Oilers Must Have Success This Season

While having someone like All-Star and two-time Ross Trophy winner Connor McDavid is awesome, there might not be too much to look forward to for the Edmonton Oilers.

After having a great season in 2016-17, in which they came within one victory of going to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2006, the Oilers were brutal last season.

They finished 23rd in the league with just 78 points and were the third worst team in the Pacific Division. Oh yeah, they also missed the playoffs once again, something that is still all too common with this franchise as the club has missed the postseason in 11 of their last 12 seasons.

Unfortunately for the Oilers and their fans, team general manager Peter Chiarelli sat on his hands this offseason, which is odd considering how bad the team was last season. When you have not made the playoffs much in your tenure with the organization, the GM usually does whatever he can to make sure he keeps his job.

While the club still has the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, this team still has holes on offense. Outside of McDavid and Draisaitl, this team did not exactly put the puck in the net with any kind of regularity last season. The club was 20th in the league in goals scored and with Chiarelli having stood still this summer, who knows if that total will improve.

In order for the team to improve on their offense this season, guys like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (24 goals and 24 assists for 48 points in 62 games), Milan Lucic (10 goals and 24 assists for 34 points), Jesse Puljujarvi (12 goals and 8 assists for 20 points), and Ryan Strome (13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points) are going to have to step up in a big way.

Another player that will need to help this team’s offense is 19-year-old Kailer Yamamoto. In nine games last season, he picked up three assists and showed that he has a lot of speed, a nose for the net, and soft hands to make plays.

Speaking of offense, the team struggled mightily on the power play, something that Chiarelli did not address this summer. They were the league’s worst team in terms of having the man advantage and if that does not improve this year, it will be something that hurts them.

The team’s defense isn’t exactly in good standing either. They were 27th in the league in goals allowed and did not get good seasons out of Oscar Klefbom, and Adam Larsson.

Both of those guys need to bounce back and get help from the likes of Andrej Sekera (injured for much of last season), Kris Russell, and the team’s younger defenseman. That may be a lot to ask, but there is no doubt that their defense needs to be a whole lot better than they were last season.

Speaking of being awful on defense, starting netminder Cam Talbot had an awful year. He went 31-31-3 with a 3.02 GAA, a .908 save percentage and one shutout.

The season before, Talbot was terrific. He went 42-22-8 with a 2.39 GAA, a .919 save percentage, and seven shutouts. If the Oilers want to get back into the playoffs, Talbot needs to be that version of himself.

The club did add goaltender in Mikko Koskinen to back up Talbot. He is certainly not a slam dunk to provide solid goaltending on a consistent basis should Talbot struggle again or get hurt.

The pressure is on both Chiarelli and team head coach Todd McLellan to right this ship. If this team struggles for the third time in the last four years, I would not be surprised if Chiarelli and McLellan are gone at the end of the season.

Basically put, this team needs to rebound in a big way this season. What might make this difficult to do is that their division is filled with elite teams in their division (Pacific) including the Vegas Golden Knights, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Los Angeles Kings.

If Chiarelli and McLellan do not turn things around, not only are heads going to roll, but the fan base might start showing their displeasure.

Photo: Sportsnet.ca

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