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Why 2019-20 could be a memorable season for the Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers are a name venerated in Alberta and are the biggest, most obsessively supported sports team in the city. Stanley Cup champions on five occasions but the last of those coming in 1990, there is a hunger within Edmonton to see their beloved team return to the pinnacle of the game.

Well, the fans may not have to wait too much longer. With a new state-of-the-art arena in place (Rogers Place to be exact) and a team with one of the best players in the league, the Oilers could be close to making a proper run for the Stanley Cup. There are still some question marks but let’s assess why there is growing optimism that this team could be about to bring the good times back to Edmonton.

“I wish I could play with him”

When Wayne Gretzky says that about a player, you know he must be something special and, indeed, in Connor McDavid, the Oilers have one of the most prestigious talents in the world of ice hockey. The 2015 first overall pick has so much ability it is almost frightening.

Speaking to Sportsnet in 2016, Gretzky had high praise for the then 19-year-old McDavid.

“But I don’t think there’s any question that Connor’s the best 19-year-old hockey player I’ve ever seen and I saw (Mark) Messier, I saw Lemieux, I saw Lafleur,” Gretzky said Monday in an interview to promote his new book, 99: Stories of the Game.

“This kid is special.”

He certainly was but the Oilers still couldn’t transform themselves instantly, finishing bottom of the Western Conference in McDavid’s first season with the team.

Steady progress

The 2016-17 season saw a vast improvement with the Oilers finishing second in the Pacific Division before losing to Anaheim in the second round. McDavid had 100 points and was clearly showing what all the hype was about.

The team would then miss the playoffs in both of the next two campaigns sparking talks of a false dawn but, in reality, the Oilers were having to make some adjustments to their roster to find a better balance. This season they may well have found it.

 

Back with a bang?

The Oilers are currently at +1800 in NHL betting markets which suggests they have a good chance at getting a deep play-off run together as the partnership between Leon Draisaitl and McDavid is blossoming with the players having 53 and 52 points each after 32 games this season.

They will need to stay healthy, but if they do there are not many defences that can live with this pairing. The Edmonton blue-line is not as strong as it could be, but James Neal and Zack Kassian have contributed well to back up the star men.

 

Goaltending is one area that still has some question marks with Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen performing to a good level but neither can be described as elite. They will need to play above themselves if they are to have success in the post-season and that will be a challenge but with McDavid and Draisaitl on fire, this could still be a memorable campaign in Edmonton.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com