3 Reasons Why the Oilers Can Contend for the Stanley Cup in 2022-23

Potential Edmonton Oilers UFA signing Jack Campbell. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Potential Edmonton Oilers UFA signing Jack Campbell. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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Evan Bouchard #75, Edmonton Oilers
Evan Bouchard #75, Edmonton Oilers Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Reason 2: Internal Growth of Young Oilers Players

The second reason the Oilers are in a better position this coming season is that they have massive potential for internal growth.

Evan Bouchard was an elite puck mover last season, and if the young D-man has a breakout year in 2022-23, the Oilers will have a much stronger defense core than last season’s group.

With Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto, the Oilers had a pair of young forwards that showed flashes of legit top-six production, only to fall into inconsistencies throughout the season. If either player can find that consistency, the Oilers have a chance to be the best offensive team in the NHL.

Ryan McLeod is another young player yet to hit his prime, and he already has the skating ability and defensive chops to be an effective third-line center. If he can add some other tools to go with his skating, the offensive production could pick up and give Edmonton another secondary scoring threat.

To go along with these players nearing their prime years, there are also rookies like Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg that would make a major difference if they become effective NHL players sooner rather than later.

With an otherwise similar roster to last year, it may only take one or two of these young players to give the Oilers a boost from a good team into a great team.

Zack Kassian #44, Edmonton Oilers
Zack Kassian #44, Edmonton Oilers Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Reason 3: Addition By Subtraction

The last reason why I believe this team is better than in seasons prior is that there was addition by subtraction in a few areas of the roster.

Edmonton’s top six was a dominant force throughout the 2022 playoffs, but they ran into trouble at times with their fourth line.

Josh Archibald struggled mightily, getting outscored 7-3 at 5v5 and out-chanced by opponents to the tune of 81-29, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Both Kassian and Archibald had an expected goal share below 40% to go along with poor possession numbers. There was no shortage of effort and physical play by these two, but when you go up against the likes of Colorado, who have speed and skill throughout their lineup, these results are simply not good enough.

With some of their struggling depth forwards leaving the team this offseason, Edmonton has an opportunity to see some improvement from their depth.

Mattias Janmark will be slotted in on the fourth line, and while he doesn’t add much offensively, Janmark has historically been a defensively capable player, so I don’t anticipate he will get outplayed quite as bad as some of the past fourth-liners on the Oilers.

As for the other vacant forward slot, I anticipate the Oilers will sign or PTO a player, with Dylan Holloway also battling to get on the roster.

These options may not be a guaranteed hit, but I would be willing to bet they can scrape together a more competent fourth line than what we saw last spring.

This summer the Oilers parted ways with the aging veterans Duncan Keith and Mike Smith. Keith was serviceable in a second pair role, and while he was fairly strong in his own end, his lack of speed hurt his rush defense, an area where the Oilers struggled last season.

Brett Kulak, by comparison, is a much stronger rush defender, therefore his promotion to the second pair could be a better fit for the Oilers when they go up against teams that run and gun like the Colorado Avalanche.

When it comes to Mike Smith, you just never knew what you were going to get from him. He has some stretches where he was playing other-worldly hockey and other stretches where he looked like a fish out of water.

As brilliant as Smith was at times, his aggressive puck handling, frequent injuries, and streaky play didn’t exactly provide the calming presence that the Oilers need.

Jack Campbell will be brought in to replace him, and while Campbell isn’t perfect by any stretch, the Oilers will no longer have to live and die by the heart-attack-inducing puck handling of Mike Smith, nor will they have to be concerned about the possibility of his game falling off a cliff due to age.

Mikko Koskinen also said goodbye to the Oilers this summer as he signed overseas with HC Lugano, leaving Stuart Skinner with the backup role.

Again, I feel like this is an upgrade in net, as Skinner has been steadily improving his game over the last few years, and had a good showing in 13 NHL games last year with a .913 save percentage and 0.9 goals saved above expected.

Smith and Koskinen may have had their moments, and Keith may have been a fit last year to provide some leadership on the back end, but these players weren’t going to get better with age, and I believe their replacements are a better fit with the current state of the team.