TSN insider Bob McKenzie has begun previewing the 2018-19 seasons for the NHL’s Canadian clubs on his podcast, “The Bobcast”, and dropped some bombs about the Edmonton Oilers. McKenzie most newsworthy claim is that the Oilers have been criticized by executives around the league for failing to reach the postseason last year. McKenzie was honest in his assessment of the team, saying “I think the way most people look at it, every year you have a Connor McDavid-led team that misses the playoffs, that is a crime against hockey humanity. I think that would be especially true this season after they didn’t do it last season… McDavid’s game is on its own level and it would be absolutely criminal if the Edmonton Oilers cannot find a way to surround him with enough talent to get this team back into the playoffs.” McKenzie, and anyone who has been critical of the team, are absolutely in the right to wonder how a team with arguably the best player on the planet can not only miss the playoffs, but finish in the bottom ten of the league. It is also fair to question, as McKenzie did, whether the team has done enough to add more talent to the roster. Outside of backup goalie Mikko Koskinen, two-way winger Tobias Rieder, and checking center Kyle Brodziak, the Oilers are more or less relying on the same group as last season to put together a major turnaround. Even with some positive regression, Edmonton will need to step it up this season – the players, coaches, and front office included.
- McKenzie also put Edmonton fans on edge by blowing up the narrative that negotiations were going well with restricted free agent defenseman Darnell Nurse. “By all accounts Nurse’s contract negotiations are not going well at all”, McKenzie said, “so we’ll just have to wait and see on that.” Nurse remains unsigned with training camp soon to open and there is no way to know how long it will take to get him under contract. Even before the Andrej Sekera injury, the Oilers needed Nurse around to play a key role on the blue line, but now it is imperative that they get him signed and ready to be a major top-four contributor this season. Edmonton can’t afford to let these negotiations last too far into the regular season, but their cap crunch and messy trade history also mean that they need to remain cautious. It isn’t an easy situation for the team or player.
- McKenzie also refuted the report that Milan Lucic never requested a trade this summer, returning to the previous assumption that he did want out of Edmonton. McKenzie said “Can Milan Lucic rebound from an abysmal season that was punctuated by him asking for a trade, one which he didn’t get? If you talk to the right people by all accounts his mind, his spirit, his body are all fully ready to embrace the challenge.” While this was one of McKenzie’s more positive remarks, it does throw another dig at the Oilers that one of GM Peter Chiarelli’s big free agent acquisitions not only played poorly last season, but now wants out. Perhaps Lucic walking back trade rumors earlier this summer is a sign that he has moved on, but that interest in leaving existed at one point and could return if Edmonton suffers through another disappointing season.