Last season was certainly a disappointing one for the Edmonton Oilers. They finished the regular season with only 79 points. It marked the second straight year the Oilers finished with fewer than 80 points (they had 78 the year before), following what looked like the beginning of a rise to contention in 2016-2017. Three years ago, with star center Connor McDavid bursting on the scene with 100 points and a +27 rating in his first full season, the Oilers finished with 103 points and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in seven games. That season’s success led many to believe the Oilers were primed for years of legitimate contention, but that hasn’t happened at all. Even though McDavid has improved on his point production in the two years since (with 108 and then 116), the team around him hasn’t performed well together as a unit.
In an attempt to change the direction of the franchise, the Oilers hired a new general manager (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett) this offseason. As the puck is set to drop on the regular season in a little less than a month, let’s take a look at the Oilers outlook.
The Oilers were very active in the offseason, hoping to right the ship. Edmonton aggressively signed free agents such as Tomas Jurco, Josh Archibald, Gaetan Haas, Markus Granlund and Mike Smith. But perhaps the biggest move the team made was shipping out their underperforming winger Milan Lucic, and getting back underperforming winger James Neal from the Calgary Flames. Many pundits believe the Oilers got a steal with this trade, especially since he is only one year removed from a 25-goal season with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Neal is projected to line up on the second line alongside Tyler Benson and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. McDavid will most likely center the top line with wingers Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian. The offseason moves were made to round out the roster and give it some balance from top to bottom. On paper, they seem like they did a nice job of doing that.
Right now, the sportsbooks aren’t looking too favorably on the Oilers’ hopes. They are currently ranked nine from the bottom in odds to win the Stanley Cup, at 50-1. That’s not a lot of love for an NHL team with a storied history and two of the league’s brightest young stars in McDavid and Draisaitl. For the Oilers, a successful season would include an evening out of their roster, a return to competitiveness on a nightly basis and, ultimately, a return to the playoffs. Can that happen? It could, of course, but the team will have some work to do. The second Wild Card team in the Western Conference last year had 90 points, which is 11 more than the Oilers finished with.
If new head coach Tippett can motivate the young guys to step up, get Neal to return to his goal-scoring ways and bring some stability to the defense and goaltenders (which he is known for), then competing for a spot in the playoffs out of the Wild Card is not all that outlandish. To see the Oilers’ odds to win the Stanley Cup, as well as other props and game bets, check out one of the online sportsbooks below.
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