Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Pacific Preview: Edmonton Oilers

This is one part of a multi-part series profiling the Pacific Division. 

At this time last year, everyone was planning the Stanley Cup parade in Edmonton. Oh, how things change so quickly. [Well, I would think those of us in the city to the south had a better idea of what to expect. -ed]

Last season

36-40-6 – 78 points (5th in Pacific)

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234 goals for (20th in the NHL)

263 goals against (25th in NHL)

The Oilers came into the 2017-18 season with massive expectations. To say they didn’t live up to them would be an understatement. A playoff run that ended their decade-long drought in spring 2017 and an MVP season from Connor McDavid made the Oilers a common choice to compete for the Stanley Cup.

After winning their season opener 3-0 against the Flames at home, the Oilers would go on to drop their next four games. They never recovered. The team got off to a miserable start and never managed to pull themselves back into playoff contention at any point in the season. They ended up finishing with 78 points, good for 12th in the Western Conference.

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A lot went wrong for the Oilers. McDavid actually managed to improve on his 100-point MVP season, scoring 41 goals and 108 points, so the fact the Oilers managed to squander that performance is a testament to just how bad everyone else on the team was.

Andrej Sekera’s injury left a big hole on the blueline that nobody else was able to fill effectively. Oscar Klefbom played through a shoulder injury and looked nothing like he did the previous season. Leon Draisaitl, after inking a massive eight-year deal, wasn’t able to effectively drive his own line behind McDavid. Cam Talbot had the worst season of his NHL career and, predictably, Laurent Brossoit wasn’t able to help in a backup role. Milan Lucic went over a month without scoring a goal and the team’s offensive depth was non-existent.

Oct 4, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) makes a save against Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

This season

Notable additions: Tobias Reider, Kyle Brodziak, Jakub Jerabek, Mikko Koskinen.

Notable subtractions: Mike Cammalleri, Yohann Auvitu, Eric Gryba, Anton Slepyshev, Laurent Brossoit.

The Oilers will roll into 2018-19 with largely the same team that disappointed last year. Obviously, this is a team with much, much lower expectations than last season, but they’re a pretty difficult one to predict. I mean, with Connor McDavid, anything is possible. But even McDavid isn’t good enough to singlehandedly will a team with a boatload of flaws to the playoffs in a deep Western Conference.

Peter Chiarelli handed out big contracts like Halloween candy over his first few years at the helm of the organization, so now he’s backed himself into a corner. Given their ugly cap situation, the Oilers didn’t have much room to change the roster this summer. They dealt Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu at the trade deadline and let some depth veterans like Mike Cammalleri and Yohann Auvitu walk in the summer.

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Kyle Brodziak was brought in to replace Letestu on the team’s fourth line and Tobias Rieder will add some much-needed skill on the wings. Sekera injured himself again during offseason training. Learning from his mistake, Chiarelli replaced Sekera with Jakub Jerabek. The strangest move of the offseason, though, came when the Oilers added Mikko Koskinen, who has four games of NHL experience, to a deal worth $2.5 million. For a team with cap issues, it’s puzzling that they would be comfortable offering an unproven goalie such a hefty contract. [Your reminder that Darnell Nurse still needs a new deal. -ed]

So, beyond those depth additions, the Oilers are largely the same team this year as they were last year. Like I said, it won’t take much for the Oilers to turn things around given the fact they have Connor McDavid on their roster, but they certainly aren’t a Stanley Cup contender. They aren’t even sure bet for the playoffs at this point.

Edmonton’s cap situation

Edmonton’s projected lineup

  • withachance

    Wow Koskinen got 2.5M that’s ridiculous… Borderline crazy deal given Nurse can’t even get a deal going right now. Chia keep doing what you’re doing

  • Skylardog

    Chia has done such a great job. Over $30 million spent on his top 4 centres, another $8 mill on 2 big slow wingers. They will be in a Cap nightmare until the NHL adds Jupiter as an expansion team in the early 22nd century.

    Chia just doesn’t get the long term damage he is doing and continues to make stupid decisions. Ownership can’t let this happen much longer.

    The sad part is that hockey in this city is better when both teams are thriving.

    • Zalapski

      Couldn’t agree more Skylardog. If Chia isn’t gone at the end of the season I’ll be shocked. I have a feeling someone will come in as a special assistant and soon be running the team. The scary thing about the oilers right now is they’re in a Chicago-esque type cap situation with non of he success to justify it. Sure their stars aren’t aging, but they’re not winning either and the GM has definitely not given them the tools to do so. Chia needs to go. Nicholson can probably stay and realize he whiffed on his first hire.

      • Nicholson (Forensic audit my arse), Chia, Howson, Mac-T, K-Lowe all need to be gone for the team to move forward. If Chia get canned the 80’s gang will be back in charge, and the gong show will continue indefinitely. McDavid on the roster should get a team to an automatic .500. What is shocking is that Chia accepted the job, while retaining failed executives. He should have cleaned house period. Again they present it as someone is fired (Worst PP percentage in league history). Not fired , re assigned as we have seen so many times before. Had such high hopes when Chia and T Mac were hired. Unfortunately it is just another piece of the propaganda out of head office as per usual.

    • Rockmorton65

      I’m seriously starting to question if Chia is, truly, the one pulling the strings. I’m guessing he’s one of a few. KLowe, MacT, BobN & I’m guessing Katz all have a spoon in the pot. There’s no way, with that group, that Chia has autonomy.

      • If the owner would just fire them, and see what T Mac and Chia could do without interference. I think we would see a different result. Most posters on ON think i have a tin foil hat. Every other market can see it, Edmonton is in denial. I have no problem with figureheads that were great (Gretzky, Messier). Nepotism is killing them.Question How do you end up with Keith Acton on you roster? Answer , hire his Dad. Obviously from a while ago so lets fast forward a bit. How do you end up with Keegan Lowe on your roster when the rest of the league views him as a failed prospect? Everybody knows the answer. Head coach related to power play coach, so he ends up as head coach in Bakersfield instead of being fired for a putrid powerplay with the wrong personnel that they stuck with far too long. The list is endless.

  • Garry T

    That Oilers Team has a number of good players on it. I would not write them off yet. They have been drafting top five for years with early 2nds. Surely they must have some prospects to add to the frey and help the team. They will also be hungry visa vie the Flames to start moving forward. I would not give them an inch when playing them because they do have scoring and they are trying to improve their defence.

    • withachance

      Who on the Oilers are real game changers though?
      McJesus is basically one man team
      RNH is a center converted to winger to complement McJesus
      Drai is great but always a niggling feeling that he hasnt reached top potential yet
      Klefbom and Nurse are decent but not bona fide shut down or offensive dynamos

      Who else is there??? Literally everyone else is filler to 4th line/bottom pairing level players… Not trying to bash on them just genuinely baffled at how the Oilers have basically got only McDavid out of all those 1st rounders, which was a no brainer pick

  • Zalapski

    The Edmonton Oilers have one of the most die hard fan bases of all time and they keep getting stuck following an organization that keeps making awful managerial mistakes. I thought when Bob Nicholson became president big things would change, but no. Chia is a joke. His asset management is awful, he has no idea how to give out a contract to an rfa (see Draisatl) or fa’s (Lucic).
    Russel is going to earn his contract based on being a living and breathing defensman, but that was an overpay. I think when it comes down to it, they just need to fire everyone and hire a competent mind in management. Katz has proven he’ll spend the money and the Oilers fans have proven they will show up no matter how putrid things can get. They still have Mcdavid but they have never had good management. The culture there is just ugly, I honestly believe it started way back when Ryan Smyth didn’t re-sign over a difference in a half million bucks. They got back Robert Nilson, Ryan O’reilly and drafted Sam Gagne sixth. He didn’t seem like he wanted to leave, and he’d been the lifeblood of the org for a while. Obviously there was the awesome stanley cup run that turned into everyone leaving town the following off-season. But those guys weren’t born and bred Oilers. Smyth was drafted by them he should have worn a C for them for more than his last game. Trading that guy away was rough.

    Anyways, Here’s hoping they’re competitive and make the playoffs so the Flames can sweep them.

      • Zalapski

        Yah it is kind of biblical if you think about it. I’d say Mcdavid is probably the only thing that saves them. The 12.5 million dollar price tag should definitely speed up the process of a GM change. They should also keep Todd Mac around. I think he’s a good coach in a bad situation. He could probably do a better job at GM than Chia too.

        • Off the wall

          When Pocklington was trying to trade – sell Gretzky, at least GM Glen Sather would have nothing to do with it.

          Have they had a decent GM since Sather? We all know the answer to that.

          Perhaps that’s the biggest area of concern for the Oilers is management..
          He was a good GM.

        • Have to disagree. Relies way too much on veterans for a young squad. Sticking with Letestu on the power play, when everyone else knew it wasn’t working. Feeding Lucic prime minutes when everyone else knew it was not working. Sticking with the laughable L Formation penalty kill, when everyone else knew it wasn’t working. Worst power play in league history widely reported, but they seem blissfully unaware. Flames are going to roll us this year.

          • HOCKEY83

            As far as I’m concerned Pittsburg has had 4 Lemieux, Jagr, Crosby and Malkin. There’s a very short list of players in league history who’s points per game are better than these guys.

  • Off the wall

    Oilers have no choice but to bridge Nurse. Give Chia a paint brush and he’ll paint himself into a corner. Which is what he’s done with Cap space.

    I wonder if they are waiting to put Sekera on LTIR, before they sign Nurse?

    If so, that speaks volumes about Chia’s ineptitude.

      • Puck Head

        Has anybody been following the Nurse negotiations? Capfriendly shows just under $4M in cap space and when Sekera goes on LTIR at the beginning of the season that should help, although ideally he should be signed before the season starts. How much does he want and what is he worth?

        • Off the wall

          A tweet from McKenzie yesterday:

          McKenzie: “By all accounts, Nurse’s contract negotiations are not going well at all. So we’ll have to wait and see on that.”

          Who knows? Is it Nurse and his agent or Chia holding ground with the wrong player?
          Why did Chia leave this to last?

          I can’t see Nurse getting more than $3M- 3.25 on a bridge deal.
          They should be able to sign him, they (just) have enough Cap space.

          Probably term, as Trevy mentioned, that’s holding them back.

        • Sorry , we were too busy signing fringe players like Caggulia& Benning to way more than they needed to be qualified for to pay any attention to our future stud. Again, check the family tree to find out who the relatives are for the first two. Barf!

  • buts

    Oilers…..thee most obnoxious fans in the world. Went and saw the flames in Arizona and oiler fans in there jerseys were chanting “here we go oilers here we go” just stupid considering the flames were playing the coyotes. So if they get off to a slow start and McLellan gets fired who takes over GG? Hahahahahaha. If the flames get eliminated my favorite team becomes ABD ….anybody BUT deadmonton.

  • CalgaryBornandRaised

    If people thought Tre biting the bullet and buying out Brouwer was bad, just imagine the pain it’s going to be when Chia has to go to Katz and ask him to fork over a brinks truck of money to buyout Lucic when guys starting skating circles around him

  • Squishin

    Well, as everyone has pointed out here, the problem is obvious: Chiarelli sucks at being a GM. I am flabbergasted (best word!) that he has remained in his position for as long as he has.
    If I was ownership, I would have fired him the instant he proposed handing out $6mx6yrs to three players who at the time had not proven that worth. AND YET he’s still in power three or four years later, messing up even worse and putting that team in cap hell.
    I just want the BOA to be good again.

    • Squishin

      Also I need to mention that I like their head coach. Todd McLellan looks like a mobster, but he’s extremely smart and coaches a good system.
      The Glen Gulutzan hire was terrible (obviously), but I like the Yawney addition.

    • Derzie

      The problem for the Oilers IS obvious, but it’s not Chia. Anyone with a brain could have looked closely and Chia’s work in Boston & concluded he was not a good hire. The Oilers problem is the Oilers. They are firmly planted in the 1980s. The entire ownership group & team brain trust have fallen under the spell of Gretzky. An excellent team without him, the 80s Oilers had Wayne take them to the highest NHL heights. Many of the players involved were young, impressionable people and became who they are as a result. Think of the kid of a mogul who’s never known anything but yes & success (e.g. the orange sack of filth in DC). They don’t get equipped with the tools they need to deal with the real world. They think everything is theirs for the taking. The world is their oyster.

      Over time, the ex-Oilers realized that to relive the glory, they needed a new Wayne. It was the only way and then they would be back on top. By some obscene twist of fate, they somehow landed their new Wayne. Connor. Problem is, it isn’t the 80’s anymore. Anyone who knows anything about pro hockey in 2018+ is on the outside looking in. They let the odd new guy into the fold now and then but their exit strategy is already in pencil when they arrive. The untouchable spoiled rich kids of hockey will never relinquish the throne.

      Here’s the bottom line: the Oiler’s will never win anything under this model. 2 seasons ago, that same fickle twist of fate that handed them New-wayne, gave them a taste of playoff success to fool them into thinking their master plan would work after all.
      It won’t.

      In a rivalry, you know it’s good when you despise the opposing players. The last Oiler that I despised was Smyth. That tells me that he was an actual Oiler. This new team generates no hate in me (although I’d like to see Nurse get tuned up by a McGrattan-like player to lower his ego a tad). But, what I do hate is the management of the Oilers. I hate them for profiting off of one of the most loyal fanbases in sport. I hate them for never doing the right things for the fans. I hate them for their ignorance of not seeing how the problem now, and all along, is them. No one else. Them. Lowe, MacTavish, Katz.

      In the ‘don’t throw stones in a glass house’ vein, Murray Edwards is firmly in the bastard column but like Katz, he pays the bills. They’ve shed Burke (out with the old) and moved some pieces around and grabbed a big chunk of the Hurricanes, including their coach. Our GM has done a lot of work this off-season, most of it to clean up his own messes. I’m in wait and see mode on most of his work but 2 things were mandatory for me and they got done: GG gone, Bryout. Ready to see it play out.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        Amazing post, Derzie. Couldn’t agree more. I agree re YYC management/ownership. This is the first season in a long time I’ve actually seen them do a bunch of stuff that makes a lot of sense/actually try to be competitive. I’m a loyal fan, but I think you’ve nailed it re the disease at the core of these teams. So cheers, and here’s to hoping we pull out of it.

      • HOCKEY83

        Agree regarding hating the Oilers. It used to be so fun to hate the Oilers. Now it’s just sad. I think 91 was the last time they met in the playoffs. The BOA has disappeared slowly over the last 20 or so years to non existent and it cracks me up when ON members are over here trolling thinking there still is an ongoing BOA. I long to hate the Oilers again but it will take a playoff battle between the 2 teams to spark that rivalry again. Alberta needs it.

    • 6X6 was for Hall, Eberle ,and Hopkins, way before Chia arrived. Their agents said it was the easiest negotiations with a team in their memory. That was Mac-T and K Lowe (knows a thing or two about winning) . Lowe should have been skidded immediately after that press conference. Meanwhile Mac-T was busy signing a player from the KHL who was not eligible to sign in the NHL. If only he had read the third page.” Visually Better”, two tiered fans, the league having to call them to explain waiver eligibility via phone, the list of fireable offences would make a book. Only NHL franchise that never really fires anyone, just re assigns them so we can watch them screw up over and over again. Only ones who actually got fired was the trainers and the medical staff a few years ago. Guessing there were no relatives involved in that. Fire them all, or the gong show will just continue.

        • Apologies not required. Tomfoolery has been going on so long, we forget who is to blame. Probably their target. Deflect, deflect and deflect some more until it becomes clear that the people at the bottom of the ladder like trainers and medical staff are the problem. Only these guys could get McDavid and still screw it up. Fans deserve him, organization does not. I wonder how much longer he will watch his career wither with these bone heads in charge.

          • HOCKEY83

            I’ve thought that regarding McDavid as well. How long will he accept playing for a losing team but with the way the salaries are going for the stars in the league right now a lot of teams will find themselves in the future in the same situation not being able to afford talented supporting casts. The Flames are very lucky that for the next 4+ years they have most of their promising players locked up on very good deals.

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    They haven’t done enough to change the goals for part. Adding a FA defenseman with about 46 games of experience after losing a vet doesn’t bode well for goals against. Adding a goalie with 4 NHL games to help mitigate a goalie who struggled? For them to improve this season they have to have a positive GF/GA differential. Well, McDavid isn’t going to help that; he did more than enough for the team last year. Either Draisaitl or Nuge is going to be used on his wing, so there goes secondary scoring. Sekera out indefinitely, so they need to place him on LTIR to have any hope of improving the defense.

    For the Oilers to make it back into the playoffs, they will need another career year from McDavid. A huge Nuge year. Draisaitl able to drive a line with Lucic. Lucic to return to form. The defense to contribute. The defense to stop goals from being scored. Talbot/Backup to return to 2016/17 form. And secondary scoring with more goals than 13.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    The problem with the Oilers starts at the very top. Daryl Katz has so much money that he’d rather just pal around with his buddies from the glory years, so he ends up hiring a lot of them. He got his arena paid for, and the new rink is always sold out because people fans up there will pay whatever to watch McDavid.

    Then you’ve got Peter Chiarelli who is absolutely clueless. There are 31 GM’s in the league who think that Chia-Pet is doing a great job, including Chiarelli himself. It is near criminal the screw-up that he made of that squad.

    With the pieces Chiarelli had when he got to the team, the Oilers could have put together a highly competitive team for years. The entire Oilers brass has proven to be so incompetent it is baffling. The fans in Edmonton are already tearing their hair out, and I would sure hate to be an Oilers fan. Which I am definitely not – so in the end I guess it looks good on ’em.

    • “He got his arena paid for”. Most of the Lemmings in Edmonton wont even acknowledge how badly they got hosed in this deal. Free arena, no taxes to pay, keep all the revenue and the City picks up the tab for maintenance for 30 years, then we can build another one for his son. Other than the Arena, neighborhood looks pretty much the same. I hope Calgary taxpayers dig thier heels in on this. They make more than enough money to supply their own buildings.

  • Brian McGrattan's Salute

    Also, can we talk about how screwed Montreal is? Does anyone think Price will have a good season? Or Weber? I’ve always liked Montreal, but man, thats another team that’s not looking to good.

    Also Melnyk assuring his city that the Senators are indeed not leaving the city, they are simply just imploding.

    This is going to be a very interesting season. I expect Buffalo and the Cay-yotes to do okay, Detroit to stay average at best, oilers sens and Habs to tank, and a bunch of surprises scattered around the league.

    I’m really hoping the flames kick it into high gear. We could actually have a really amazing pacific division battle this year. LA, SJ, VGK, and maybe ANH (if Gibson stands on his head again) will make it tough.

    What would be super great to see is a bunch of highly competitive teams, flames among them.

    • JoelOttosJock

      Montreal has always been my number 2 team. I lived there for a few years, and wow! If you’re a hockey fan you need to go to a game there. The whole city gets a vibrant energy! The Bell center on a Saturday night vs the Leafs is the greatest place any hockey fan could be. I think Weber and Price will be ok, but the team looks thin. I dont see them making the playoffs, but Price could steal a lot of 1 goal games like Kipper used to. Gallagher as the best forward is a scary season ahead. Bergy has signed his walking papers in my opinion.

    • Derzie

      When you look at it, Canada only has a few teams but the majority of them are messed up. Other than Winnipeg & Toronto, you’d be hard pressed to find a fan base getting a clear picture of what management is trying to do. Calgary flops around trying new ‘smartest guy in the room’ ideas every year under Brad. Oilers have Chia how is a straight up moron. Vancouver is confusing. Montreal & Ottawa are disasters. I can’t help but think there is a common thread. I also can’t help but think Bettman is happy with it this way: get revenue from Canadian markets, spend it in the US. I’m too lazy to google it but if you looked at the value of a cap dollar in each market, the variance would be astounding. Especially if it accounts for exchange rates, all taxes, costs of living, etc. A buck in Arizona would go a lot further than a buck in Calgary.

        • Puck Head

          It’s hard to get excited when you feel like you read an obituary. Maybe once the season kicks in and Lucic does what Lucic does the dislike will be rekindled…I don’t like the Oilers but what a depressing situation when you mortgage the future, are hand- cuffed contractually speaking, and don’t have much of a prospect pool. Hopefully McDavid and Drysaddle like money more than they like winning cups. I actually think the Canucks are going to rebuild before the Oil. That’s unbelievable.

  • Astroboymammy

    While I agree with the sentiments about the Oilers, I worry we go too far, and Karma will bite us. The Oilers May be contrarian and will win when expected to lose, as they lost last year when expected to win. Everyone please knock on wood.

    • Redleader

      Who knows how this season will turn out , it’s just part of the fun and the rivalry, if you truly don’t care who wins then I’d say this is not your top sport or team , must be boring ,like me I like Toronto Blue jays but I’m not a huge baseball fan and I don’t lose sleep if they lose .