Sometimes, you have to give a man his due. You may recall the situation Ken Holland and Dave Tippett walked into a couple of years ago. It is better today. It is not perfect, one can point to the Andreas Athanasiou trade as an example of an expensive mistake. To be fair, Holland took those (probably well over $4 million) dollars and applied it to Dominik Kahun and Tyson Barrie and Mike Smith.
He also refrained from trading Jesse Puljujarvi, and coach Dave Tippett recognized his talent and properly deployed JP in a feature role. He found Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones and Ryan McLeod, was able to deploy them successfully. We can say ‘that’s the job, he was gifted those talents by the Peter Chiarelli era’ and there’s truth in those words.
In the two seasons before the current regime arrived, the Oilers posted a 71-93 record. Since arriving in Edmonton, Holland-Tippett own a record of 72-55. I think that’s impressive. Don’t you? (I’ve included all OT and shootout losses as losses. Don’t tell Gary).
I’ll remember this team a long time. I’ll remember Connor McDavid going 12-30-42 in 19 games during April and May most of all.
There’s a fabulous subscription offer today from TheAthletic. Click here to join! The article is every major transaction by Ken Holland since he arrived in Edmonton.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New DNB: What Leon Draisaitl learned in Bakersfield
- Lowetide: Adam Larsson contract talks give us a glimpse into Oilers’ offseason plans
- Lowetide: How the Oilers can improve their depth in a trade with the Rangers
- Lowetide: Ideal Edmonton Oilers lines and pairings for the 2021 NHL playoffs
- DNB and Jonathan Willis: ‘It’s kind of Gretzky-like’: Oilers star Connor McDavid’s 100-point season puts him in rarified air
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ Mike Smith is putting himself in the all-time old-guy goalie conversation with a stunning season at 38
- Lowetide: Oilers’ Adam Larsson playing his best hockey with playoffs on horizon
- Lowetide: What should the Oilers do to get Kailer Yamamoto back on track?
- DNB: How Jesse Puljujarvi 2.0 is making an impact
- DNB: What are the Oilers’ pressing questions ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?
- Lowetide: Oilers complete April report card
- DNB: A 2nd Hart Trophy is firmly in Connor McDavid’s grasp
- Jonathan Willis: Which Oilers need to step up down the stretch?
- Lowetide: A look at the best value contracts on the 2021 Oilers
- Lowetide: An early look at ideal Oilers’ free-agent targets for the offseason
- DNB: Re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Free-agency targets? Oilers mailbag
THE FINAL LOOK
- Oilers in 2015-16: 21-29-5, 47 points; goal differential -31
- Oilers in 2016-17: 29-18-8, 66 points; goal differential +10
- Oilers in 2017-18: 23-28-4, 50 points; goal differential -27
- Oilers in 2018-19: 24-27-5, 53 points; goal differential -21
- Oilers in 2019-20: 30-20-6, 66 points; goal differential +2
- Oilers in 2020-21: 35-19-2, 72 points; goal differential +20
To my eye, this is the most successful team of the McDavid era. The 2016-17 team should have had a brighter future, but Andrej Sekera’s injury was devastating and Cam Talbot was overplayed so much he had to be sent away in order to recover. I’ll remember this group for a long time.
Here’s what I wrote the day after the end of the 2016-17 season. You may notice some themes that are familiar.
It was one wild ride and there’s an enormous amount to discuss about the 2016-17 season. One problem: NO TIME! The Edmonton Oilers are playoff bound, and the San Jose Sharks will be flying all that hair into good old our town today or tomorrow. It’s playoffs 2017: Gird your loins!
If there’s one thing this city recognizes its greatness. Connor McDavid is an enormous talent, we know this because he does things no one else can. However, we are an unusual lot in that explaining greatness requires specific examples. Connor McDavid was in a flat out tie in the scoring race and the Calgary Flames had caught (and past) the good ship Oil not so very long ago.
In the final stretch of games, McDavid went hammer of the Gods and scored 28 points in 18 games. Bye Flames, Bye Crosby, Bye Felicia.
- C Connor McDavid (82, 30-70-100). He is the best hockey player on the planet. There’s no real comment to make, beyond Oilers fans can never bitch about luck until the end of time. Seriously. The power and the glory. His 2.89 5×5/60 ranked No. 1 among forwards who played 1,000 or more minutes this season.
- C Leon Draisaitl (82, 29-48-77). Fantastic season and he won the race to become 97’s wingman. His passing is sublime and his size/strength means possession can be maintained longer. We’re still not sure where he’ll play the heart of his career, but this was a season to remember. Finished 2.05/60 5×5 scoring.
- R Jordan Eberle (82, 20-31-51). He finished the season with a hat-trick and that allowed him to post another 20 goals (sixth time, including fourth in a row). Eberle recovered handsomely from a poor start and finished the year owning a 1,76/60 number. Impressive down the stretch, he seems to have his quick release back.
- L Milan Lucic (82, 23-27-50). An unusual first season with the Oilers ended with some reasonable boxcars. He posted impressive power-play totals and was underwater in 5×5/60 scoring for the year. Late in the season, he showed why he is a unique player with several impressive games. Just 1.22 at 5×5 60, but his 7.04/60 at 5×4 meant he was No. 6 among NHL forwards with 100 or more minutes on the power play.
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (82, 18-25-43). His job 5×5 is to play tough opposition to a standstill and chip in offensively. Nuge fell short this season and it could cost him over the summer (trade). For now, we are seeing some nice progress offensively and hope for a strong postseason. He finished 1.45/60 scoring at 5×5, that represents real progress considered where he was not so long ago.
- L Patrick Maroon (81, 27-15-42). Impressive season and one of the true value contracts in the NHL this season. Edmonton will have to make a decision on paying him in the next 10 months, and at age 28 he’s probably a member of the Brett Callighen family. That said, he is a big part of a very successful line and had a strong season. He finished 1.82/60 at 5×5 and delivered 24 5×5 goals ranked him No. 5 league wide among scorers.
- C Mark Letestu (76, 16-19-35). A dandy 4C who jumped up as required, Todd McLellan employs Letestu in all manner of ways. Letestu is not a strong 5×5 offensive option (1.33/60) but scored 11 power-play goals plus two shorties. He has chem with Zack Kassian, in case that becomes important.
- R Zack Kassian (79, 7-17-24). One of the real revelations about this season. Kassian doesn’t look like the player we saw in Vancouver and Montreal, physically and in terms of performance. He drew a penalty last night on speed and determination, and has an offensive story to tell (1.74/60). He could be a successful 3R on this team next season. Seriously.
- F Drake Caggiula (60, 7-11-18). It took him forever and a day to finally catch a wave, but this young man was a late season delight. Went 3-5-8 in his final 15 games and we’ll see where he lands during the playoffs and in the fall. I still haven’t marked him as an offensive player, but am curious to see him over another full season.
- L Benoit Pouliot (67, 8-6-14). A dreadful season overall that featured a looney tunes start, he finally got the train moving after a long layoff. I remain suspicious about the extent of his injuries/maladies, but we’ll leave it for now. I have been accused of defending this player past reasonable, guilty as charged. See, here’s the thing: If you believe something, and the things you regard as facts confirm them, why would you back down? As fans, the least we can do is have the courage of our convictions. Good player, poor season.
- F Anton Slepyshev (41, 4-6-10). I’m not certain he’ll make it, seems the Oilers have a bunch of wingers looking for work and they are obscured by each other. For me, Slepy is the guy who looks to be emerging, but his handling suggests the coach prefers another. These things happen, but there’s a player here. Pretty sure.
- R Jesse Puljujarvi (28, 1-7-8). Our mannish boy learned the blues during a cold California winter and we’ll see what the fall brings to us. As is the case with Caggiula, I can’t mark JP as an offensive player yet. He was 0.59/60 scoring 5×5 without McDavid (200 minutes) and that’s not a big sample size and he’s 18 and and and. Edmonton needs him to be a legit scorer and there’s a pile of bonus money here too. I don’t think they can send him to the AHL again this fall without admitting the bloom is off the rose. People keep telling me his AHL numbers are fine, and that may be. I am less bullish on this player than on draft day, while remaining hopeful he’ll be a long term answer.
- L Matt Hendricks (42, 4-3-7). Every once in awhile this season I would get an email complaining that Hendricks was playing too much. He played half the games, folks, while McLellan busied himself auditioning replacements. Hendricks delivered what he could, and remains a game rooster on guile, blood, sweat and tears.
- C David Desharnais (18, 2-2-4). I expected more, but with veterans sometimes the big moments can save their seasons. If he can ignite some 5×5 offense on his line, the investment will be worth it. Edmonton needs his line to go.
- R Iiro Pakarinen (14, 2-2-4). Visually impressive, he hits like he’s a 1975 Philadelphia Flyer and he has scored more than your average callup. His 2.04/60 scoring at 5×5 is also very good, of course in a small sample size. Thing is, he doesn’t have good possession numbers, which could be a reflection of playing on the Hendricks-Letestu line, but we have a bit of evidence on him and it isn’t strong. We’ll see, I think the coach likes him over some others I rank higher.
- Oscar Klefbom (82, 12-26-38). Impressive numbers across the board, his 22:22 per night might be the most impressive number. We know the Woodmoney tells us he plays against elites almost as often as anyone, and the possession numbers are good. Finished 49.8 Corsi for 5×5 with Adam Larsson, that tandem was exactly what the Oilers needed to see.
- Andrej Sekera (80, 8-27-35). Underrated by many, Sekera was even better in his second Oilers season. Fire on the four on four, he can capably defend while also moving the puck up smartly by pass or carry. Determined checker, I love this guy’s game.
- Adam Larsson (79, 4-15-19). I like this player type more than most, and was very pleased to see Larsson’s effectiveness over an entire year. Sadly, he has his detractors, either because of his defensive style or because of the player he was traded for last June. I’m uncertain he will be an Oiler long term (booing hasn’t started yet, but this was a successful year), but I hope he stays.
- Matt Benning (62, 3-15-18). A tale of two seasons, with the early (larger) portion being sublime play with and without the puck. After his concussion (and recovery) there has been more wobble in his game, but overall this was a terrific addition.
- Kris Russell (68, 1-12-13). More words have been written about him than Carter has liver pills, but the Woodmoney tells us his pairing was useful against elites. I argued at the beginning (and argue now) that the problem isn’t Russell, the problem is a long-term deal with real money for Russell. That’s your worry, although one suspects he has priced himself out of Edmonton’s market.
- Darnell Nurse (44, 5-6-11). A strong second season for Nurse has fans in a much better frame of mind about his future. Injury ate a large hole in his season, but the underlying numbers (51.0 Corsi for 5×5 percentage, 0.8 Corsi Rel) and his impressive speed are good arrows.
- Eric Gryba (40, 2-4-6). He’s a solid 7D, played half the season and did much of the heavy work on his pairing. By this time next year, this job may belong to Griffin Reinhart. Gryba, a veteran, is probably better suited to the 7D role.
- Cam Talbot (73, 2.39 .919). The big number is 42 wins, a new Oilers record. Overall SP (.919) ranked him No. 10 among goalies with 35 or more games, and his .927 even-strength SP also ranked him No. 10 league wide. His SP against the PP fell during the year, his .877 total good for No. 15 among starters. A quality season, I would suggest he is a top 10 goalie in this year’s NHL.
- Laurent Brossoit (8, 1.99 .928). Impressive numbers, but he remains untested. The Oilers have to play him 20 games next season to find out about him.