NHL 2017 Season: Edmonton Oilers Pre-Season Overview
The Oilers finished the 2016-17 season with second place in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference. Their winning record of 47 – 26 – 9 was one of the stronger records in the league, and their positive goals for record of 247 – 212 was a reflection of a solid defense and strong offensive formation. They went to the playoffs after missing out for the previous 11 seasons, and overall fans were pleased with what was seen as a comeback for the Canadian team.This year they will come into the season with confidence behind them, and they’ll be looking to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. Let’s find out if they’ve got the right team to achieve their goals.
What Went So Right for the Oilers in 2016-17?
To gain some insight into what could help the team perform this year, we need to take a look at what gave them such a successful comeback year in 2016. The team moved to a new arena, although that in itself would not have had a huge impact on performance. However, young player Connor McDavid did have a massive part in the team’s success. McDavid had his breakout year, performing in 82 games, and scoring 30 goals and 70 assists. That made for a 100-point season, and got him some of the most important awards in the NHL. He was Rookie of the Month in February and March of 2016, he won the Art Ross Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award, and the Hart Memorial Trophy. At just 20 years old, McDavid has become one of the team’s strongest assets, and he’s likely to continue to deliver blistering performances throughout 2017. If you’ve been looking for a young superstar in the NHL who can score goals like the very best in the league, then McDavid definitely needs to be on your radar. McDavid has signed an 8-year extension for his contract with the Oilers. The average value is the highest out of any player in the NHL, so it’s clear that management see McDavid as a key part of their future plans. Leon Draisaitl also plays in the forward positions, and like McDavid, the team worked hard to keep him on the roster. Although his contract wasn’t quite as valuable, he still managed to negotiate $68 Million over an 8-year period. Like McDavid, Draisaitl had a high scoring year, with 29 goals, 48 assists, and 77 points overall. He also scored 6 goals and made 10 assists in the playoffs. Draisaitl is versatile in the right wing, as well as in the center, and he should prove instrumental to the continued rise of this steadily improving Oilers team.
Losses for the Team in 2017
The team retain their most important young player with Connor McDavid, but they also say goodbye to some players through trades and free agent departures. Forward Jordan Eberle has been traded with the Islanders to make way for Ryan Strome. Benoit Pouliot has left for an opportunity at the Sabres, and David Desharnais has left to join the Rangers. All from the forward pack, the team felt that they could afford to lose some players here. Of course, they have also brought in some replacements, and the younger guys like Draisaitl and McDavid help to tie everything together.
Contributing to the forward pack will be Ryan Strome, who comes from a trade with the Islanders, and Jussi Jokinen, who joins from the Panthers. Both players will help to further boost the offensive power of this team, and they should help to increase competition while helping the younger players to continue in their development. Strome is excited to be playing in the same team with Connor McDavid. When speaking to media recently, Strome told reporters that “I’ve always been a passer and in pro hockey I’ve learned you have to shoot the puck more, not just to score, but because the goalies are so good you have to get the puck there to get other guys goals. It has been brought to my attention before even the first Oilers skate. I’ve been working on my shot.”It’s important that Strome seems to realize this, because he only made 114 shots throughout all of the games that he played last year. He’s a natural playmaker, but with more initiative he has the potential to become a high scoring wing. He’ll definitely benefit from being in a team with such strong players.Jussi Jokinen will be another solid addition. He’s most comfortable in the left wing, and finished last year with 11 goals and 17 assists. He’s a veteran of the NHL and has arguably gone past his very best years, but he’s still valuable in terms of assists and overall points that he can produce. His experience will also be valuable in a team where there’s a lot of young talent. Jokinen’s very best season came almost ten years ago when he scored 30 goals and 35 assists for the Carolina Hurricanes. If he can have a relatively solid season this year, his addition to the team will be justified.
Playoff Hopes for the Oilers
If we were creating power rankings this early in the season, it would be obvious that the Oilers have one of the best offenses in the NHL. It was critically important that the team secured both McDavid and Draisaitl, and because they were able to do that, the rest was about filling in the blanks and ensuring that the team has the right support and internal competition that is needed. They’re definitely good enough to get to the playoffs this year, and they could even get all the way to the finals if they can maintain momentum throughout the post season. We’ll need to wait for the regular season to get underway, to see just how good this improved Oilers team is.