Expectations are higher than ever in Edmonton, but if the preseason is anything to go by, the Oilers are a genuine threat to win the Stanley Cup.
The Oilers are being predicted by many to have a successful season. This includes ESPN‘s Greg Wyshynski, who is picking them to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1990.
Of course, just because the Oilers are being praised, it doesn’t actually mean they will ultimately emerge victorious. As David Staples of the Edmonton Journal writes, talk is cheap – it’s about what you do on the ice.
In fairness, the Oilers did have some impressive accolades last season, including leading the NHL in goals scored. The also produced the best ever power-play percentage by a team, since this statistic started being recorded back in 1977.
Achievements such as these shouldn’t really be a surprise, when you have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the way. Although in respect of talk being cheap, it still wasn’t enough come playoff time.
The Oilers got to the second round, before being knocked out by the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Of particular note, they actually had the lead in all six games versus the Vegas Golden Knights.
Oilers looking better
With all this said, the Oilers appear to have an even stronger roster in 2023-24, helped in part by having Mattias Ekholm for an entire season. There’s also the addition of Connor Brown, and the hope Evander Kane doesn’t suffer any more setbacks (injuries or otherwise).
The blue line in particular will be key to the Oilers taking that next step this season. This is why Ekholm is so important, although overall it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts to a tweaking of their defensive strategy.
You figure the Oilers will also be helped, if Jack Campbell is indeed back to his form of previous seasons. As long as Stuart Skinner can be close to what he was during the 2022-23 campaign, the team will have one of the league’s better tandems between the pipes.
Want your voice heard? Join the Oil On Whyte team!
Big night in Edmonton
On Wednesday night, the Oilers sent a message to the rest of the NHL, with a resounding victory over the Flames. This was less ‘the battle of Alberta’ and more ‘the surrender of Calgary’.
Of particular note, Brown scored his first two goals of the preseason, in his third appearance. He was subsequently awarded the game’s first star.
McDavid showed he’s already rounding into regular season form, despite this also being just his third preseason appearance. He finished with one goal and three assists, to take home the game’s second star.
In addition, Kane had his first two points in preseason, courtesy of a goal and an assists. The other three goals came courtesy of Draisaitl, Lane Pederson and Raphael Lavoie.
An encouraging preseason
Certainly, the final scoreline of 7-2 represented a dominating win for the Oilers. The Flames did keep it close through 20 minutes with the score tied at 2-2, before being outplayed the rest of the way.
Admittedly this win does come with a significant asterisk however, in that the Flames were under-strength. As such, the Oilers should be dominating on nights like last night.
Regardless, the Oilers have improved as the preseason has progressed, with wins in four of their last five games and one left to play. They realise they may never be better equipped to finally win it all, and they’re taking the situation seriously.
Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft has been extremely impressed with the players during training camp. As per Gerry Moddejonge of the Edmonton Sun, he said:
"“I think training camp is realistically about building up your base, or laying a foundation. But most importantly, it’s about more than reps, or how many exhibition games or what your numbers are in pre-season. I think, for the core of our team, it’s about thinking well. I want our players thinking properly, having the right mindset heading into a regular season. And what I’ve seen so far with the level of commitment and work from all of our players, I think that’s the story of the preseason.”"
Now, it’s a case of the Oilers making sure their level of commitment and work-ethic continues to be a highlight throughout the 2023-24 season. The rest of the NHL has been put on warning, but ultimately it’s still on them to walk-the-walk as well as others have talked-the-talk on their behalf.