Hockey

An Increase in Oilers Games Postponed

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After Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid tested positive for COVID-19, the Oilers saw an increase in positive tests within the few previous days. Players such as Derek Ryan, Tyson Barrie, Warren Foegele, Kailer Yamamoto, Brendan Perlini, Evan Bouchard and Slater Koekkoek were all added to the COVID-19 protocol this past week. 

With eight players missing from the lineup, the NHL postponed the next upcoming games, as they looked to face the Ottawa Senators Monday. Games against the Minnesota Wild and the Vegas Golden Knights were also postponed. The Oilers look to make their return on Saturday, Jan 15. against the Senators at 10 p.m. EST. 

Is This a Much-Needed Break for the Oilers?

After losing their last five games played, a break could be necessary for the group to refocus themselves, almost as if they hit the restart button on their midseason slump. 

The Oilers fell to the sixth-place spot in the Pacific Division, just in front of a hot Vancouver Canucks team. While doing this, they found themselves out of a playoff wild card spot. If the losing continues with the club, their playoff goals might start slipping away.

Wearing of rust. After any break, there is always rust to be worn off, to hopefully get right back in a competition mode. This, however, could be an issue with the team, because of the small break they get this week. 

The Oilers are notorious for getting back into form too late. As Mike Smith made his return recently, it took him several games to be able to put up a solid competition. As they fell short to the Maple Leafs, Smith finished the game with a 0.906 save percentage as he was outbattled by opposing goaltender Jack Campbell with a 0.933 save percentage. 

The concern remains, will the break provide good, or bad for the group entering their contest against Ottawa on Saturday. 

COVID-19 and Its Relation to Prospects 

When typical starters test positive for COVID-19, the obvious reaction is worry. What is often not considered is how many prospects are able to be viewed in their NHL debuts, and beyond that. 

Oilers AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors have a winning record currently as they are ranked fourth out of nine teams in their Pacific Division, only behind the Stockton Heat, the Ontario Reign, and the Henderson Silver Knights. 

Fans saw the beginning of  Stuart Skinner’s NHL career until Smith returned from his lower-body injury. Skinner maintained a 0.916 save percentage in the NHL, after playing only ten games. 

2019 NHL eight overall pick Philip Broberg had seen some time playing with the Oilers several weeks ago. Broberg has eight career NHL games under his belt, with just a single assist. However, Broberg, like many other prospects, gained confidence while playing at the NHL level. Often the first ten games or so aren’t spectacular. It takes time to prove you’re a good player. 

For some players, this is why COVID-19 cases might be the chance for prospects to prove a point and gain some experience. 

Looking Forward

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in North America, there will be a lot to consider when competing in the 2021-22 campaign. There are seven teams in Canada that have to cross the border to play in the United States. 

There could be results in no fan attendance, as some teams have already started. Another idea that maybe the NHL has not considered yet, would be locating Canadian teams temporarily in the United States. The MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays, had to do this in Buffalo, NY for some time, and the Toronto Raptors of the NBA did as well, but in Tampa, FL.

As other leagues have found ways around COVID-19, the NHL might have to consider following in their footsteps if they want to finish a 2022 season. 

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