The Edmonton Oilers will begin their 2021-22 regular season tomorrow when they host the Vancouver Canucks. Puck drop is 8 PM, and like you, we’ll be there for every minute. What can we expect in 2021-22? Is this the year the Oilers finally go to the moon and back? Will the Oilers take the division? Our staff is here to help make some sense of it all with our annual season opening roundtable.
Today: The offseason, and what’s piping up?
Question: It’s been a big offseason for Ken Holland. He splashed the pot with a seven year deal for Zach Hyman, he got Derek Ryan to come to Edmonton for a couple of years. He’s made some moves that have gotten mixed reviews on the blue line when he traded Caleb Jones for Duncan Keith, when he moved Ethan Bear for Warren Foegele, and the signing of Cody Ceci. Overall, how did Ken Holland do this offseason?
Corey: Overall, it’s hard to give a positive review for Holland’s offseason, just because the blueline moves mentioned here were unnecessary, and made the team worse in that area, in my opinion. However, in the interest of trying to be positive, I do like the influx of forward depth that he acquired, and am excited to see how much this team can score now that the bottom of their lineup doesn’t look as offensively inept as in years past. The top two lines are led by MVPs, the powerplay is historically good, and the bottom six should be able to chip in now as well.
It should be a fun season, unless you think defense is fun. You’re weird, and it’s not, for the record. But, thank you for reading.
Shona: Honestly, I think he had a completely awful offseason. I feel like he really showed that he doesn’t understand how the NHL works right now. He traded for expensive and old talents and gambled on talents which have a huge potential downside (in Ceci) with no evidence of a potential bounce back. He paid waaaay too much for far too little and set the Oilers development as a team equipped to be contend back significantly. In my opinion, outside of Hyman, he was a dumpster fire, but Hyman sort of redeems the situation to just awful.
Alex: C. He upgraded the offensive group while leaving the defensive group shorthanded. A for one, F for the other, so we land in the middle at a C.
Matt: If something like JFresh’s team card can be considered a proxy for where the Oilers are at — they rank 5th at F, 32nd on D, and 17th at G per his model — then it’s been a grave disappointment. Those ranks paint the picture of an average hockey club. Still. Again. Sure, given the relative weakness of the Pacific Division, that might be good enough to finish as high as second this season, but this is — again — a team that will go as far as Connor McDavid (and Leon Draisaitl) will take them. Given the opportunity presented to Holland this summer, and how old and capped out the team is once again, it’s hard for me to view the offseason as anything other than an abject failure and it’s hard to see it getting better with Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci on the payroll. Bottom line for me: this team isn’t as good as it should be, and it’s hard to give that a passing grade.
Czechboy: It’s a solid F from me. He improved the only area that was a strength (forwards and PP). Those areas were already top 5 in the NHL. Excited for Foegele, Ryan and Hyman. However, the D and the Goalies are worse and more expensive.
Preston: I don’t think Ken Holland had a good offseason by any means. Sure, the Oilers are deeper at the forward position with the additions of Ryan and Foegele and they might have potentially found that long-awaited winger for McDavid in Hyman but the defensive end of the roster is in tatters. Holland lost not one but two trades over the summer that saw the team lose two young promising defenders in Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones. He also failed to resign Larsson, though that might’ve been out of his hands. The replacements for those players is a has-been with questionable morals and ethics in Duncan Keith and a albatross contract for Cody Ceci. Asset management was not the tune for this past offseason
Question: The Mike Smith - Mikko Koskinen goaltending tandem is what the Oilers are going with to begin the 2021-22 season. Will the tandem hold the fort, or will the Oilers need to make a move to bring in a fresh face this season?
Corey: I think the real question here is can Mike Smith repeat last year’s success. I think Koskinen’s stock can only go up, he’s capable of being a decent backup, but if this is the year a 40-year-old Smith comes back to earth, that could be a problem. The Oilers do have some organizational depth at the Goalie position, but there isn’t one guy who fans can be really confident about. That could be a problem, so I wouldn’t rule out an in-season deal if things go south with Smith’s play.
Shona: Here’s hoping they repeat last year and manage to get by. However, I’m not as hopeful as many Oilers faithful that this is Smith’s new normal. I do think Koskinen can have a better year this year. I mean if the Edmonton media will just f**k off and give him a chance to actually do his job. I’ve said on the podcast, and I do believe it, the Oilers will have Skinner up and playing NHL games by the end of the season. So, that will probably be their fresh face.
Alex: The Oilers need to, and in my opinion, will, bring in another goaltender at some point this season. Unless Koskinen looks solid and Smith stays healthy, which I don’t think both can happen.
Matt: They might? Goaltending is sorcery. Mike Smith did the job last year but, at his age and with his results coming into last year, you’d have to consider that an edge case. His repeating that performance is extremely unlikely, especially given the “additions” on D. I like Mikko Koskinen to find a bit of form this season, but I also like Dave Tippett to ride Smith as the clear starter and for that not to matter too much. I’d be surprised if they were better than average in goal. I think they’re likely to deal something of value for goaltending help at the deadline.
Czechboy: Neat fact about these 2. They have one combined NHL Playoff win in the last 9 seasons. Even funnier? It’s Miko and not Smith with the ‘W’. Skinner isn’t ready but looked good. There is a cavernous gap between our starters and future starters. It wasn’t addressed (hence the ‘F’ above
Preston: I am holding firm on the belief that one of these goaltenders will buckle this season…and my money is on Smith. He is coming off a fantastic year but at the age of 40 there is plenty of reason to believe that regression is about to hit Smith like a bag of bricks. Nothing would please me more than being wrong on this one but that’s the nature of the position. Holland will either have to make a trade for a goaltender or trust an internal option like Skinner to pick up the slack.
Thanks go to our contributors for their time and answers.
Tomorrow: Supernova McDavid and Hot Seats
Thursday: Difference Makers and Great Expectations