If we are talking expectations, there is arguably no team in the league with more pressure on it than the Edmonton Oilers. After reaching the Western Conference final a year ago, anything short of getting to the Stanley Cup Final will be viewed by most as a failure. Between now and then, there is a regular season to be played and there is a chance three players could accomplish something very special.
During the back half of the 2021-22 campaign, the trio of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane scored a ton of goals for the Oilers and proceeded to take things to another level during the playoffs. For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll predominantly focus on their regular season production.
It was on January 29th, against the Montreal Canadiens, that Kane made his Oilers debut. Despite not being very good, he still found a way to light the lamp, a skill which nearly every good goal scorers has. Over the course of his 43 regular season games, the now 31-year old went on to score 22 times.
During that same time frame, Draisaitl posted 26 goals in 41 games and McDavid chipped in 23 over his final 42 outings. Those numbers speak for themselves and over the course of entire season, they start to look all the more impressive. How impressive you ask? Well, let’s have a look shall we.
Though projection isn’t everything, we are not talking about a pace that could be considered off the charts. Over the course of an 82-game season, Kane would eclipse the 40-goal mark for the first-time with 42. McDavid would be looking at 45 and Draisaitl notching a mere 52 goals for his troubles.
Again, nothing about those numbers seem outlandish and if we were to add just a few more goals to the equation, we would be talking about something that has only been accomplished twice in NHL history. Two teams have had three 50-goal scorers in the same season and Oilers fans are familiar with both.
Not surprisingly, Gretzky and company managed to pull off the feat during the club’s two most prolific campaigns. In 1983-84, Edmonton scored 446 times in 80 games and their top three scorers were No. 99 (87), Glenn Anderson (54) and Jari Kurri (52). Yes…those are numbers as ridiculous as they look.
Despite scoring “only” 426 goals in 1985-86, Kurri (68), Anderson (54) and Gretzky (52) hit the threshold again and Paul Coffey was knocking on the door with his record-setting 48-goal season for defencemen. Those were different times to be sure and yet, the Oilers current trio have a real shot of joining the club.
Let’s be honest here, it’s not as if McDavid reaching the 50-goal mark for the first-time in his career would be a surprise, nor would Draisaitl doing it for a third time in five years. The question mark is undoubtedly Kane but it’s hard to not be optimistic with what he could deliver over a full season.
From an off-ice perspective, the polarizing winger has his share of detractors and fans. The latter are willing to overlook certain transgressions, while the former are not. When it comes to the on-ice, Kane has his flaws but his skating, willingness to engage physically and score goals make him a unique player.
If we include last year’s playoff run, Kane scored 35 goals in 58 games. That works out to a 50-goal pace and while expecting those numbers over a full schedule might be a tad much, it’s far from an impossibility. His chemistry with McDavid is obvious and that alone makes the possibility quite real.
Now, the chance of all three reaching the mark isn’t likely but it would certainly be fun to watch unfold. Even if they were to fall short and “only” two of the three were to get there, they’d still join a group of 25 who’ve had at least two teammates score 50 or more in the same season and the first since 1995-96.
You might remember, that was the year in which the Pittsburgh Penguins duo of Mario Lemieux (69-92-161) and Jaromir Jagr (62-87-149) finished one two in both points and goals. In case you hadn’t already noticed, these sorts of seasons are few and far between but these Oilers have two pretty special players.
Again, make no mistake, when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers 2022-23 campaign, all that ultimately matters is how the team fares come April, May and June. With that being said, I can’t think of anyone who would complain too loudly about watching a bit of history as an appetizer.