Pressure is on Oilers to contend, but they still seem far away

Connor McDavid is entering his seventh season with the Edmonton Oilers. His profession up until now has actually been a non-stop screen of private luster that has actually seen him be the most vibrant and dominant offending force in the league from basically the day he showed up. As long as he is healthy it is practically a considered that he will be among the top-two scorers in the league and a one-man emphasize reel every night.

That private luster, however, has actually been surrounded by team-wide dissatisfaction and incompetence that has actually seen the Oilers win simply a single playoff round in his very first 6 seasons (5 years ago) and get approved for the playoffs simply 3 times. In among those 3 looks, they did not even make it to the real postseason competition losing a four-game certifying round series to the 23rd ranked Chicago Blackhawks. In the most current playoff look this previous season they might not even win a single championship game versus the Winnipeg Jets.

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For a group that has the world’s finest gamer, and another in-his-prime super star in Leon Draisaitl, it is beginning to end up being an undesirable absence of success, and the pressure is beginning to install for the group to do something.

On Tuesday McDavid stated the time is “definitely” now for the Oilers to end up being Stanley Cup competitors.

“The old excuse that we’re young guys is no longer,” McDavid stated, through NHL.com. “For us as a group, I think the time is now to start really pushing this thing.”

If we are being truthful here, it is most likely past the time for the Oilers to be competitors. And McDavid’s remark is intriguing considered that came simply a couple of months after basic supervisor Ken Holland protected the group’s lack of exercise at the trade due date by stating you can not go all in every year which you need to pick your areas. The ideal area is every year you have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Yes, the Oilers were beginning with the bottom of the league when they chose McDavid and needed to develop around him. However there need to be more development by this point, particularly provided the existence of gamers like Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins likewise on the lineup. Rebuilding takes time. It need to not take this much time.

Keep in mind…

  • When Sidney Crosby was entering his seventh season in the NHL his teams had already made the playoffs five times, played in two Stanley Cup Finals, and won one of them.

  • When Alex Ovechkin was entering his seventh season he had been in the playoffs four times in six years and was part of a team that had won a Presidents’ Trophy and already become a Stanley Cup contender.

  • When Patrick Kane entered his seventh season his teams had already made the playoffs five times in six years and won two Stanley Cups.

  • When Steven Stamkos entered his seventh season he had already played in the Conference Final, while his seventh season was a Stanley Cup Final appearance and the start of their current run of dominance.

Those are superstar gamers taken No. 1 overall, joining what were awful teams at the time, that quickly experienced team success because their teams were able to successfully build around them.

The problem is that even though it is long past time for the Oilers to be at that level, and even though the captain and best player is saying it is now time, they still do not seem ready to make that leap. Even after a busy offseason that saw them make some noteworthy moves.

Duncan Keith checks a lot of nice boxes (veteran, championship experience, future Hall of Famer) except for one that matters the most — is he a positive difference-maker right now? There are a lot of numbers and video to suggest no.

They are banking no a 39-year-old Mike Smith to repeat his 2020-21 performance in goal even though it was by far his best performance in three years. If he doesn’t, that is going to be a problem behind that defense.

They probably lost two of their three best defenders from last year in Adam Larsson and Ethan Bear, and replaced them with a declining Keith and Cody Ceci.

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Zach Hyman is a good player, but is going to be 30 years old and is just starting a seven-year contract after playing what was probably his best hockey for somebody else. Warren Foegele is a fine addition, but it came at the expense of Bear who the Hurricanes seem ecstatic with acquiring.

As recently as this past season the Oilers’ depth was so bad that they were outscored by a 52-29 margin during 5-on-5 play when neither McDavid or Draisaitl was on the ice. They were outscored 5-2 in the playoffs.

That regular season number was actually a worse goal share than the year before in the same situations and the worst mark since McDavid’s rookie season. Meaning they depth somehow became less productive and was as bad as it has ever been during McDavid’s career. Let me repeat that, because it is worth repeating: The depth performance this season was the worst it has been since McDavid’s rookie year. More than six years into this thing, that is just unacceptable. Given the lineup, the goaltending, and the makeup of the defense it is hard to see that dramatically changing this season.

The good news for the Oilers is that even with all of these flaws they ought to — SHOULD!! — be a playoff team this season.

The Pacific Division is probably the weakest division in the league from top to bottom, and once you get beyond Vegas at the top there is really no other team that seems to be a lock for one of the other two automatic playoff spots. Everybody is flawed to a major degree, and the Oilers do at least have two in-their-prime MVP superstars on their roster. That should be enough to get in the playoffs.

It is still a question though of whether or not they can compete with other playoff groups, let alone actual Stanley Cup contenders. Again, they did not even win a single game against a good, but not great Jets team in the playoffs a year ago.

Most teams never get players as good as McDavid and Draisaitl, let alone 2 of them at the exact same time. You can not waste them when you do get them.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Pressure is on Oilers to contend, but they still appear far initially appeared on NBCSports.com

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.