The Edmonton Oilers have been rather quiet this offseason. What does that mean for their Stanley Cup chances this coming year?
Even the most casual NHL fan surely knows that Canada is the birthplace of hockey and it’s easily the most important sports up there (followed probably by curling, which we’ll never understand the allure of). Thus, the fact that no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since 1993 is almost a source of national embarrassment. The last time a team reached the final was 2011 when Vancouver lost in seven games to Boston. In the 2017-18 season, the furthest a Canadian team got was the surprising Winnipeg Jets reaching the Western Conference Finals but losing to expansion Vegas.
Entering last season, the Intertops betting favorite to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final was the Edmonton Oilers. Made some sense as Edmonton finished with 103 points in the 2016-17 season, its most since 1986-87, and reached the conference semifinals, losing a terrific seven-game series to the Anaheim Ducks. In addition, Connor McDavid asserted himself as the clear best player in hockey by winning the first of likely many Hart Trophies. He was the Intertops favorite to repeat entering last season.
However, the 2017-18 campaign definitely didn’t go as planned as Edmonton slipped to 78 points and didn’t come within a mile of a playoff spot. McDavid was still great as he led the NHL in points again, this time with a career-high 108. Leon Draisaitl (25 goals, 45 assists) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (24 goals, 24 assists in 62 games) also had good offensive seasons.
It’s just that not much else worked.
Edmonton finished 20th in scoring (2.8 gpg), 31st on the power play (14.8 percent), 27th in goals-against (3.2 gpg) and 25th on the penalty kill (76.7 percent). The team shot 7.44 percent at 5-on-5, compared to 8.29 in 2016-17. Cam Talbot regressed in net, finishing 31-31-3 with a 3.02 GAA and .908 save percentage.
That Coach Todd McLellan kept his job was a minor surprise, although he’s an early Intertops favorite to be the first one fired in the 2018-19 season. The team did shake up his staff, though, including hiring former NHL head coaches Glen Gulutzan and Trent Yawney to work behind the bench. That’s clearly a warning shot from GM Peter Chiarelli.
Intertops isn’t near as bullish on the Oilers entering this season as they are +2000 to win the Stanley Cup. Chiarelli’s hands were largely tied in free agency because the team was snug against the salary cap – McDavid’s massive extension at $12.5 million per year kicks in this season so that doesn’t help matters. Still, if anyone is worth that much, he is.
Chiarelli’s main offseason goal was to find a power-play quarterback on defense, but he hasn’t done that as of this writing. About all Chiarelli has accomplished is add forwards Kyle Brodziak and Tobias Rieder. Brodziak had 10 goals and 23 assists and was plus-13 last year with St. Louis. Rieder had 12 goals and 13 assists split with the Kings and Coyotes. Chiarelli also was unable to dump Milan Lucic and his monstrous contract, which is one of the worst in the NHL. Lucic has five years and $30 million left and is essentially buyout proof. The former Bruin had just 34 points last year despite playing all 82 games.
Perhaps Chiarelli still has a move or two up his sleeve, but this doesn’t look like a legitimate Western Conference contender as things stand – not as good as two seasons ago but not as bad as last year. Edmonton is +1400 at Intertops to win the West. The Oilers open the season Oct. 6 in Sweden against New Jersey in a matchup of the past two Hart Trophy winners (Devils’ Taylor Hall, a former Oiler, won it last season).