The Edmonton Oilers are in year eight of Connor McDavid and have a greater than 50 percent chance of missing the playoffs
Photo credit:Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing10 months ago
Here we are as the year turns over with the team barely treading water.
They’re holding onto a second wild card spot — barely, and are trotting out what could be argued as the most vanilla lineup in all of the NHL. Amid a year where Connor McDavid is on pace for 69 goals and 153 points, the Edmonton Oilers appear to be in shambles.
And according to hockeyviz.com, the Edmonton Oilers have a greater than 50 percent chance of missing the playoffs.
Last night they blew a 2-0 lead to the Seattle Kraken continuing a concerning trend of games that has seen the Oilers squander opportunities. They’re wasting away crucial points against division opponents. There are nights they look tremendous, see the game against Seattle last week, then there are nights where they just don’t seem to care. See last night.
They walked into Rogers Place acting like they deserved to win that game against the Kraken and look what happened.
Here’s where this team sits right now, eight years into Connor McDavid’s NHL career:
The Oilers have had one trip to the Western Conference finals. It came last year, and it appears it was more luck of the draw than anything else.
They have a roster full of holes. Leon Draisaitl is a tremendous offensive talent, but still leaves lots to love in the defensive zone. They have some nice pieces in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and the injured Evander Kane, but who else exudes confidence? Jesse Puljujarvi’s struggles offensively are known, while Kailer Yamamoto appears nothing as he had early in his career. Warren Fogle is an NHL player, while guys like Mattias Janmark, and Derek Ryan don’t do much for you. Klim Kostin is on a heater and could be a fine bottom-six player, while Ryan McLeod is a plus player. Dylan Holloway? Well, he might be best placed in the American Hockey League.
The Oilers’ defence is full of unimpressive players. Darnell Nurse looks nothing like the $9.25-million, top-pairing defenceman he’s paid to be. Cody Ceci looks overmatched. Brett Kulak is facing his own share of struggles. Evan Bouchard, whose strengths lie in his ability to transition the puck up the ice and provide offence, is being asked to be something he’s not. Tyson Barrie is arguably the Oilers’ best defenceman this year, which is saying something. Rookie Philip Broberg looks overmatched.
In the net, things are a disaster. Jack Campbell appears to be a massive mistake not only in terms of the contract dolled out but the Oilers’ inability to know what they have in Stuart Skinner. Was a five-year, $25-million contract necessary for a goaltender who has been up and down like a toilet seat throughout his career? Skinner looks tremendous which is great for the organization, but Campbell is proving to be causing more problems than he’s solving.
Behind the bench, Jay Woodcroft’s coaching bump has worn off in short order and he’s appearing to be as stubborn as Dave Tippett and Todd McLellan were before him. He appears unwilling to try new defensive pairings even though the ones he’s rolled out aren’t working. He’s running players like Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore despite them both looking poor. How about last night against Seattle when Woodcroft called a timeout after their first two goals? Not only did the Oilers’ game not improve, it got worse. There is a legitimate concern here.
Don’t get me started on the job Ken Holland has done, either. If you want to talk about apathetic performances, look no further than one of the highest-paid general managers in the league. Before I get into the things he hasn’t done well, I’ll give him credit for some of the moves he’s made. Hyman’s a win, as is Kane. The acquisition of Kulak and his re-signing is a win, and credit where it’s due for the Duncan Keith deal. But boy — we’re in year four of his tenure here in Edmonton and the problems that plagued the team ahead of the 2019-20 campaign are the same ones this team faces today.
He’s tried to roll over the roster to the best of his ability, but once again — this Oilers team looks farther away from a Stanley Cup title than ever before. His inability to provide quality depth outside the Oilers’ top six has killed this club.
Multiple trades have failed: Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis, Dmitry Kulikov, Warren Foegele, and Derrick Brassard.
Multiple signings have been failures, too: Anton Forsberg, Ennis, Kyle Turris, Dominik Kahun, Slater Koekkok, Brendan Perlini, Colton Sceviour, Mattias Janmark, Ryan Murray and Jack Campbell.
Holland and his staff’s inability to identify quality talent has been a major issue. For those who will jump to defend him saying “the salary cap has been a problem,” well we’re well beyond that being on anyone but Holland. He’s had four years to build and construct this roster.
He bridged Nurse and forced himself into overpaying. The Zack Kassian contract was a major failure he had to pay to get out of. Two years for Devin Shore? Yikes. Tyson Barrie for three years? That’s a question mark. Five years for Campbell? Yikes.
When Evander Kane returns from his injury, we’ll surely hear about how he’s the Oilers’ big deadline acquisition while the team spends assets on depth players who won’t move the needle, much like has happened in each of the last three seasons.
Can this all turn around? Sure it can, but coaches and managers need to find a way to light a fire under this team. Help via trade needs to happen, but in the meantime, other things can be done. Devin Shore, a locker room favourite, can be placed on waivers and a guy like Tyler Benson can be recalled.
Yet, here we are in year eight of Connor McDavid and year nine of Leon Draisaitl.
Your move, Ken.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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