With the Oilers season over, crucial roster decisions will determine what comes next

With the Oilers season over, crucial roster decisions will determine what comes next

The abrupt end of the Oilers season should serve as a cautionary tale for their upcoming roster-building plans.

The loss to an avalanche in the Western Conference final shows how far oil makers have come under GM’s Ken Holland. Losing the way they did – drifting and blasting a pair of third-half lead with two goals before losing 6-5 in overtime in Game 4 – shows just how far the Oilers must go.

“There is no participation medal,” said goalkeeper Mike Smith. “It’s very frustrating.”

“That’s bad,” said defender Darnell Nurse. “We didn’t get the job we wanted to get done.

“We have a hungry group that knows you can take steps, but you have to follow through.”

This is where the Netherlands comes in. A few sound and clever moves could put the Oilers ahead for the Stanley Cup title. A few short-sighted movements can easily bring them back. This is a huge summer for the organization.

It was undoubtedly the Oilers’ most successful season in over a decade and a half as they reached the Final Four for the first time since their 2006 Stanley Cup Final appearances. However, it was a season with more twists and turns than the most exciting roller-coaster ride, which has been a It could go off track at any moment.

It took Jay Woodcroft to coach the team on February 10 to stabilize. As the nurse said, this group showed a new maturity by not letting things get derailed in the end.

These are good lubricants. very well. You can’t make it to the final conference without doing a few things your way. But they got there pretty much on the backs of their two stars – a landmark performance from Conor McDavid and a hard-working Leon Drystle, who was playing on one good foot. They had 33 and 32 points respectively in 16 postseason games.

Others have been great since the calendar flipped to May. Despite being suspended for the fourth match due to his shot on Nazim Kadri, Evander Kane scored 13 goals. Zach Heyman, arguably the best off-season senior signing, scored 11 times. Fellow free agent Cody Cisse scored a massive goal in Game Seven of the first round and played well mostly defensively. Smith, 40, also had many good moments. They weren’t alone either.

But there are still areas that need to be addressed so the Oilers can beat a team like an avalanche and get over the hump.

The defense has had its share of poor performances in the playoffs – notably the series openers against Flames and Avalanche, when the Oilers allowed eight and seven goals to go into the empty net. All four top defenders are expected to return unless Duncan Keith does something unexpected and retires. The improvement will come either from Evan Bouchard’s growth and/or team tuning in an entire season under assistant coach Dave Manson.

In goal, Smith turned an injury-plagued first half into a respectable second half, highlighted by a brilliant April. He let in two scary goals in playoffs and was pulled over twice, but a strong 0.913 save ratio in the spring. The understanding here is the Oilers’ plan to start next season with Smith and Stewart Skinner unless a notable upgrade is found on the veteran.

Up front, Kane’s condition is one of the most interesting things to be clarified over the next five weeks. He was a perfect fit on the ice with the Oilers. It couldn’t have been better apart from his nasty kick on Qadri, which knocked him out of the final match of the season.

Kane exhausted his welcome of his former bands. Recently, things got worse in San Jose after he signed a seven-year deal. Understandably, the Oilers aren’t willing to make that kind of commitment to Kane. However, they are interested in returning him to a short-term deal. Whether these plots Kane is another matter entirely, of course, but there’s no doubt that he’ll make more money each season than his current $2.1 million earnings.

The problem is that oil wearers don’t have much space at their disposal. They should spend their money wisely. According to PuckPedia, the Oilers have $8 million in space with only 15 players on contract. This is clearly a fluid situation. One of those 15 players is injured defender Oscar Clevbaum, who would be great for breaking records to prevent Oilers from staying in injury reserve for long if his career is over, it is believed.

Pretty much regardless of Kane and Klefbom’s positions, the Netherlands will have to find ways to create more space.

Perhaps it makes sense to trade Jesse Poliugarvy. He’s 24 years old and close to realizing his potential – if he hasn’t already. But given that Puljujarvi’s next contract promises to be cost-effective, has good analytical metrics and the Netherlands refused to sell low two years ago, keeping it in place may make more sense than the alternative. It would be anti-Netherlands to simply move from Puljujarvi now. Holland would have been better off getting an important part of the roster if he traded the right winger.

There are ways to liquidate money.

Zack Kassian with two more years and an average annual value of $3.2 million is a prime buyout candidate. A commercial target for a few teams on deadline, Warren Foegele was a sixth-placed striker with $2.75 million AAV and two years left on his contract. He was also scratched three times in the playoffs. Tyson Barry is a potential victim given that he is set to earn $4.5 million for each of the next two seasons. The 3rd Dual Defense Men should be even cheaper than that. Although it is worth noting that Barry is not completely chopped liver. He plays the top quarterback and did well in post-season alongside unrestricted free agent Brett Kollack.

Above all else, this team needs to improve but to do so without making expensive contracts to the veterans.

No player has improved more from start to finish than rookie Ryan McLeod. Puljujarvi’s first quarter was massive before production dropped. Kailer Yamamoto was excellent in the long run. Those three, all RFA suspended, could take one or two more steps while on the cheap.

Dylan Holloway made his National Hockey League debut on Monday. He’s a favorite to make the team in the second year of his entry-level deal. Philipp Broberg and Markus Nimellainen are candidates to fight for a job in defense after promising new student campaigns. Meanwhile, I’m told the Oilers are vying for Russian free agent Andrei Kuzmenko. The 26-year-old is a left winger shooting right and has the same agent, Dan Milstein, as Kane. It will be hard to know exactly what the Oilers at Kuzmenko might have until the middle of next season, but it will be a low-cost lottery ticket.

It will all be a start. This is still not enough.

The Oilers weren’t at full strength during the playoffs. Draisaitl was injured as well as the nurse who confirmed after the fourth match that he Played through a torn hip flexor. These are two of their best players.

But it’s not as if their opponents were at their best. The Kings were missing top six winger Victor Arvidson and No. 1 defensive man Drew Doughty. The Flames started the series without their best defensive back, Chris Tanev, and his effectiveness was visibly limited upon his return halfway through.

Avalanche played the streak without defender Sam Gerrard, losing goalkeeper Darcy Comber in the first game, then saw Kadri sidelined a minute into the third on Kane’s injury.

For Oilers, missing Kane (suspension) and Yamamoto (upper body injury) for Game 4 showed the holes in the depth chart.

Bulgoarvi and Cassian, two players whose ice time was mostly single-digit throughout the playoffs, had plenty of rotations in the top six with Holloway playing only 3:27.

“Going forward, there’s more[to give],” Woodcroft said, tapping the stage as he searched for the right words. “We’ll find him as we go forward.”

Oilers will need reinforcements as well.

Woodcroft said he is very proud of his players. McDavid and Draisaitl are elite, but the Oilers can’t count on their superstars and a small support team to lead them to the championship.

“We are very disappointed that we were unable to move forward and not find a way to close this match,” he said. “We learned some lessons on our trip this spring. We will be playing hockey on June 6. In order to make that happen and be one of the last four teams, I did some good things.

“I don’t think we can lose sight of that. There is a lot that is required to find a way to get to the Stanley Cup Final, and more is needed to win the title.”

It’s clear from the Colorado series that this team needs more. There is no more time to waste on that.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” MacDavid said. “Thats all about it.”

(Photo by Conor MacDavid: Derek Leung/Getty Images)

2022-06-07 05:23:00

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