The Edmonton Oilers got themselves all the way to the Conference Finals in 2021-22 for the first time since 2006. The team’s best players all managed to find themselves on hot streaks and at the same time led to an offensive firestorm that propelled the Oilers through any potential defensive and goaltending issues they may have otherwise had.
Moving into 2022-23, the Oilers are now entering their competitive window and spent the offseason finding ways to address the last few holes in their roster. Those are scoring depth, defensive depth, and goaltending.
How Did the Edmonton Oilers Fix Their Scoring Depth?
Last season the Edmonton Oilers probably had their best offensive performance of the Connor McDavid era. Their scoring depth was actually passable. Seven players had 41 or more points and Evander Kane played at nearly a point-per-game pace during the 43 regular season games he played in. But it still was not enough.
Moving forward, they will need even more offense from the bottom six. Warren Foegele was the leading scorer among regular bottom-six forwards with 26 points. That is not enough from a team’s third line. Ryan McLeod was great in his rookie season, but the hope for the upcoming season is that he finds his hands and some confidence as he had just 21 points playing mostly on the third line.
The only real move the Oilers made in their bottom six forwards was the signing of Mattias Janmark, who is not going to be much of an improvement on what the team had in place last season. The signing of Greg McKegg is not going to do much for the offensive depth.
The real improvement will be seen in prospect growth and development. Dylan Holloway, one of the best prospects on the Edmonton Oilers, is expected to jump to the NHL full-time in 2022-23. This will likely have him take on a third-line role to start. And if he does jump farther up the lineup, that puts Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto, two other players with good offensive talents and instincts, onto the third line.
However this shapes up, the Oilers will find players with higher offensive potential on the third line. It will also push the 20-30 point players onto the fourth line. All four lines should have scoring potential. This gives them more weapons farther down the lineup and allows head coach Jay Woodcroft to roll four lines and save some energy for McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
How Did the Edmonton Oilers Fix Their Goaltending?
Quite simply, the tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen let the team down on far too many occasions. The two of them were just good enough to let the skaters outscore the problems for most of the season, though it got dicey at times in the playoffs.
There’s been a push to address the position for years, and finally, the Oilers found someone they want to commit to as a starting goalie for the near future. Jack Campbell comes in after an extremely up-and-down season with the Toronto Maple Leafs that saw him in Vezina contention through the first half of the season but he disappeared by the end of it. It remains unclear which version of this goalie will show up for the season.
Even in the event of Campbell struggling, the Oilers have an improvement at backup as well with Stuart Skinner making the full-time jump to the NHL as well. He was pretty much in line with Smith stat-wise last season in his 13 games. So while he is unproven, his development arc is promising that he will possibly be the best backup or 1B that the Oilers have had in years.
The signing of Calvin Pickard will give a bit of a veteran presence in the depth chart, but he won’t see many games in the NHL.
How Did the Edmonton Oilers Fix Their Defense?
After Duncan Keith’s unexpected retirement in the offseason, the Oilers were left with some major depth issues at defense, especially on the left side. Trade deadline acquisition Brett Kulak was impressive in his short time with the Oilers and was re-signed to a four-year deal with the intention being that he fills the second pairing role.
The Oilers also have a couple of more of their best prospects, Philip Broberg and Markus Niemelainen, competing for spots with veteran free agent signing Ryan Murray, who is fresh off a Stanley Cup win with the Colorado Avalanche.
A major part of the Oilers’ issue on defense seemed to fall on team strategy more than anything. So adding players and making roster moves can only help so much. The team seems more than aware and committed to improving team defense. McDavid recently acknowledged that the team won’t have trouble scoring goals but are going to have to find a way to keep the puck out of the net. Woodcroft says he and the players are excited about some of the tweaks they’ll have to make to their game as the Edmonton Oilers try and build something special.
So all-in-all, with another year of defensive development for the team’s top players, including McDavid, Draisaitl, and Darnell Nurse, and a full season with Woodcroft as head coach, the defensive issues should be sufficiently addressed.
The Edmonton Oilers were ultimately defeated by their biggest roster holes multiple times throughout 2021-22. In the cold stretch that got former coach Dave Tippett fired and in the disastrous series against the Avalanche, the lack of depth scoring, defensive woes, and shoddy goaltending took the team out.
The 2022-23 season should be different for the Oilers. With more prospects jumping into the NHL to fill out the roster’s depth, Edmonton’s scoring depth should start to become a strength in the lineup. A few minor tweaks to the composition and some strategy changes should settle down the defensive side of the game. And the Campbell-Skinner goaltending tandem might be the best the Oilers have had in a very long time.
Within the Pacific Division, the Edmonton Oilers are now in a position of being expected to compete for the division title and possibly see the Edmonton Oilers glory days return. They’ll be locked in a tight battle with the Calgary Flames for that, and maybe the Vegas Golden Knights depending on how their roster shapes up.
Check out the rest of Overtime Heroics’ NHL Season Previews for the best idea of the league standings ahead of the 2022-23 season.
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