One year ago at this time, I projected the Oilers to score 215 goals in 2018-19. They scored 229. I projected the top two lines to score 131 goals, the top two lines scored 162 goals. I projected the top four defensemen to score 16 goals, they delivered 23 goals. What’s the problem? Every other damned thing.
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group. INSANE OFFER IS HERE!
- New Jonathan Willis: Differing needs of Oilers, Jets could create a trade fit
- New Lowetide: How will Ken Holland build around Connor McDavid?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: The top five players the Oilers could lose in the expansion draft
- Jonathan Willis: What a trade involving Edmonton’s No. 8 pick might look like given Ken Holland’s history
- Lowetide: Hard Target Search: Finding the Oilers a centre who can penalty kill, help shape a useful third line, and serve in a mentor role
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How a third-line grinder launched the star-filled Oilers to their first Stanley Cup and a hockey dynasty.
- Lowetide: Is Zack Kassian the answer for the McDavid-Draisaitl line?
- Lowetide: NHL Combine brings Oilers dual problems into focus for Ken Holland
- Lowetide: Analyzing the Oilers roster to see which players fit Dave Tippett’s ‘aggressive, fast team’ approach
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Dave Tippett’s coaching philosophy, how he relays information to his players and why information is king
- Lowetide: What will Ken Holland see in Evan Bouchard?
- Lowetide: Does Oilers’ signing of Joakim Nygard signal a measured approach to summer 2019?
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s roster deployment in Arizona and what it might mean for the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Why Ken Holland’s worst years in Detroit tell us the most about how he’ll fare in Edmonton
- Jonathan Willis: Three offseason scenarios and how each one would affect the Oilers salary cap
- Lowetide: Examining the Oilers’ goaltending options in free agency.
- Jonathan Willis: Every Oilers AHL prospect, rated by how close they are to the NHL
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Protector, supporter, confidant: Connor McDavid’s mom, Kelly, is his off-ice rock through good times and bad
- Lowetide: An offseason plan for Ken Holland to remodel the Oilers roster.
I wrote a final RE at The Athletic last summer, but even before the draft I was projecting the 2018-19 team and how the lines and pairings might look. Here’s how I projected things last June, compared to how things worked out, line by line:
Line 1 Lowetide Proj 2018-19: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins —Connor McDavid —Ty Rattie ; Line 1 Actual: Leon Draisaitl  —Connor McDavid —Zack Kassian . The No. 1 line outscored my projections 106 goals to 77. No matter what, the Leon-McDavid duo is an offensive monster. They need to outscore though, this trio posted just 23-19 in 284 minutes in 2018-19. I like Kassian, believe he can play there, but Holland should be looking for an upgrade.
Line 2 Lowetide Proj 2018-19: Milan Lucic —Leon Draisaitl —Drake Caggiula ; Line 2 Actual: Milan Lucic  —Ryan Nugent-Hopkins —Alex Chiasson . I projected 54 goals, the second line delivered 56. Of course these men played with other players but as a trio (just 95 minutes) they were outscored 2-4. Chiasson did reasonably well with Leon-McDavid, scoring 14-10 as a line in 247 minutes. Nuge had very little consistency in terms of linemates through the year.
Line 3 Lowetide Projection 2018-19: Jujhar Khaira —Ryan Strome —Jesse Puljujarvi ; Line 3 Actual: Jujhar Khaira —Kyle Brodziak —Sam Gagner . I’m cobbling together leftovers now, it’s like a Sunday morning trip to the fridge for food when the car won’t get me to town. I projected 39 goals, this group provided 14. Gack! I do like Khaira and Gagner as bottom six options but my goodness trading Strome was a bad idea. They need a two-way center badly for this line. I think that’s a key area this summer.
Line 4 Lowetide Projection 2018-19: Pontus Aberg — Brad Malone — Zack Kassian ; Line 4 Actual: Ty Rattie — Colby Cave — Jesse Puljujarvi . I projected 18 goals, the fourth line delivered 10. That isn’t awful, but the real story here is the extreme lack of depth on this roster.
No. 1 Pairing, Lowetide Projection for 2018-19: Oscar Klefbom  — Adam Larsson  ; Top Pairing Actual: Oscar Klefbom —Adam Larsson . I think there’s a chance one of these players gets sent out this summer, I’d hold back the water and retain the talented Swedes and their contracts. Perhaps the time will come to deal one of them, it isn’t now.
No. 2 Pairing, Lowetide Projection for 2018-19: Andrej Sekera —Kris Russell ; Second Pairing Actual: Darnell Nurse  — Kris Russell . I projected six, the pairing delivered 13. Nurse went 9-22-31 at even strength and his 10 goals we better than all but five roster forwards.
No. 3 Pairing, Lowetide Projection for 2018-19: Darnell Nurse  — Matt Benning ; Third Pairing Actual: Andrej Sekera  — Matt Benning . I projected 11, third pairing delivered five but that’s because Sekera was hurt. I’m a fan of Benning, don’t know if he’ll return. He has some quiet offense, Oilers will miss it.
Holland needs wingers and he needs a No. 3 center, plus the goalie. We haven’t looked yet, not fully, so here are the free agents and then the trade pieces.
1 Goalie Robin Lehner. What a season! He’ll cost way too much, and who the hell knows if he could recreate the magic, but for just money he could be the best buy on the market.
2 Brian Elliott. He makes a lot of sense and I think he’ll be affordable. I could list other goalies but these two make sense.
3 R Brett Connolly. I’m not sure what the asking price will be, but Connolly would make a fine winger for the Nuge line and could move up as required.
4 R Joonas Donskoi. Speedy and skilled, he can play either wing and shouldn’t cost the moon. I expect SJS will sign him but Donskoi would be a fine addition.
5 L Patrick Maroon. He’ll cost too much and he’s not fast enough, but he’s proven with 97 and I think that may have value for Holland.
6 L Michael Ferland. He’s a Chiarelli type but Holland likes aggressive, rugged wingers who can score, too. I think he might be a target.
7 L Brandon Tanev. I like his two-way play and he might be a bargain (should be available later day one or day two).
8 L Tyler Ennis. He’s going to be sought after and maybe Toronto signs him before July 1, but he’s an ideal option for Edmonton.
9 R Alex Chiasson. He’s an attractive player for the Oilers, depending on price. I’m fine with him as an addition but would like a more certain scorer.
10 LC Oscar Linbderg. He can play center or wing, has enough skill to project onto the third line, maybe higher in a pinch. Not famous, which is good.
11 L Brandon Pirri. Similar to Ennis, I don’t think he makes it to free agency while also believing he’s a terrific fit for the Oilers.
1 RD Jacob Trouba. The ultimate this summer, Edmonton can’t get it done and he isn’t going to sign with them long term.
2 L Jason Zucker. He must feel like yesterday’s papers by now, but Zucker has real value. He would be a solid acquisition.
3 RC Jack Roslovic. Yes! What a fantastic turn of events for some team. Roslovic would be a Godsend.
4 R Connor Brown. I think there’s a good chance he’s an Oiler by September.
5 RD Colin Miller. Puck moving defender fits a need, although he’s coming off a mediocre season.
6 RC Jean-Gabriel Pageau. An ideal fit for the No. 3 center slot, hopefully he’s a major target.
7 L Andreas Johnsson. Push comes to shove, I think Toronto chooses this player to trade (if necessary). Johnsson is a splendid option.
8 L Aleksi Saarela. If the Oilers are trading Jesse Puljujarvi to Carolina, it behooves Holland to acquire a promising offensive player. Saarela is such a player.