It has become astonishing how consistently the Edmonton Oilers are mismanaged. That showed once again in 2020-21. With Leon Draisaitl playing amazing and Connor McDavid somehow finding a new level, the club managed to disappoint them once again. Goaltending wasn’t even the main issue, as Mike Smith had a renaissance season. The Oilers’ lack of depth showed in the playoffs, as they were embarrassingly swept by the Jets as favorites. McDavid is not a teenager anymore; it is time to be urgent.
By the Numbers
Record: 35-19-2 (72 points)
Power Play: 27.6 percent (1st)
Penalty Kill: 82.5 percent (9th)
Goals For: 183 (7th)
Goals Against: 154 (9th)
What more is there to say about McDavid? He completely steamrolled the league (er, Canadian Division) en route to what should be just his second Hart Trophy. He won the Art Ross for the third time, with 72 assists alone in 56 games. The point total was 105, a point-per-game feat we may never see again. Amazingly, he had four points in four playoff games, and that was considered a disappointment! Draisaitl helped out with 84 points of his own, but no other Oiler had above 50.
This is a shared category between a skater and a goalie. While Smith had a .923 save percentage at age 38, Mikko Koskinen made the goaltending questionable with Smith heading to free agency. Koskinen had a .899 save percentage and a 3.17 GAA in 26 games, making himself a liability every time he stepped on the ice. Along with Koskinen, Zack Kassian was terrible while on a big contract. In 27 games, Kassian had just five points with only 18 shots in the first year of a four-year, $12.8 million contract that is among the worst in the league. The enforcer model did not pay off either, as Kassian only had 15 penalty minutes. Maybe extending him after scoring 15 goals with a 15.2 shooting percentage next to McDavid was a bad idea.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Dave Tippett just does not seem like the guy for the Oilers. He hasn’t got too much to work with aside from McDavid and Draisaitl, but he often tries to stay away from starting young players, just like every other coach in the league. The special teams were great, which is a major credit to Tippett’s staff. For now, the blame is not on him. That cannot be said for every member of the organization.
Front Office Analysis
Ken Holland needs to go. His decision to go conservative at the trade deadline while extending Kassian and selling the farm for Andreas Athanasiou a year ago (only to not bring him back) has hurt the team. His salary cap management has been terrible since being brought in. The hockey Gods have given him a class of departing free agents that are closer to an IQ test compared to a normal year, so we are about to learn a lot about this general manager, even well into his career.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks
Edmonton has few draft picks this year, although they still have their top selection which is slated to be No. 19 overall. Acquiring Athanasiou, and the Milan Lucic for James Neal swap has cost the Oilers a second and third-round draft pick. Getting Tyler Ennis last year cost them a selection in the fifth, as well. The only round with multiple picks for Edmonton is the sixth, thanks to one of Holland’s earliest moves. He dealt prospect John Marino to Pittsburgh in what looks to be a massive mistake. In total, the Oilers have just five draft picks and two in the first five rounds.
About that tough free-agent class? Well, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the star of it, and he may not return. Of the four defensemen, it may come down to Tyson Barrie and Adam Larsson. The power play point machine with no defensive ability and the steady lockdown defender. Given the team’s needs, Holland needs to go with Larsson. Trade deadline acquisition Dmitry Kulikov and Ennis could be good players to bring back. Alex Chiasson would not be. The biggest test of all comes in the net. Do you bring back Smith after a great season? It came out of nowhere and he is 39. There are so many ways to mess this up for Holland. Oilers fan, beware.
Follow Carter LaCorte on Twitter @CarterHudBlog
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