2017-18 is over, and not a moment too soon. It was an especially frustrating season to be an Oilers fan after the success Edmonton had last year. The club went from an impressive 103 points to a rather less impressive 78 points in one calendar year.
We’ve got Czechboy, Shona, Patrick and Corey here to answer some of the tough questions from an especially tough season. This is part one of a two part series.
Where do we go from here?
1. Connor McDavid’s 108 points were by far the highlight of Edmonton’s season. Other than the season finally coming to a close, what was the next best thing for the Oilers this year?
CZECHBOY: Darnell Nurse looks to be a keeper is definitely a positive. I don’t think he’ll top out as an elite Dman but I do think he’ll be a Top 4 guy for many years to come and we are in ‘best case scenario’ territory. Management seems to be restocking the AHL cupboards a bit which is good. I felt Drai had himself a very good season as well. 70 points with 25 goals is nothing to sneeze at! Also, Mark Fayne is now off the books. So is Korpikoski. That is 3.6 million available dollars.
SHONA: Call it mean spirited, but I enjoyed watching all the people derided for being too negative at the start of the season turning out to be right. So many people were treated poorly for voicing criticism that it’s nice to see them have a chance to say I told you so. Also Devan Dubnyk is in the playoffs. That makes me really happy... oh wait, you wanted something the Oilers did that made me happy? Sorry, I’ve got nothing.
PATRICK: Starting with the tough questions, I see. I guess mercifully moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to McDavid’s wing was a good way to end the season. There really isn’t a lot to choose from after this year. Getting Oscar Klefbom’s shoulder cleaned out is good, too. I dunno, slim pickings.
COREY: Nothing really comes close to McDavid, obviously. It takes a lot of ineptitude to have a player put up the most even-strength points in over 20 years, and still miss the playoffs by nearly 20 points. But the Oilers managed to pull off that feat.
That being said, a couple of other Oilers had decent offensive seasons that would’ve appeared more impressive if not for a last place powerplay. Draisaitl had the fewest powerplay points of any 70-point scorer, with 11. If the Oilers even had a mid-level powerplay, we might be talking about a mid-80s point season for Draisaitl, without being attached to McDavid at the hip for long stretches. Sure, he makes a lot of money, but he also finished 15th in the league in non-powerplay points per game, despite spending long stretches of the year without linemates that would crack most teams’ top six forwards. Nugent-Hopkins and Nurse deserve honourable mention as well, as each performed better than they did in 2016-17, despite less team success.
2. Milan Lucic has scored 1 goal in his last 46 games. The concern that his contract would become an issue down the road have been well-founded. With five more years on his deal and a six million cap hit a year, can the Oilers do anything with Milan Lucic?
CZECHBOY: I think they did with him exactly what they should do. Keep him on the third line. Don’t keep trotting him out on every powerplay, don’t keep putting him out in the final minute of a game when he hasn’t scored in half a season and enough of pairing him with our Top 2 Centres. Put him on the third line and let him be a star there. He must be one of the best third line wingers in the NHL and he’s only 30. Maybe he even plays his way back into the Top 6? He seems to have a good attitude and work ethic. As far as trading him? There are a lot of good players with brutal contracts out there. Phaneuf was traded twice, I’d do that trade straight up. Maybe Bobby Ryan? Would the Habs trade Weber? Gaborik? Loui Eriksson? Spezza? Package him with something and get rid of him by taking on a player that might fit better here. It’s not like he’s done being an NHL player.
SHONA: Find another hole to bury ridiculous amounts of money in? Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything to be done but hope some GM somewhere is really needing to come up to the cap floor.
PATRICK: Well, I think it’s pretty easy to anticipate a bounce-back out of him. He’s never going to be able to justify that term, but next year we should see a reasonably productive player. He owned up to his struggles in his exit interview, that was nice. There’s always Arizona willing to take on bad contracts if he doesn’t improve. We’ll see. I still see LTIR in his future.
COREY: I kind of doubt it, but who knows. Call Dorian, call Bergevin. Hopefully Chiarelli gets fired and the new guy can take advantage of some of the dumber GMs. But, sadly, I don’t see it happening. I think we’re just going to have to hope for a great offseason by Lucic to revive his own career. The odds are against him, but crazier things have happened.
3. What was the single most disappointing thing about this season?
CZECHBOY: That this was mostly preventable. I understand that you can’t predict every bad bounce, regressing player and injury but, by and large, a lot of people thought calling us future Stanley Cup Champions was laughable. We had money and could’ve addressed at least 2 of the 3 major problems (backup goalie, no depth on Wing and needing another Dman) with some due diligence. Chia signed Connor and Drai, traded Eberle and went to his cottage from what I can tell. He had money to make things happen and simply didn’t. He did very little during the season to fix the problem either. We should’ve been a playoff team.
SHONA: The power play. It was downright painful to watch.
PATRICK: Goaltending. It torpedoed the season.
COREY: It has to be the total utter failure of both special teams. The team would’ve been competitive with average special teams play. We should expect more considering the roster Chiarelli inherited, but the roster did legitimately underperform, too. And the special teams had a ton to do with that.
Second half of our end of season roundtable concludes tomorrow when the ‘table talks goaltending, free agency, and more.