In the long run, Connor McDavid may solely watch because the puck was cleared previous him, sending Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor the opposite manner on a breakaway that will finish Edmonton’s season. The Oilers have been swept by the Jets, a staff that Edmonton owned within the common season, and the post-mortem begins for a company that had its greatest likelihood at a deep playoff run in years.
With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl up high, the Oilers have an incredible benefit when it comes to constructing their core however filling out the remainder of the highest finish is clearly the difficulty proper now. On the constructive aspect of the ledger, defenseman Darnell Nurse had a breakout season, establishing himself as a No. 1 blueliner and somebody able to doing all of it on the ice: he is powerful, he can transfer and he can put up factors. Nurse performed a staggering 62 minutes within the triple-OT Sport 4 loss to Winnipeg – no different skater within the sport acquired to 50 – and his complete season factors to a man who has discovered his sport at an elite stage. However he did not have plenty of assist.
On the opposite finish of the spectrum, coach Dave Tippett solely trusted Slater Koekkoek and Ethan Bear with essentially the most minimal of minutes in Sport 4 and that lack of depth on the again finish should be addressed. Now, are the options already there internally? That is an enormous query for the low season since you by no means need to overreact an excessive amount of when one collection goes unsuitable. Let’s not neglect that Tampa Bay was swept within the first spherical one yr earlier than successful the Stanley Cup. And whereas the Oilers aren’t almost as deep because the Lightning, I’m merely suggesting that we do not begin pulling all the hearth alarms simply but – particularly on a staff that has gone by a lot organizational churn prior to now decade.
On the again finish, Edmonton has choices. Oscar Klefbom missed the whole marketing campaign with shoulder surgical procedure and although there are considerations about his future well being, he could be a difference-maker if every part goes properly within the low season. There’s additionally a pair children with vivid futures in Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg, each of whom performed properly in Sweden this season (I’m additionally conscious plenty of Oilers followers wished to see Bouchard inserted into the Winnipeg collection, as he did play video games for Edmonton this season and was accessible).
There may be additionally the matter of goaltending. Mike Smith made some unimaginable saves in Sport 4, however finally he was not adequate to win a sport within the collection and at 39 years outdated, the pending UFA doesn’t seem to be a match transferring ahead. Mikko Koskinen continues to be beneath contract for subsequent yr, however he’s not an NHL starter.
Primarily, the Oilers are at sq. one in terms of netminding. They don’t have a Spencer Knight ready within the wings, although maybe Stuart Skinner could possibly be a shock if given an opportunity (he acquired bombed in a single NHL sport this yr however performed very properly within the AHL for Bakersfield). Extra realistically, Edmonton must get a longtime veteran. Boston’s Tuukka Rask can hit the open market this summer time, as can Carolina’s Petr Mrazek. Rask has a wealth of playoff expertise whereas Mrazek has confirmed he can steal video games and go on sizzling runs. Each could possibly be on the lookout for new crease houses because of the ascent of Jeremy Swayman and Alex Nedeljkovic, respectively.
It won’t be simple, nevertheless. These goalies will not come low-cost and Edmonton GM Ken Holland solely has a lot cap area to play with. Pending Oilers free brokers embrace Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie.
There’s additionally the matter of how a lot more durable the street will get from right here on out. Within the North Division, Edmonton’s solely actual competitors within the playoffs appeared to be Toronto, however that second-round matchup will not even occur now. Subsequent yr, with the NHL realigned, the Oilers will probably be in a tender Pacific Division, however nonetheless one that’s headlined by a savage Vegas Golden Knights squad. And if the Oilers handle to keep away from or by some means beat the Knights, Colorado or any variety of Central Division baddies lurk thereafter.
The upshot is that the Oilers nonetheless have McDavid and Draisaitl of their primes, the place they’ll stay for years – hopefully, with an upgraded surrounding forged. It has been a protracted, tortured await Edmonton followers and sadly with the loss to the Jets, that wait goes to take slightly longer.