinds of sky-high expectations for what they’d be able to do and not living up to them when the chips were down hurts in a way that’s hard to describe. Yesterday on Oilersnation Radio, we were talking about how much it sucks to get bumped in the second round and ended up debating about whether it was a worse feeling than what we used to get back in the decade of darkness. For me, I would still much rather deal with the pain and frustration we’re all feeling now over the different flavour of pain that used to come when the Oilers would be out of contention by Halloween. Either way, writing about the Oilers’ offseason sucks in a very real way and I find myself already counting the days until October rolls around. It’s 137 days until Oct. 1 in case you were wondering.


From my side of the TV screen, the worst thing about this loss is the way the Oilers went out with two consecutive games where they were leading quite handily at the first intermission. At the very least, the boys looked to be in control in both situations. So to have the second period in Game 5 and Game 6 produce a nearly identical result was hard to watch. Mistakes wound up in the net, we couldn’t get the timely saves we needed, and outside of our two best players, no one could produce any offence consistently. After the season the Oilers just had that featured the highest-scoring offence in the league, the fact that everyone dried up when the playoffs rolled around is absolutely stunning. Frankly, seeing everyone not named Connor or Leon have their scoring touch vanish without a trace has to be one of the biggest stories of the spring because of all the problems I expected on this run, a lack of goals certainly wasn’t one of them.


I felt for Stuart Skinner on Sunday night as I was leaving Rogers Place because he did not have the playoffs he would have wanted, especially in the second round against Vegas. By no means am I hanging the exit on him, all I’m saying is that there’s no doubt he would have wanted to be better for his teammates. That out of the way, the last thing anyone should be doing is getting down on Skinner for the way his first ever playoff run went between the pipes. Frankly, if it wasn’t for Skinner’s fantastic rookie season, the Oilers probably wouldn’t have made the post-season at all — I’m incredibly grateful for the work Stu put in during the 2022-23 campaign — but that doesn’t mean we can’t still point out that he could have been better. The good news, though, is that I fully expect him to come back next year even more dialed in and even more prepared for what it takes to be a starter at the NHL level.


Two days ago, on the DFO Rundown, Frank Seravalli talked about the Oilers potentially making a change in management to protect Steve Staios from getting poached by another organization. At first when I read the headline on the site, I was sure that it had to be a joke one of the boys was pulling or even someone getting bamboozled by fake news, but after talking with Frank on the phone this week, it seems like this may actually happen. Even though we knew Staios was back in the organization, I have to admit that I was surprised:
“If Micheal Andlauer is the successful bidder to purchase the Ottawa Senators, formerly the owner of the Hamilton Bulldogs where he found a lot of success with Staios, there will be a real pull to bring Staios with him as the next GM of the Senators. I think the Oilers want to get out in front of that. I won’t be shocked, I’m not reporting this, just this is what the speculation has been behind the scenes, is that there is a possibility Ken Holland will be promoted to President of Hockey Operations and Steve Staios is promoted to general manager,” said Seravalli.
What I don’t know is whether or not this would be a good move or not. Honestly, I have no idea. We know that Staios was a tough, blue-collar defenceman for this franchise for a long time, and we also know that he was able to do wonders at the junior level as a GM, but does Steady Steve have the goods to step in as Oilers GM at one of the most critical times in the team’s history? Can anyone reading this help me answer that question? I’m not even trying to be an asshole about the whole thing — Gord knows the Oilers made that easy sometimes with their choices — but I’m legitimately curious about whether or not this potential swap actually makes reasonable sense. Obviously, Ken Holland said yesterday that he’ll be back as GM for next season, but we’ve also seen countless instances over time of people not exactly telling the truth in their exit interviews. Sooooo… Little help?


Without knowing where the salary cap will land for the 2023-24 NHL season, it’s hard to predict what Ken Holland (Steve Staios?) will do with the roster to try and improve despite a general lack of available cap space. As of this morning, long before next year’s cap number has been made official, CapFriendly has the Oilers listed with only $5.97 million in available cap space and I don’t need to tell anyone reading this how that’s not a whole lot to get everything done. With an Evan Bouchard extension on the horizon and a handful of other free agents to get done — McLeod, Kostin, Ryan, Janmark, Bjugstad, and Shore all need deals or to be moved along — the reality is that someone will need to go to clear the necessary space. Who will that be? My guess would look something like Yamamoto, Foegele, and Ceci as potential trade pieces, but obviously, I don’t know anything about anything. What the Oilers actually do will prove to be fascinating.


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