As the 2010s come to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on how your hockey team has done in that decade. If you look at the Edmonton Oilers, you’re looking at a team that had golden draft opportunities aplenty which were mostly squandered away or just didn’t come to fruition.
The focus of this article is not drafting and trades, but about who was the best and worst of the decade for the Oilers. This will be a breakdown by position, so there will be six best, six worst and a couple of honorable mentions peppered in.
Best: Connor McDavid. This is a no brainer, and obviously the best place to start. Of the four first overall draft picks, this was the only one that is a complete win. McDavid is the fastest player in the game right now, with proof by his three consecutive fastest skater wins. Speed aside, he sees the game on a different level and has about the silkiest mitts as anyone that ever played.
Fun stat: Since 2010, McDavid has a plus-44. No other center has a plus rating, with a minimum of 20 games played.
Worst: Ryan Spooner. This guy ended up in Edmonton as a result of a couple of bad trades. He had a fairly small sample size as an Oiler, but that’s because he didn’t even come close to his expectations – a meager three points over 25 games with a minus-six. These numbers can be forgivable if you’re bringing intangibles like two-way hockey, physical play or leadership but Spooner didn’t have any of that going for him.
Honorable Mention: Leon Draisaitl. Elite goalscorer and the only guy on the team that can hang with McDavid. He plays on McDavid’s wing quite a bit, but he is a center, so the best I can do is give him an honorable mention.
Best: Taylor Hall. You may not want to see this name if you’re still grumpy about his trade to the New Jersey Devils, but he was the best in this position by a long shot. The Devils recently traded Hall to the Arizona Coyotes where he is joining an already talented squad. Hall’s 328 points are more than three times the guy just behind him, Milan Lucic, who had 104. Speaking of…
Worst: Milan Lucic. It may seem crazy to put the left wing with the second-most points as the worst, but Lucic was an expensive pick-up that played like a shadow of his glory days as a Boston Bruin. Lucic continues to struggle, which shows that Holland dumping his contract over the summer was a blessing. 50 of his 104 points came in his first season as an Oiler, so if you do the math, you can tell Years No. 2 and No. 3 were not good.
Best: Jordan Eberle. Only McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tallied more than Eberle’s 382 points in the 2010s. His best year came in his sophomore season when he racked up 34 goals and 42 assists. After a lackluster 2016-17 playoff performance, Eberle was shipped to the Islanders for Ryan Strome.
Worst: Nail Yakupov. You knew this was coming. In his first season, Yakupov’s numbers were promising for a rookie: 17 goals and 14 assists in the lockout-shortened 48-game season. Unfortunately, that was his career-high in goals and he didn’t make up for it with a ton of assists. Yakupov’s ugliest stat in his 252 games as an Oiler was his minus-88 plus/minus rating, though. I guess no one explained to Yakupov that there is a goal on each side of the rink.
Yakupov is currently playing in his second season in the KHL and, based on his 45 points in 76 games, it appears to be going well for him. Over the summer there was talk of Yakupov possibly attempting a return to the NHL but it sounds very unlikely he ends up ever playing for the Oilers again (from ‘Nail Yakupov back to NHL? He makes little sense for the Oilers, Edmonton Journal, 06/05/2019).
Honorable Mention: Zack Kassian. This guy goes hard every night and is on pace to shatter his career-best point season total.
This is a tough one. When a team only makes the playoffs one time in a decade, the defensemen are usually the scapegoats – justifiable or not. I’ll be selecting two defensemen instead of a left and right since that can change throughout the season, depending on pairings and injuries.
Best: Matt Benning. This fourth-year defenseman has a plus-32 to date. That’s impressive on any team, but especially one that, as I mentioned earlier, has only one playoff appearance in this decade. Benning offers some offensive upside but is largely a defense-first defenseman.
Best: Oscar Klefbom. Okay, okay. This is more of a “most talented” choice but it would be a shame not to include the defenseman that leads his team in games, points and power-play points. With those categories in mind, let’s just overlook his career minus-69, shall we?
Worst: Andrew Ference. This one pains me, I’ve always liked Ference, but his time as an Oiler is basically a stain on an overall great hockey career. He signed a four-year deal but only played two full seasons, then six games of a third season due to a hip injury. Over 147 games, Ference posted a minus-39 and his offensive contributions did not live up to expectations.
Worst: Andrej Sekera. Peter Chiarelli had good intentions when he picked up Sekera. He was the best free-agent defenseman that summer, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bad move. In fairness, Sekera’s first and second year were good – he played 161 games and put up 65 points. After that, he was nagged by injuries in his third and fourth seasons, playing only 60 games with 12 points and a minus-12. Sekera eventually had his contract bought out by Ken Holland.
Best: Cam Talbot. Was he great the whole time? Certainly not. But his 2016-17 season was the only fantastic performance by any Oiler goalie this decade. That season, Talbot had 73 starts with a 42-22-8 record, a save percentage of .919 (SV%) and a GAA of 2.39 with 7 shutouts.
Worst: Nikolai Khabibulin. From 2010 to 2013 (Remember, this list is just this decade) Khabibulin started 97 games and only managed 26 wins. Ouch. Granted this was an especially bad time for the Oilers, but the former Stanley Cup winner should’ve muscled out more than 26 wins in that span.