Oilers’ Roster Is Their Best Since 2005-06

The Edmonton Oilers made a splash in 2005-06 when they squeaked into the playoffs and bulldozed their way to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s impossible to forget Fernando Pisani’s shorthanded goal in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5, or when the Oil pushed the series to seven games. It’s also impossible to forget the depressing hike my dad made my family go on after the devastating loss. That trek was exhausting, but that’s another story for another time.

Related: Edmonton Oilers’ 2006 Stanley Cup Run – A Look Back

It’s easy to see how the depth, goaltending, and superstar talent shimmering on the 2019-20 roster compares to the 2005-06 Oilers, making it their best lineup since that rollercoaster of a season. This may not mean that the Oilers will make a run for the Cup – they need to make the postseason first – but they have a chance to make a splash as they did in 2005-06. 

Star Power

The 2005-06 Oilers had Chris Pronger, a noteworthy, high-end No. 1 defenseman who helped lead two other teams, the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers, to the Stanley Cup Final. He won his only Stanley Cup with the Ducks, less than a year after his infamous, annoying trade request. Let’s hope the Oilers’ current stars don’t follow this same ridiculous, tragic storyline. 

Meanwhile, the 2019-20 Oilers have—drum roll, please—Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl! Most would probably compare these two superstars to Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, but we’re comparing this team to 2005-06, and not the Oilers from the 1980s. Maybe we can talk about this in a few years.

But what makes this season with McDavid and Draisaitl different compared to past seasons? In 2019-20, just like 2005-06, the Oilers have depth scoring backing up their stars. 

In 2005-06, the Oilers had a total of 107 goals from four 20-goal scorers—Ryan Smyth (36), Raffi Torres (27), Shawn Horcoff (22), and Jarret Stoll (22). That same roster also had a total of 75 goals from six double-digit goal scorers—Ales Hemsky (19), Pisani (18), Ethan Moreau (11), Marc-Andre Bergeron (15), and Pronger (12).

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Up until the midway point of the Oilers’ 2019-20 season, depth scoring was a huge concern, but several players have since picked up their game. 

So far, the Oilers have 96 goals from three 20-goal scorers—Ryan Nugent Hopkins (21), McDavid (32), and Draisaitl (43). Expect James Neal to reach this mark by the end of the season. They also have 57 goals shared between four double-digit scorers—Kailer Yamamoto (11), Josh Archibald (12), Zack Kassian (15), and Neal (19).

But when you take Holland’s trade deadline additions into account, the Oilers have two more double-digit scorers: Andreas Athanasiou (11) and Tyler Ennis (15). When you add these to the double-digit totals, you get 83 goals from six players, which is similar to the 2005-06 roster. 

Here’s a little perspective:

The Oilers only had a total of 25 goals from double-digit scorers – Kassian (15) and Darnell Nurse (10) – in 2018-19, as well as a whopping total of 141 from four 20-plus goal scorers – Draisaitl (50), McDavid (41), Nugent-Hopkins (28), Alex Chiasson (22).

Related: Are the Oilers a Playoff Team?

What happens when everyone stands at the front of a boat? It sinks. The difference between last season, and 2005-06 and 2019-20 is that the Oilers have more players scoring across their roster, helping to keep the boat afloat. 

Solid Netminders

Before the trade deadline in 2005-06, three goaltenders split the season: Ty Conklin, Mike Morrison, and Jussi Markkanen. But the Oilers needed a shake-up in this area, which is exactly what Kevin Lowe traded for one day before the deadline.

He traded a first and third-round pick for Dwayne Roloson, who helped the Oilers go on a postseason tear. At the time, Roloson had a 6-17-1 record, which made the trade risky, especially when you have a first-round pick involved, but it paid off. 

Dwayne Roloson
Dwayne Roloson ranks fifth in Edmonton Oilers’ history for the most games played by a goaltender. (Kaz Andrews, Wikipedia Commons)

After Roloson joined the Oilers, he had a .927 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against-average and led the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final, where he sadly got injured in the first game against the Hurricanes. Let’s not go into what could’ve been.

Right now, both Oilers’ netminders have excelled, with Mike Smith taking the reins on the starting position, while Koskinen continues to hold up his end of the stick.

For example, Koskinen saved 42 shots in the Oilers 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars. Meanwhile, a few nights prior, against the Winnipeg Jets, Smith stopped 39 of 41 shots. 

Smith has a .903 SV% over 38 games, and Koskinen has a .914 SV% over 36 games. In 2005-06, it was easy to feel confident with Roloson in net, and I can’t help but have the same feeling when it comes to both Smith and Koskinen – most nights, anyway.

A Reliable Defensive Core

The Oilers haven’t had a reliable defensive core like this since 2005-06.

This season, the current roster has young blueliners leading the way. Five out of six defensemen are in their 20s (Oscar Klefbom, Matt Benning, Ethan Bear, Adam Larsson, Nurse) and only Kris Russell is in his 30s. They also have a No. 1, puck-moving defenseman in the now-injured Klefbom, but the depth on defence has enabled the franchise to keep the team fighting for a playoff spot despite No. 77’s absence. 

The Oilers have exciting up-and-comers who’ve played some games at the NHL level and have fans excited for the future in Caleb Jones and William Lagesson. And, the franchise has a couple of noteworthy prospects in Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg.

In 2005-06, the Oilers had veterans leading the way in Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek, Steve Staios, and Jason Smith, while Bergeron and Matt Greene showed promise as young defensemen. Four of these players were in their 30s!

Stanley Cup Final in 2006 raucous crowd at Rexall Place (Photo Credit: Kris Krug/Flickr)

The Oilers have definitely struggled ever since the 2006 Stanley Cup run, only making the playoffs once. But Edmonton’s roster has had time to develop over the last few seasons, giving them a real chance to clinch a playoff spot. And I wouldn’t put it past this roster to make a run for it!