The Edmonton Oilers are heading into a pivotal season and these x-factors will be crucial to a successful season.
The 2021-22 campaign will be a pivotal one for the Edmonton Oilers and their fans. The following three x-factors will be crucial to their success this season.
It’s been well documented over the past few years the struggles that the Oilers have had with their scoring depth up front. With the trio of Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins taking up most of the scoresheet, the Oilers have struggled to get points out of anyone else in recent campaigns.
The emergence of Jesse Puljujarvi was a definite bright spot for Edmonton, as the right-winger from Älvkarleby, Sweden managed to rack up 25 points last season. The Oilers will hope he takes another step forward this year, and thus, will become another scoring option to turn to. One player Edmonton will hope gets his scoring touch back will be Kailer Yamamoto, who tallied 21 points in his first NHL season after potting 26 across 27 contests in 2019-20. If Yamamoto is able to get back on track, the Oilers could have two very good scoring lines thanks to the addition of Zach Hyman via free agency and Warren Foegele via the Ethan Bear trade.
Hyman has had some very productive seasons in Toronto and Edmonton will hope that translates to their capable roster. Foegele has been a decent point producer in Carolina, however, not to the extent of Hyman, with 30 and 20 point seasons respectively with the Hurricanes. Foegele will play a pivotal role in the top-nine for the Oilers, and if he can manage around the same production as he did in Carolina, it will definitely be an added boost to Edmonton’s scoring depth.
Until we see results, the Oilers scoring depth will still be questionable, however, with the various offseason additions, the continued growth of Puljujarvi, as well as the rebound of Yamamoto, Edmonton could definitely have themselves some much stronger scoring depth this season.
Entering the offseason, it looked as if the Oilers were only needing to make some minor tweaks and alterations to their defensive crop. Instead, it received what could only be described as a major shakeup.
Edmonton lost three-sevenths of last year’s defensive crops, including Ethan Bear, Adam Larsson and Caleb Jones, two of which were seen as top-four defensemen. In their place, the Oilers traded Jones and a third-round pick for an ageing Duncan Keith, re-signed Tyson Barrie and signed veteran Cody Ceci. With none of these players really bringing in any type of defensive game, the question must now be asked, can Dave Tippett have his team playing a solid defensive game throughout the season? If they are able to, Edmonton will be a much more formidable opponent during the regular season; the postseason could be another matter. If not, they will have to outscore their opponents on a nightly basis, which could be a difficult task if the depth scoring dries up or should the goaltending struggle.
With Darnell Nurse, the Oilers will still have their best defenseman from last year available, but after him, there remain some questions regarding who’s behind him. Edmonton is certainly hoping that they can get a key piece back in Oskar Klefbom after he underwent surgery last spring to repair his chronic arthritic shoulder. However, a return in the near future still seems very unlikely. Evan Bouchard is the dark horse for this season, as he could help in the Oilers top-four if he impresses Tippett. Bouchard appeared in four contests last season, and certainly didn’t look out of place in them.
If Bouchard is able to get ice time to show what he is capable of, he could surely surprise a lot of people. Edmonton’s defence is, in many eyes, even weaker than last season, which is a definite cause for concern. If the Oilers are unable to play even average defensively, they will be in trouble. There is only so much that offence can do, and if they cannot keep the puck out of their zone and out of their net, they will not make much of a dent in the standings.
Same old, same old. That is what fans can expect with Edmonton’s goalie situation come the season opener on October 13th.
With nothing found on the trade or free-agent market, the Oilers return with familiar faces from the previous two years; Mike Smith, who was re-signed to a two-year deal, and Finnish backstop Mikko Koskinen. Neither has necessarily proven to be a reliable number one option in past campaigns, however, both have had solid stretches at times throughout the season. None the less, this tandem has yet to prove it can win Edmonton a playoff series and will be under the microscope, even more so in 2021-22.
Although the Koskinen-Smith tandem is most likely the duo that the Oilers will be running with this year, barring injuries, there is an outside chance that Stuart Skinner or Alex Stalock enter the conversation during development camp and pre-season. Skinner is considered a long shot, however, he did post some good numbers in the American Hockey League last season, with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage, both of which were ranked top 10 in the league. Stalock will be an interesting player to watch out for at camp, as the St. Paul, Minnesota native has shown fairly well everywhere he’s played throughout his career.
With the Oilers blue-line appearing seemingly weaker than previous campaigns, goaltending will be need to be sharp as ever if Edmonton hopes to have a good season, and hopefully, a deep playoff run. If Smith or Koskinen falter and Stalock is unable to right the ship, the Oilers will be in a world of hurt.
It seems like every year, Oilers fans put on their jerseys and head off to Rogers Place hoping to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and every season, they come up empty. It has been said that both McDavid and Draisaitl are becoming impatient for a deep playoff run and would consider leaving if it does not come to fruition soon. If Edmonton is to make that move to the next level, their x-factors will need to be the difference makers. Otherwise, hold on Oilers fans, you’re in for a bumpy ride.