This is one part of a multi-part series profiling the 2018-19 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]
36-40-6 – 78 points (5th in Pacific)
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.
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.
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.
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.