Edmonton. Where so much expectation sits on the shoulders of so few. It’s cool though, Ken Holland has arrived to finally give the team that nudge it needs to be competitive again. Or has he? Let’s preview!
First Key Game: Vancouver Canucks – October 2nd
Odds to win the division
11:1 (4th overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
While betting on Connor McDavid is often the smart move, this isn’t one of those cases. The Oilers should be better than they showed last season, especially if they can stay healthy on the blue line. However, they’re still nowhere near as talented as Vegas, San Jose or even their provincial rivals in Calgary. With another Canadian counterpart in Vancouver on the rise, and the Coyotes no slouch, so winning a tough Pacific division would be somewhat of a miracle, even for McJesus.
The Oilers made the playoffs a couple years ago with Cam Talbot carrying the load in net. He played an incredible 73 games in the regular season, compiling an impressive 42-22-8 record with a .919 save percentage. Some think he may’ve worn himself out with the extensive workload, as he hasn’t been the same since. With him moving on to the rival Flames, they’ll need the tandem of Mikko Koskinen & newly acquired Mike Smith to find a way to take them back to that form.
A healthy blue line would go a long way towards to helping them as both Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera missed significant time last season. With Sekera being bought out it will be up to Darnell Nurse, Adam Larson & co to shut down their end and give Smith and Koskinen the support their netminders lacked last year.
The rival Flames, Sharks and Golden Knights are all ready to make a serious run at the Pacific, even the Canucks have a lot of young talent, and the Oilers just don’t match up.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
Can new GM Ken Holland turn things around? Going outside the Edmonton old boys club to, well, another member of the old boys club, the Oilers brought in a GM who presided over some of the best years ever in Detroit, with four Stanley Cups on his resume, but by his own admission made moves to keep their incredible 25 year playoff streak alive rather than thinking long term towards the end of his tenure there.
He’s already pulled off one big deal with his new team, sending Milan Lucic to Calgary for James Neal, and if he can make a few shrewd moves to alleviate their Chiarelli era cap problems and get the Oilers some much needed help up front for McDavid, things could turn around faster than expected. Making said moves however, may be one of the biggest challenges he’s ever faced.
Player to watch
James Neal: For perhaps a variety of reasons, things just didn’t work out in southern Alberta for ‘The Real Deal’ last season. Sure, the Flames as a team had success, winning the Pacific and finishing first in the west, but it was in spite of a lack of production from their highly touted winger. He got off to a slow start and never found the right place in the line-up.
As a result, he’s coming off a 7 goal, 19 point campaign after having previously amassed 20 or more goals in every other full season of his career. He’s stepped up in the playoffs on several occasions as well, and there’s reason to believe he can rebound given the right circumstances, as hopefully for Oilers fans he can find the kind of chemistry alongside either McDaivd, Draisaitl or the Nuge, that was lacking in Calgary.
Depth scoring. You have a fifty goal scorer and a generational talent who’s been an MVP and at the top of the league in points for years, aside from an injury shortened rookie season. A second line centre who put up respectable numbers, and after those three…? There was such a precipitous drop off in scoring after the top in Edmonton that the Alberta Rockies may not plummet that steeply.
It’s been a question since they drafted McDavid, who should play alongside him, and if they can’t find someone to contribute up front in a significant way it’ll amount to nothing more than another wasted season of the prime of one of the greatest players to come into the league in years.
If the Edmonton Oilers were an animal, what would they be?
Kangaroo: A majestic animal with the ability to move with great speed, dexterity and grace, that has no choice but to carry its young.