The Edmonton Oilers returned to relevance in the NHL this past season when they ended an 11-year postseason drought and not only advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but were just one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals.
Connor McDavid, healthy for the full season, becoming arguably the best player in hockey and Leon Draisaitl taking a huge step forward were two of the biggest driving forces behind that success. Both of them were rewarded this offseason with massive, long-term contract extensions.
But the Oilers knew — or at least had pretty good reason to believe — that McDavid and Draisaitl, as highly skilled top draft picks, were going to be impact players.
They also needed a few other players to step up and they were able to get exactly that from one of McDavid and Draisaitl’s most common linemates, veteran forward Patrick Maroon.
Acquired in a February 2016 trade with the Anaheim Ducks, Maroon had an opportunity to play alongside two of the games best young players and ended up putting together a career year that saw him score 27 goals, a mark that was good enough for third-best on the team (behind only McDavid and Draisaitl).
In speaking with NHL.com this past week Maroon talked about how playing alongside those two players helped his spike in production.
“Obviously without those two I wouldn’t have the success I did, but sometimes you’ve got to give yourself some credit too,” Maroon, a St. Louis native, said recently after a workout at the St. Louis Blues practice facility. “Those two are very tremendous players, and for me I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing to stay with them.
“Obviously [Oilers coach] Todd McLellan had a really big part in that. He gave me an opportunity to play with those two. For me, I’ve just got to continue what I did last year, come [to training camp] in really good shape again, and hopefully good things fall into place again.”
There is no denying that playing alongside those two players helped. A lot. Prior to last season Maroon’s previous career high in goals was 12, which came during the 2015-16 season that he split with Anaheim and Edmonton. Eight of those goals came in the 16 games he played with the Oilers after he was acquired by the team, with some of them coming while playing alongside McDavid.
During the 2016-17 season 16 of Maroon’s 27 goals were directly assisted by either McDavid or Draisaitl, including six that both of them had an assist on. He also finished with a 15 percent shooting percentage that was a little above his normal career averages.
But even with all of that Maroon is still a good player, and the kind of player that can make everybody in the hockey world happy. He brings the size and physical play that the old school “grind them down” group adores, and he has also been a pretty consistently good possession player throughout his career, finishing as a better than 50 percent Corsi player in each of the past six seasons, including four seasons where he was better than 52 percent. Based on that it should not be a huge shock that with increased ice time (almost two additional minutes per game) and playing alongside two of the best offensive players in the league that his production skyrocketed.
As long as he gets an opportunity to play a similar role this season it would not be a stretch to expect him to finish close to the same numbers in 2017-18.