The Edmonton Oilers were eliminated by the Winnipeg Jets as the first-round series wrapped up last night in thrilling fashion, where a goal in the third overtime wrapped up their first-round series. This means that the Oilers were swept out of the playoffs. So, what went wrong for the Oilers?
Edmonton Oilers superstar, Connor McDavid, had an impressive regular season, scoring 100 points in only 53 games! But the playoffs are an entirely different animal as he has already found out in his career. McDavid only scored one goal and adding three assists in the four games against the Jets. The 24-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario let his frustration come out during the first period of game four.
How Did The Edmonton Oilers Get Swept?
McDavid seemed to be frustrated at Jesse Puljujarvi for a lack of effort while trying to get the puck out of the Oilers zone. Het let his frustrations be known to assistant coach Glen Gulutzan. This anger may have been bubbling up as the Oilers blew a 4-1 lead during game three of the series. At only 23-years-old, Puljujarvi must have been the “fall guy” for McDavid who had had enough at that point in the frustrating series.
McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were shutout during the first two games of the series. The defense of the Winnipeg Jets was doing everything in unison when the two most talented Oilers were on the ice. Closing out the passing lanes for the Oilers was key to this defensive success. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck followed up his tremendous regular season by playing very well during this stretch. The team only scored one goal in these two games.
The underlying issue with the Oilers is a lack of “depth scoring” from players other than McDavid and Draisaitl. The next leading scorers on the team during the 2020-2021 regular season were Darnell Nurse and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The two players were tied with 16 goals apiece. This is less than half of McDavid and Draisaitl’s offensive output.
I previously wrote that Mark Scheifele would have to be the reason for the Jets to have success against the likes of McDavid and Draisaitl. Scheifele was the primary defender responsible for keeping McDavid in check. Scheifele did a tremendous job in the four games during this series. Scheifele also added two goals and three assists in addition to his defensive responsibilities against the best player in the NHL.
McDavid is far from the only talented player on the Oilers. Draisaitl is playing in McDavid’s shadow on the Oilers. If he were on any other team in the NHL, Draisaitl would be under just as much scrutiny as McDavid. The 25-year-old from Cologne, Germany had 31 goals and 53 assists in the 56-game regular season during the 2020-2021 season. Draisaitl scored 50 goals in 82 games played for the Oilers during the 2018-2019 NHL season.
Having two of the most talented players in the NHL on the same team is not a new “burden for the Edmonton Oilers franchise. During the 1980s, the team had Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier playing on the same roster. The duo led the team to win four Stanley Cups during the 1980s. The current Edmonton Oilers are far away from the dynasty led by the likes of Gretzky and Messier and others. So, what is next for the Oilers franchise?
General manager Ken Holland has a lot of work to do in order to make sure that McDavid and Draisaitl have enough talent around them in order to be successful in the playoffs. The team is up against the salary cap going forward. This salary cap is projected to be flat going forward due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has to do with the fact that fans were not allowed in the buildings during the 2020-2021 season. McDavid has six years left on his contract at 12.500.000 $ AAV. Draisaitl also has five years left on his contract. For better or worse, the Oilers with have both of these players on their roster for the foreseeable future.
main image credit