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Oilers' chances for the Stanley Cup
Nov 27, 2020, 6:39:00 AM

Oilers' chances for the Stanley Cup

The Edmonton Oilers fell short in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs despite having great performances from both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They showed up as one of the contenders in the league but didn’t quite perform up to par when it mattered the most.

The Oilers played the 2018-19 season without a general manager, but they did even better when they finally had one in the 2019-20 campaign. Ken Holland joined the Oilers organisation as the president of hockey operations and general manager, and he had a crystal clear goal to help the team thrive in a new era.

‘We get it going by stability’, Holland said last year when he first came in for the Oilers. ‘I don't believe there's one trade and all of a sudden, things turn. It's a move at a time. It's a piece at a time. It's going down to the locker room. It's providing stability. It's knowing that we've got a plan and we're going to push forward with the plan’.

A season into his tenure and yet the franchise came up with a massively disappointing drop in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. They were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks and that seemed to be a tough break for the team.

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Big changes

The team did see some big boost in the season. The 71-game season saw them qualify in the NHL’s Return to Play Plan with a 37-25-9 record and .585 points percentage. It was really different from their previous run which was a full season.

The stability saw Holland bring in head coach Dave Tippett and his crew of Glen Gulutzan and Brian Wiseman.

‘We've definitely made strides’, Oilers captain Connor McDavid said of the team’s impressive run. ‘We've brought in pieces and have a little more stability. Last season, we didn't even have a GM. There were lots of questions with what was going to happen with the coaching. Now, those holes have been filled with great people. There's a lot more stability’.

The Oilers enjoyed a lot of improvements in the game with the new system and guidance. Their power play soon became one of the best there ever was, converting at a 29.5% clip while penalty killing landed at an 84.4%, which was a bright spot for them.

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Edmonton effectively shut out all other negative numbers in the game. They decreased their goals-against per game numbers from 3.30 to 3.03. It seems that the steady process of the team’s management is finally set, and they would be ready to enter the new season with a lot of hope.

‘I think we took a step in the right direction knowing what we have to do to be successful’, McDavid explained how the team can grow even bigger if the fine leadership continued. ‘We did it most of the regular season and when it came time to when it mattered most, we dropped the ball. We'll learn and grow from it’.

Kailer Yamamoto turned up his game and became one of the best assets for the team, finishing with 11 goals and 26 points in 27 contests. Ethan Bear emerged as a top-four option and Caleb Jones aided on the third pairing when the injuries came in.

The team also has the luxury of prospects who are eager to show their talents in the form of Evan Bouchard, Philip Broberg, Ryan McLeod, and so many more. They are even sent to some teams for loan deals to help them develop their games.

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Impressive leadership

The coaching was a great success, and that just meant the growth for the team. Holland expressed his trust in coach Tippett’s ability to call in his players together as a strong unit in the game as many have seen in the season.

‘I thought he had all the players feel that they had a little piece of the pie’, Holland said of Tippett. ‘He keeps everybody feeling like they've got stock in the company. I think that's really important as a head coach’.

Even so, both Draisaitl and McDavid finished at the top of the league in scoring. That is an impressive mark, but the team’s defence sure did cost them a number of games, including their series against the Blackhawks.

Challenging excuses

Holland is challenging their defensive excuses and wants them to step up in the game. After all, the team did allow three-plus goals in each contest and 16 during the series. He thinks that the team can do a little more tweaks to their defence to become an elite team.

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‘We went from 25th to 17th (in goals against), but we need to make more strides’, Holland said of the team’s defensive woes, which needs to be addressed before the coming season. ‘You’ve got to be able to defend. You can’t just outscore your opponents. I don’t think that’s totally a reflection on the defencemen. It’s a reflection on the whole team and their commitment to keeping the puck out of the net’.

McDavid did agree with that statement. He believed that the team’s defence could have done more in the series. The Oilers scored 15 goals in over four games, but giving up 16 is a sure ticket to the offseason.

Edmonton was surprisingly better in defending five on five situations, but they allowed three power play goals in a 64-loss to start the series. The team went up by a goal each game but was also quick to blow the lead in crucial moments.

It seems that they will need to change things up if they are going to win the Stanley Cup this time around. That means there will be a lot of pressure for both Draisaitl and McDavid this year.

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Words: Paul Daniel Flores

Image: PA