This is an idea for a post I got from friends at TheLeafsNation, where writer Scott Maxwell did the same style of play on the Leafs.
As the NHL continues to look to develop the game, I want to be able to do the same here at OilersNation. If you are a first time hockey fan, welcome! It’s an inclusive space where I’ll help you learn more about your new favorite team, the Edmonton Oilers.
This is the first of three pieces you’ll see here ahead of the puck drop on Wednesday. This article will break down the organization from top to bottom, while Part 2 looks at the Oilers offense and power play. The third part will cover the Oilers defense and the penalty.
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So without further ado, let’s get started.
The Edmonton Oilers are one of the NHL’s most successful franchises. They entered the league in 1979, upgrading their team from the World Hockey Association to the big league. While these Oilers initially struggled to adjust to the new league in Years One and Two, they exploded as the ’80s wore on.
Between 1983 and 1990, the Oilers won five of the seven Stanley Cups led by some of the best players to ever play in the game: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and countless other legends.
But at the end of the decade, the Oilers entered a phase of rebuilding. They traded in Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and Kurri by the time the ’90s arrived and the Oilers were never the same again. They did manage to make a few playoff appearances and display strong regular seasons, but they weren’t the same.
Edmonton’s next cup victory came in 2005-06 when the Oilers made a Cinderella story all the way to the final. As the eighth seed, they crossed the Western Conference and won a date with the Carolina Hurricanes in the final. Edmonton fell in seven games and the team entered a decade of darkness. Between 2007 and 2016, the team failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The team seems to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding, but now seems ready to take a step forward. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two of the league’s best offensive players, lead the Oilers in a northern division against all other Canadian teams.
This season is unique in the NHL with the league restructuring its divisions due to COVID-19. Edmonton will play in the Scotia North Division alongside the six other Canadian teams from the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.
The Oilers had a disappointing return to play last year when they were knocked out by Chicago in the qualifying round. This, while being one of the top teams in their Pacific division and vying for the division’s top spot when the league closed in March.
The wait this year is nothing short of a playoff berth, and I got to see the Oilers fighting for even the division title in a weak division.
Now let’s take a look at the other teams in the division.
The Calgary Flames are the Oilers’ closest division rivals and a definite threat in the division. Calgary is just a few years away from an incredible regular season winning the conference before a first-round allocation. While they’ve lost a few pieces this offseason, they’ve also had Jacob Markstrom’s best free agent at net. Edmonton and Calgary have been having bad blood since last season with a few fiery games that saw a goaltender fight.
The Vancouver Canucks are a team that will likely take a step back this year after losing a number of free agency players this year. Markstrom, defenseman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo left for Calgary, while deadline forward Tyler Toffoli left for Montreal. Despite this, they have elite talent in young players like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser.
Heading east, the Winnipeg Jets will likely be one of the worst teams in the division. While they have one of the best goalies in the league at Connor Hellebuyck, their defense struggles and bleeds for chances. But they have solid players up front, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, although the latter may be traded next year.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are arguably the best team in the division with elite offensive talent like Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Although they are weak in the defensive zone, they have a very good goalkeeper in Frederik Andersen. They will certainly be in contention for the first place in the division.
In Ottawa, the Senators will likely be the worst team in the division. They were at the bottom of the league last year, but had two top-10 picks in the draft. The Sens have made some solid acquisitions, including getting goaltender Matt Murray in a trade. They will take a step forward, but will still struggle.
Montreal, meanwhile, is one of the most interesting teams to follow. They have one of the best goalies and defensemen in the league over the past decade at Carey Price and Shea Weber, respectively. They have strong offensive contributors, but no top superstars.
With both entering their sophomore year, it’s not time to see the Oilers make an impact on the ice.
Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland arrived at the club after spending decades with the Detroit Red Wings. There, he led one of the best organizations in the NHL, winning several Stanley Cups. In Edmonton, he didn’t make any major moves in the first offseason, but this year he’s brought in a number of players through free agency that will have an impact on the ice.
He brought Jesse Puljujarvi and Tyler Ennis back, while inking free agents Kyle Turris and Tyson Barrie. All four are expected to be strong contributors for the Oilers this year.
He took photos on the NHL trade deadline last year, showing he was ready to make moves to try and improve his roster for a playoff push. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do something similar this year.
Also in his sophomore year is head coach Dave Tippett, who comes to the Oilers with a wealth of knowledge behind the bench. Last year was his first coach in three years after completing a five-year stint with the Arizona Coyotes.
Tippett is a motivator and coach of players with a great ability to build chemistry with those on the team. He coached the Oilers to a 37-25-9 record last year and is expected to bring the Oilers back to the playoffs.
On Twitter: @zjlaing