The 2019-20 regular season is upon us.
What can we expect from the Edmonton Oilers this year? Are they a playoff team? Are they something else? Will we be talking about the entry draft in December this year?
There are so many questions to ask. Fortunately, the staff here at Copper and Blue are highly equipped to provide you with succinct and airtight answers to all of these questions. We’ve got Shona, Matt, Preston, Corey and Czechboy here to break it all down.
This is part one of a two part series.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Question: There’s been much talk about Connor McDavid’s health since suffering his knee injury during Edmonton’s last game of the 2018-19 season. Now injury free, he’ll once again be on the top line looking to score all of the points. What kind of numbers will a healthy McDavid put up in 2019-20?
Shona: I think Connor McDavid will have numbers similar to last season. He scored 41 goals in both of the last two seasons, but his assists have increased. I would think he’ll probably be somewhere around 120 points with about 45 goals and 75 assists. But more importantly, McDavid seems to have adopted an adorable puppy with an Instagram, making him roughly 100 times more interesting to me. So, yes, I would expect similar numbers from McDavid but a sharp increase in cute dog content. The later generally makes me happier than the Oilers performance consistently.
Matt: Healthy McDavid has a floor of about 105 and a ceiling of about 135 or so. I have him at 120ish if he’s healthy all season. If he plays without Leon for most of the year he’ll probably closer to 105 though.
Preston: Connor McDavid has gotten better every single year he has been in the NHL and I don’t expect that to end this year! Given that he was able to put up 116pts last season I am gonna pin him for 125pts this season..the breakdown of that being 45 goals and 80 assists.
Corey: I think last year was a good indication of what McDavid’s baseline on a team with a competent power play. I expect something in the neighbourhood or 1 ppg at evens and another 0.5 ppg on the man advantage. So, 123 points is my prediction for an 82 game season.
Czechboy: My concern with the injury isn’t how Connor plays. I expect him to be just as good this year as last. Roughly 120 points. What concerns me is that Connor is the type of athlete that takes ‘dry land training’ to a whole other level. I think, if he wasn’t hurt in the offseason, he probably would’ve been doing sprints with Olympians or tossing Volkswagen’s around a field with strongmen. You get the idea. Connor uses his off ice time very effectively and I don’t think he had an ideal summer at all to do that part of it. He just doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy that goes fishing with his buddies at a cottage.
Question: The Oilers goaltending situation is a tenuous one at best. On one hand, you have an unproven goaltender signed to a three year deal at 4.5MM a year. On the other hand, you have a 37 year old veteran coming off a forgettable season looking to bounce back. Do you see one goaltender taking the reins? Will there be a near split in games played? How will this work out?
Shona: Now, I don’t mean to be chicken little in this situation, but I don’t see how this works out. Preseason hasn’t been kind to either of these goaltenders. They’ve both been less than stellar. My problem is I’m not sure they can move either of these albatrosses should a better goaltender become available. Honestly, I think they split duties, they’re awful at it, and the Oilers overall performance suffers for it. If we’re lucky, one of the goaltenders at an AHL level has a standout season and this sort of nonsense doesn’t continue for much longer.
Matt: I think, and it pains me to say this, but Mike Smith might have the best chance to take over as the #1. He’s got familiarity with Dave Tippett, and a larger body of successful work at this level. Of course, he’s some way from that peak, but we haven’t seen more than a few weeks worth of NHL starter level play from Mikko Koskinen so it’s pretty hard to bet on him.
Preston: I think Mike Smith will be tagged as the starter to start the season and we will slowly see Koskinen being eased into the starter role as the season goes on. There are issues in Koskinen’s game (ie. his horrible glove hand) that need to be worked on in practice before he becomes the de-facto starter. In the end I could see it being a very even split between the two, with Smith getting more games early on and Koskinen getting more games in the latter half of the season.
Corey: I’ve got to imagine that Smith is the guy, but at his age, he can’t be expected to have more than 50 maybe 55 starts at the most. I’ll say 52:30 is the split. I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the outlook of goaltending in Oil country.
Czechboy: I honestly think we’ll see a third goalie get at least 10 games in. I want to believe that Koskinen is the real deal and he comes from an amazing Goalie nation and has all the pedigree (high draft pick, huge, Finnish) but I’m skeptical. Mike Smith had a great playoff run but he did lose his starting job to a very unproven Rittich for most of the season. I think it is the worst tandem in the NHL to start.
Question: This July, Ken Holland picked up a few in free agency. He also sent an unmovable contract to Calgary in a deal that I still can’t believe actually happened. Add a goaltender in there, and it’s fair to say that Ken Holland’s shopping list was long. Which free agent signing / trade acquisition will make the biggest impact to the 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers?
Shona: Okay, so I’m taking a different approach to this question. I think the biggest overall impact will be Mike Smith. I’m definitely not saying this will be a good impact, but I think it will be a huge impact. I’m not sure that Holland added enough depth to the forward roster or bolstered the defense enough to counter the appreciably worse goaltending situation the Oilers start this season with. While I enjoy that Lucic is no longer an Oiler -- and I enjoy that a lot -- I’m not sure that switching him with Neal has more impact than the Talbot-Smith swap which also seemed to occur in a round about way. So, yes, biggest impact the well-seasoned goaltender who had a shitty season behind a better team than the Oilers last year.
Matt: Right now it looks like it might be Tomas Jurco, but I think you could make a case for Mike Smith too. I think he’s going to play at least 35 games, and that’s 70 standings points. Of course, the player who should have the greatest impact this season is the top six forward they get for Nurse. Eyes emoji.
Preston: James Neal is the obvious answer to the question, so I am going to go with Joakim Nygard. The guy is perhaps the fastest guy on the team not named McDavid and I think that will translate to success in the top 6. We saw him get more comfortable with each game that he played in the preseason and, if he can stick with either 97 or 93 as his centerman, I think Nygard could put up 15-20 goals....that is my BOLD prediction for this year.
Corey: I think it has to be Neal, just based on the opportunities that he’s expected to be given. I know last year was a nightmare for him, but he’s only a year removed from from some pretty good hockey. Jurco is my darkhorse pick.
Czechboy: Neal’s buyout at the end of the season will be the biggest plus because we couldn’t have done that with Lucic.
A big thanks go out to all of our contributors.
The roundtable concludes with part 2 on Thursday, where we’ll talk secodary scoring, playoffs, and a little bit more.