As the holiday season approaches, PHR will be taking a look at what teams are thankful for in 2023-24. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. We’ll examine what’s gone well in the early going and what could improve as the season rolls on for the Edmonton Oilers.
Who are the Oilers thankful for?
The more things change, the more they stay the same, and that’s held true for the Oilers’ generational talent. McDavid is currently carrying 34 points through 22 games, tied with Cale Makar for eighth in the league in scoring. He’s reached that mark despite a slow start, scoring just four points in the first eight games of November. But things are clicking for the 26-year-old once more, as McDavid has scored an unbelievable 21 points in his last eight games. That’s an 82-game pace of 215.25 points – and while there’s a very slim chance that he ever breaks the 200-point ceiling, the fact that McDavid has held onto that scoring pace over more than a handful of games is incredible. He’s scored in every game over the eight-game stretch, recording multiple points in six of them, and is sticking to Wayne Gretzky’s tactic of leaning into assists – with 16 of his recent 21 points coming in the form of helpers. The Oilers have faced a lot of adversity this season but McDavid has made it clear that he won’t let it get him down as he looks to top the 153 points he scored last year.
What are the Oilers thankful for?
A stretch of home games.
The Oilers have struggled to get things going on the road this season, with a dismal 4-8-0 record when playing in another team’s barn. That fact hasn’t gelled well with their early schedule, which had them on the road for 11 of their first 19 games. Their longest stretch of home games in November was a four-game stretch early in the month when the team was facing an injury to McDavid and swirling questions about then-head coach Jay Woodcroft. Both factors weighed heavily on Edmonton and they fell 1-3-0 before having to get back on the road.
The cycle seemed to be continuing as they lost their first three games of their most recent road trip – a four-game-long trip around the eastern-US. But with a 5-0 win over the Washington Capitals to cap it off, the Oilers found their momentum just in time for their recent stretch of four home games, and one away game at the neighboring Winnipeg Jets. Edmonton has been on fire now that they’re back at Rogers Place, currently on a six-game winning streak that’s seen them outscore their opponents 31-to-11. They’ve been getting everything they could want in their recent outings, scoring an average of roughly five goals each game and seeing their goaltenders post a collective .947 save percentage.
After a dismal start to the season, the Oilers are now truly looking like a team that can challenge the best in the West. They have four more games at home before they embark on a six-game road trip in late-December. New head coach Kris Knoblauch will hope a strong stretch at home will be enough of a boost to amend the Oilers’ current luck on the road.
What would the Oilers be even more thankful for?
The story of Edmonton’s early season has been one of underwhelming goaltending. The team has iced three different goalies this season, with all three recording a save percentage below .900. Starting goalie Stuart Skinner has managed a .888 through 19 games, en route to a 10-7-1 record. This is despite the Oilers facing a league-average xGA/60 (expected goals-against per-60) of 2.54, tied with Winnipeg for the 12th-best mark in the league, per Evolving Hockey. And while the former Calder Trophy runner-up Skinner has improved as of late – recording a .911 save percentage and 9-2-0 record in his last 11 games – there’s still reason to be uncertain in Edmonton’s crease. The Oilers are 3-12-1 when they allow three-or-more goals this season, emphasizing that the team is only as good as the goaltending that they receive. If they want to be true Stanley Cup-contenders, they’ll need to make sure their netminders are just as efficient as their scorers.
What should be on the Oilers holiday wish list?
A lucky trade offer.
The Oilers are clearly not far off from being a very scary team. Their top scorers – McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – are mostly performing as expected; the blueline has seen added help through the continued breakout of Evan Bouchard and the addition of Mattias Ekholm; and it seems Skinner is bringing some reliability back into the crease. But there still seems to be something holding back Edmonton from reaching their full potential. The team has six members of their forward group with fewer than eight points through their first 24 games and their defense seems to strike in waves.
But Edmonton has recently made former eighth-overall pick Philip Broberg available for a trade, something that could prove lucrative as many teams around the league look for a spark on defense. While Broberg’s professional career in North America is off to a choppy start, there are still teams around the league with high hopes for the 22-year-old defenseman. It helps that Broberg is on a cost-controlled deal, recording an $863K cap hit this season and set to become a restricted free agent next year. The right trade could be enough to patch one of the Oilers’ holes, whether it’s bringing in another depth-forward, providing more competition on defense, or adding support between the pipes. The NHL is gearing up for an exciting Trade Deadline and the Oilers could emerge from it with the plenty of hope for the future.