Edmonton Oilers in for another tough year

A weekly sports column from the 100 Mile Free Press

There isn’t a more interesting team this upcoming NHL season than the Edmonton Oilers.

They have new nameplates in the front office, made some player trades and still have the best young player in the game. But the team is still in shambles and if anyone is being honest, no one expects them to make it to the playoffs. Hell, even Connor McDavid doesn’t think so, or at least deflected the question when asked by the press while at the annual BioSteel camp in Toronto on Aug. 26.

The 22-year-old was also pretty noncommital on his status with the Oilers, despite going on the record saying he wouldn’t have signed an eight-year contract with them if he wasn’t happy to be there.

What else would he say though? A public plea for a trade? Unlikely. McDavid is a lot like NHL’s best player, Sidney Crosby, in that they are both “company men.”

McDavid is also still rehabbing from a knee injury from the end of last season. He also didn’t seem so stoked when asked about the Oilers roster moves during the same press conference.

Some of those moves included trading Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames for James Neal and signing Alex Chiasson, Tomas Jurco, Mike Smith and Markus Granlund. Some rookies were also signed, as well as some long-term projects such as Jesse Puljujärvi and Jujhar Khaira were offered qualifying offers.

None of these moves really strengthen the core of the team, which seems worse every season.

Dave Tippett is also the team’s new coach. McDavid said he has had dinner with the coach, but made it sound more like a blind date than a meeting between the arguably two key pieces in Edmonton’s puzzle.

Tippett, by all accounts, is a good coach. His 14-year head coaching record is 553-413-28-120 in 1,114 games. He’s brought his team to the playoffs eight times. And like McDavid, he’s a bit of a company man. His first six years as a coach was with the Dallas Stars. The last eight years were with the Arizona Coyotes.

Another integral piece is Ken Holland, the new general manager of the franchise.

Holland was the general manager for the Detroit Red Wings from 1997 until the end of last season when the legendary Steve Yzerman was brought back to take his position.

Now with the Oilers, Holland – a legend in his own right – brings quality leadership and success (the Red Wings won the Central Division ten times, the Conference title five times, the President’s Trophy three times, and the Stanley Cup three times, as well as winning the most regular-season (789) and post-season games (118) than any other NHL team, under his leadership) to Edmonton.

However, even his staunchest supporters will acknowledge he’s had trouble in the salary cap era.

The Oilers are in for a tough, but interesting year.

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