There is one major bugaboo the Edmonton Oilers must correct if they are to fulfil their potential.
When you can boast a generational talent in the ilk of Connor McDavid, the window to win will always be wide open and that’s exactly the case for the Edmonton Oilers.
Throw into the mix an elite superstar in Leon Draisaitl, then the Oilers should be legitimate contenders year in and year out.
However, ever since McDavid introduced himself to the NHL in explosive fashion, the Edmonton Oilers have consistently been guilty of not surrounding their prized asset and their face of the franchise with good enough weapons to win.
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The tide began to turn prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, though, with the organization undergoing somewhat of a sea change after bringing in legendary team builder Ken Holland as General Manager and the well-respected Dave Tippett as Head Coach.
Both Holland and Tippett began to steady a ship that was in dire need of some solid direction, and there was some improvement from a roster that has been routinely dragged along by their iconic leader.
Granted, after making the expanded 24-team Stanley Cup format inside The Bubble, the Oilers did blow their big chance to shine on the biggest of stages after laying down softly to the Chicago Blackhawks in the best-of-five Play-In Round.
It was huge missed opportunity for Edmonton, marking a fifth straight disappointment for McDavid who has a mere 17 postseason games to his name.
Perhaps sensing the need to pull something major out of the hat in order to appease his face of the franchise, Holland embarked on a determined mission this offseason and set about retooling a roster that isn’t really in their Captain’s image.
After selecting forward Dylan Holloway from the University of Wisconsin with the No.14 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Holland made some serious moves in Free Agency after signing center Kyle Turris to a team-friendly two-year, $3,300,000 contract and offensive defenseman and power play specialist Tyson Barrie to a one-year, $3.75 million deal.
Edmonton also signed forward Jesse Puljujarvi to a two-year extension in the hope that the No. 4 overall pick at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft can figure things out and finally live up to his lofty potential.
All three signings should greatly improve this Oilers roster and make them more competitive when it matters most, although the front office did commit one major and significant snafu.
They failed to upgrade their goaltending.
Despite Free Agency being dominated by a plethora of high-end goalies, including the likes of Hendrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby, the Edmonton Oilers refused to go big-game hunting and instead opted to re-sign veteran netminder Mike Smith to a one-year, $2 million contract.
No disrespect to Smith, who was 19-12-6 in 2019-20 with a .902 Save Percentage and a 2.95 Goals Against Average, but Edmonton missed out on the chance to add a real game-changer in net.
After all, you need elite goaltending in order to win in the NHL and I’m just not confident that Smith and Mikko Koskinen can get the job done for the Oilers.
Plus, with the Golden Knights improving considerably after snagging the prize of Free Agency in elite defenseman Alex Pietrangelo coupled with the Calgary Flames signing goalie Jacob Markstrom, the Oilers will have to navigate a much-tougher Pacific Division.
It isn’t too late, however, with maybe a couple of picks enough to tempt the Vegas Golden Knights to trade Marc-Andre Fleury and his $7 million salary in order to give themselves some major cap relief.
Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and a proven winner, would be a huge upgrade for Edmonton and they will need to try and pull the trigger on a trade for a goalie if they are to live up to expectations and make a deep run in the 2020-21 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This roster can start to compete now but they need to address their one major flaw between the pipes if they are to really give Connor McDavid his best possible chance at finally winning the greatest prize in all of sports.