After years of woeful management, draft busts, failed potential and total disappointment, the Edmonton Oilers have finally seemed to figure it out. They were winning games at a great clip, they continued to build around their stars and the organization finally found some stability. At least, that’s what it seems like.
Oilers fans are rightfully worried that this is all too good to be true. For it to turn around so suddenly is a great sight, however the fans and the organization surely know it can turn back around just as fast. Led by two of the best players in the NHL, the Oilers should be a dominant force in the Pacific division, but are they ready to contend? Let’s analyze the Oilers to get a better idea of what the answer is.
The Right Head Coach and General Manager?
After shipping out controversial GM Peter Chiarelli and disappointing Head Coach Todd McLellan, the Oilers handed the keys to the kingdom to two new faces.
General Manager Ken Holland
Possibly one of the best choices Edmonton has made in recent memory was the signing of GM Ken Holland. In case you’re unaware, Holland had been one of the most successful GMs in NHL history with the Detroit Red Wings. During his tenure (1997-2018), the Red Wings won the Central division ten times, the Presidents Trophy four times, the Stanley Cup three times, and the Wings had more wins (regular and post-season) than anyone else during that time.
However, Detroit has had a lot of downs over the years, especially in recent memory. Which is why a lot of fans were skeptical about Holland coming to Edmonton. However, the moves he’s made in Edmonton suggest that he is the right leader for this organization.
Look no further than the trades he’s made since becoming GM:
-Traded LW Milan Lucic for LW James Neal (Neal scored more five more goals this season than Lucic has in two)
-Traded Forward Kyle Brodziak for Defenceman Mike Green
-Traded a fifth round pick in 2021 for LW Tyler Ennis
-Traded Forwards Ryan Kuffner, Sam Gagner and two second round picks for RW Andreas Athanasiou
He made all these moves without giving up a first round pick, giving McDavid and Draisaitl the help they desperately needed without jeopardizing the Oilers future. This further helped solidify the Oilers as a team ready to win, which is what Holland is all about.
Head Coach Dave Tippett
Tippett was a successful coach for a good 2000’s Dallas Stars team and a successful coach, albeit to a much lesser extent, for a not good Arizona Coyotes team in the 2010’s.
In Dallas, he made the playoffs his first five seasons, including a Western Conference finals appearance. Though, being unable to make the Stanley Cup and missing the playoffs in ’08-’09 sent Tippett to Arizona.
Much like Dallas, he had a hot start. Leading the Coyotes to three straight playoff appearances in his first three seasons, including winning the Jack Adams trophy in his first season and reaching the Western Conference finals in his third.
However, five straight seasons with no playoffs was enough, sending Tippett out of Arizona without a rebound job.
2 years after his last game coached, Ken Holland took a gamble on him. Signing Tippett to be the Oilers franchise coach. Much like Holland, Tippett has had his ups and downs, but he knows how to win. Plus, he never had McDavid and Draisaitl, so that should make his job a lot easier. Before the NHL suspended play due to COVID-19, Tippett and the Oilers were 37-25-9 and 2nd in the Pacific. Tippett is very much a candidate for the Jack Adams trophy once again, and here’s to hoping this success doesn’t stop soon.
Overall, Holland and Tippett are quite the gamble. They’ve succeeded in year one and have both been consistent winners and consistent losers. With a team that is still growing and built-to-win, they will likely continue to be successful in Edmonton.
Who’s Coming Down the Pipeline?
The Oilers have unsurprisingly stacked up a lot of high draft picks in recent years. Holding the first overall pick three times in the 2010’s. However, only one of them truly panned out (Connor McDavid), while another one has been consistently good (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), but not great. However, the less said about Nail Yakupov, the better.
Kailer Yamamoto was the latest prospect to make his mark on the main roster and he exploded right out of the gates. Notching 26 points in 27 games with 11 goals and a +/- of 17 in 2019-20! Adding Yamamoto to the already successful Oilers was the boost greatly needed to improve their playoff chances. The team will need to keep bringing in young talent to stay successful, and as of right now, they’re set up rather nicely.
D Evan Bouchard, drafted 10th overall in 2018
Bouchard stands as the Oilers top prospect with Yamamoto moving up to the main roster. With great young defencemen like Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear making their mark on the main roster already, Bouchard will continue to grow the Oilers defensive unit into a force, which Oscar Klefbom has been mostly doing on his own. Of course, Adam Larsson has been good as well, but injuries and a soon expiring contract make his future with the Oilers very bleak.
D Phillip Broberg, drafted 8th overall in 2019
The likely future pairing of Broberg and Bouchard is exciting to say the least. Though Broberg may have been a bit of a reach at 8th overall, he is still an excellent player who has tons of room to grow. The scoring ability of Bouchard mixed with the play-making skills of Broberg is going to be a spectacle. Nonetheless, turning the Oilers defensive unit into one loaded with potential stars.
LW Tyler Benson, drafted 32nd overall in 2016
Benson has recorded over 100 points in his two seasons with the Oilers AHL affiliate Bakersfield Condors. Despite being 22, Benson is blossoming into a powerful play-maker and scorer. He has the potential to be on the top two lines in Edmonton and continue to help this offense blossom.
C/RW Raphaël Lavoie, drafted 38th overall in 2019
At the young age of 19, Lavoie has already established himself as an offensive threat that can score from just about anywhere. He has the power to man his own line in the future, giving the Oilers further depth than they already have. If they continue to keep their core group together, the Oilers may very well have the depth and ability to play deep into the playoffs.
The Oilers were severely lost just a season ago. The future seemed very bleak and that the tremendous talent of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl would be wasted with a very long rebuild. However, the Oilers established a successful win-now attitude and developed a winning culture. Not only that, but they’ll continue to have room to grow, with all their first round picks intact and multiple top notch prospects on their way.
Oilers fans have the right to worry, but there is now some stability in Edmonton. Hopefully, Lord Stanley will be on his way back to one of the most legendary organizations in the NHL.
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