What's Wrong With the Oilers?
Things are getting ugly in Edmonton. After a red-hot start to their 2021-22 campaign, the Oilers have slowed down and hit rock bottom. With the best player in the world and another top-five player, one playoff series win over Connor McDavid’s six seasons with the Oilers is not going to cut it for the hockey world. And, it’s been the same story for years. With such star-power on their roster, why do the Oilers keep losing? Are they underperforming, or are they simply not good enough of a team?
Nearly every possible move has been made to shake things up in the organization to turn things around. A new GM was appointed, a new coach was hired, a top free agent was signed… Nonetheless, nothing has worked. What is the main source for the Oilers' lack of success? More importantly, with two superstars in their prime years, what is needed to construct a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup year after year? The Oilers need answers, and they need answers fast because they are wasting the debatably best player of all time’s years of his career.
Edmonton’s top forwards could be one of the best cores in the NHL. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can each carry their own line, and with the recently broken-out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the big free agent Zach Hyman, and the newly signed Evander Kane, these two superstars can be complemented very well. Yet enough, players like Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Zach Kassian, and Warren Foegele can tag along on top lines with the superstars to allow for Nugent-Hopkins, Hyman, or Kane to put together their own solid third line. With that, the Oilers are already set with a tremendous top 9 forwards. All that’s left is the fourth line which should consist of three role players on minimum contracts.
As for defensemen, they have Darnell Nurse as their two-way minute-muncher, Tyson Barrie as a powerplay specialist, Evan Bouchard as an offensive developing prospect, future hall-of-famer Duncan Keith as the experienced three-time Stanley Cup Champion, and Kris Russel who holds the NHL’s all-time record for blocked shots. These are five solid NHL defensemen, and remaining on the Oilers roster are Cody Ceci and William Lagesson, both defensemen who have their ups and downs. In short, the Oilers are one top-4 defenseman away from having a D-core that can take a team to the Stanley Cup, but even that’s not all that bad.
The main area of concern for the Oilers, and probably what’s been holding them back the past few years, is their goaltending. The Koskinen-Smith tandem has been intact for three years now, and mediocre goaltending has been the team’s biggest issue. These goalies are both fringe starters and make costly mistakes frequently. Mike Smith is a 39-year-old who plays an old-fashioned style, always turning over the puck and performing inconsistently. Mikko Koskinen is a shaky goaltender that can’t seem to put it together—he was given the starter’s role on a silver platter and he’s done nothing but disappoint by continuously letting in weak shots.
When you have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl locked in on your team, you should be trying to construct a roster that has a long window to contend for and win several Stanley Cups. Evidently, having a sold goalie is crucial to this goal, and you would think that Edmonton’s hall-of-fame General Manager, Ken Holland, would figure that out by now. But, not much has been done. The signings of two forwards won’t take a winless team in the playoffs to the Stanley Cup.