Tag: Edmonton Oilers

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Edmonton Oilers ’15-16 Outlook


With Connor McDavid in the fold there’s a renewed sense of optimism in Edmonton, and rightfully so. The 18-year-old is the best player to come out of the NHL Draft since Sidney Crosby did in 2005.

McDavid finished last season with 44 goals and 120 points while appearing 47 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. He added 21 goals and 49 points in 20 playoff games. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center won both the OHL and CHL player of the year.

Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli knows there’ll bumps in the road for his star forward as he adjusts to the NHL game.

“He does have some challenges that he’ll have to meet as any good, young, elite prospect will have,” said Chiarelli. “It’s a strong game, strong players and they lean on you. He’s smart, he’ll figure that out, but he’s going to have some learning curves.”

Front office shakeup

Former Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson is now in charge, and has left his mark on the organization in the few months since taking over as the Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group.

Chiarelli along with head coach Todd McLellan represent a new era in Edmonton. Nicholson has since re-assigned Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe.

Joining McLellan behind the bench are three new assistant coaches in Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers.

As Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur said in April, “They’re not the same old Oilers, and that’s a start.”

What to expect

Despite addressing issues in goal (Cam Talbot) and making additions to the blue line (Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba and Andrej Sekera), the Edmonton Oilers chances of ending their nine-year playoff drought are slim at best.

Given the Oilers play in the Pacific Division with the likes of the Anaheim Ducks, L.A. Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, making the playoffs is this season is unrealistic.

The Oilers have not reached the 30 win mark in a season since 2011-12 (32) and should see an improvement on their 24-44-14 record from last season.

Related: Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

Darnell Nurse poses for a portrait after being selected number seven overall in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.
(June 29, 2013 - Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

For all the young talent they’ve amassed up front, and even if the goaltending proves better next season, you can’t help but look at the Edmonton Oilers’ blue line and think, Oy, that’s not a very good blue line.

And in a league where it’s rare to win a championship without at least one elite defenseman, that’s a problem.

Case in point, when the Oilers made the finals in 2006, they had a guy by the name of Chris Pronger on the back end. He was traded that summer and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

From 2006 to 2012, Edmonton drafted 17 defensemen. The best was Jeff Petry, who’s in Montreal now. Today, the Oilers’ best veteran is probably the newly acquired Andrej Sekera. A solid player, sure. But certainly no threat to win the Norris Trophy. 

Which is why Oilers fans are so hopeful that 20-year-old Darnell Nurse, drafted seventh overall in 2013, can become a cornerstone defender, a la Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, etc.

It’s also why GM Peter Chiarelli doesn’t want to screw up Nurse’s development by throwing him into an NHL role too soon.

“For a defenseman, it is harder to break into the league properly,” Chiarelli said, per OilersNation.com. “With Dougie Hamilton (in Boston), he had a good strong core around him, and they are completely different players. Darnell is a defender and a puck transporter. He has a few more nuances to learn as far as defending, but I saw him play at the end of his playoffs and he played well. He has world class speed and strength.

“That is a hard one (whether Nurse is NHL ready). I want to be patient with these guys knowing that they are good young players and you’d like to have them help you as soon as you can.”

The Oilers have a few other promising defensive prospects, including Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart. They’re also still hoping Justin Schultz will realize the potential they see in him.

Bottom line: Without a much improved defense, even Connor McDavid will find it tough to bring the glory back to Edmonton.

Related: Todd McLellan is under pressure

Under Pressure: Todd McLellan

Todd McLellan, Peter Chiarelli
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With all due respect to Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson — the last three head coaches of the Edmonton Oilers — none of them possess the credentials of Todd McLellan, the new guy.

McLellan got his NHL coaching start in Detroit as an assistant under Mike Babcock. After the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008, he was hired to take over in San Jose. Though he never won it all with the Sharks, he did enjoy a tremendous amount of regular-season success, along with a couple of trips to the conference final.

“Todd brings with him a wealth of experience, a level of energy and an intellect I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, per the Edmonton Sun.

Hence, Chiarelli’s decision to entrust McLellan with Connor McDavid, not to mention all the other young talent the Oilers have amassed the past few years.

“The reason Todd was the top candidate in my mind is his history of taking skill players who learn how to play hard under him,” said Chiarelli.

Note how Chiarelli used the word “learn” there. Because upon being hired, McLellan was asked for a scouting report on his new team. At which point he essentially called the Oilers mentally weak. 

“I think there were games where, if you could get off to a good start and push them out of the game, and get to the mental aspect of them not being in it for the whole night, you thought you had a chance to succeed,” he said.

“That’s something we’ll have to change. There’s going to be games where it’s not going your way, but you’re not out of it. You have to fight through it and you have to keep going.”

Despite all the optimism that’s come with the drafting of a so-called “generational” talent like McDavid, the Oilers still don’t have the roster of a Stanley Cup contender. Simply making the playoffs would be an accomplishment for this group, and even that won’t be necessary in order for there to be progress next season.

The Oilers just have to show signs they’re improving. And then after that, they have to improve some more. Fewer outrageous defensive gaffes, more structure. Fewer times when it appears they’ve packed it in, more sticking to the process (and other assorted clichés).

The results should follow.

“They haven’t had a lot of success as far as wins and losses go, so you have to find other ways to build that mental strength,” said McLellan. “That comes before the games are even played. That comes in practice. That comes in meetings. That comes in being good teammates. So we have some things to work on.”

Related: Vote on whether the Oilers have fixed their goaltending

Poll: Have the Oilers fixed their goaltending?

Cam Talbot

The Edmonton Oilers went into last season fairly confident that their goaltending would be better.

It was not.

In fact, based on team save percentage, the Oilers had the worst goaltending in the NHL, at .888.

And so a couple of things happened. First, Peter Chiarelli replaced Craig MacTavish as general manager. Second, Chiarelli acquired Cam Talbot from the Rangers.

Talbot went 21-9-4 with a .926 save percentage last season — which was very good — but the 28-year-old has started only 53 career NHL games — which is not much to go on.

“I think he’s really come into his own,” Chiarelli said of Talbot, per the Edmonton Journal. “With a goalie like that, there’s a smaller sample size for these guys, so you never know. It’s such an inexact science these goalies. But he’s played really well for two years now. And he really played well in crunch time for the Rangers.”

Talbot will compete with incumbent Ben Scrivens for the net next season. Both goalies are pending unrestricted free agents, so the club isn’t tied to either long term. Another goalie, Anders Nilsson, is in the mix, too.

OK, time to vote:

Related: Talbot knows he has a ‘great opportunity’ in Edmonton

Looking to make the leap: Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid

Barring some unforeseen circumstance, Connor McDavid will have a prominent spot on the Edmonton Oilers’ opening night roster.

Not since Sidney Crosby has the anticipation been so great for a teenager to make the leap to the NHL.

With scoring in the NHL down, McDavid will be in tough to reach the 102-point mark Crosby notched during his rookie campaign, but McDavid is fully aware of the pressures on his shoulders.

“My expectations for myself exceed any of those that are put on me,” said McDavid following the draft. “It’s something that I can’t really worry about. I’ve just got to make sure I’m playing my game and doing all that because if I meet my expectations the chances are I’ll meet your guys’ as well.”

Following what was likely his final season of junior hockey with the Erie Otters, McDavid was named the OHL and CHL player of the year for his 44-goal, 120-point season.

The 18-year-old then led the OHL in post-season scoring adding 21 goals and 49 points in 20 games.

Despite the accolades, GM Peter Chiarelli knows there’ll be growing pains with McDavid.

“He does have some challenges that he’ll have to meet as any good, young, elite prospect will have,” said Chiarelli at the draft. “It’s a strong game, strong players and they lean on you. He’s smart, he’ll figure that out, but he’s going to have some learning curves.”

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center understands in order to make the leap smoother a solid offseason in the gym is necessary.

“You’ve got to get a lot bigger and a lot stronger and faster and all that,” said McDavid. “You’re playing against men now. It’s a big jump.”

Fans aren’t the only ones excited to see what the Newmarket, Ontario native can do at the next level. New Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan told NHL.com that McDavid’s landing spot played a role in him taking his job in Edmonton.

“The lottery was something everybody was watching,” McLellan said. “If you were a coach out of work and was considering a position to attain, everybody had an eyeball on where Connor was going to end up.”

Related: McDavid scores five in Oilers scrimmage