There was a time when more than two players scoring at least 40 goals in the same season for the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t uncommon, as it occurred five times in a span of six seasons between 1982-83 and 1987-88, when they became a dynasty. But this coming season will be 35 years since it last happened, when Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Craig Simpson all reached the 40-goal mark in 1987-88. From 1991-92 to 2016-17, the team did not have a single player with a 40-goal campaign, never mind multiple 40-goal scorers in one season.
That drought ended in 2017-18, when Connor McDavid tallied 41 times. In 2018-19, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl both topped 40 goals, a feat the dynamic duo repeated this past season. And now with the re-signing of Evander Kane, who on July 13 inked a four-year contract worth $20.5 million, the Oilers are in 2023-23 poised to have a hat-trick of 40-goal scorers for the first time since the run-and-gun 1980s.
Kane Can Score 40
While he has seven straight 20-plus goal campaigns and has twice hit the 30-goal mark, Kane has never scored 40 goals in a season over his 13-year NHL career. But he’s never played a full season with McDavid and Draisaitl, and in his brief Oilers tenure, he’s scored at a pace that would exceed 40 goals.
After joining the Oilers in January on a one-year contract, Kane scored 22 goals in 43 games, which projects to 42 goals over 82 games. Then in the playoffs, he potted 13 goals in 15 games, which projects to 71 goals over 82 games. While it’s fair to point out that both are small sample sizes, at the same time, when combining the regular season and playoffs, he played close to three-quarters of an 82-game NHL season, and maintained a 40-plus goal pace, scoring 35 times in 58 games overall.
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At that rate, the veteran left winger would hit 40 goals in 67 games and assuming he’s back on Edmonton’s top line with McDavid, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t score with the same frequency in 2022-23. If anything, Kane’s numbers should rise given a greater familiarity with the NHL’s reigning points leader.
Draisaitl & McDavid Will Score 40
While 40 goals is unchartered territory for the Kane, it’s pretty much a given that, barring injury, Draisaitl and McDavid will hit 40, if not 45 or 50 or more. Excluding the shortened 56-game schedule in 2020-21, the 26-year-old Draisaitl has three straight seasons topping 40 goals. Going back to the start of the 2018-19 season, he has 179 goals in 289 games for an average of 0.62 goals per game, which equates to 51 goals over 82 games.
Over the last five years, the 25-year-old McDavid has reached 40 goals in all three seasons he has played more than 64 games. Since the beginning of 2017-18, the Oilers captain has totalled 193 goals in 360 games, an average of 0.54 goals per game which works out to nearly 44 goals in 82 games.
Triple-40 Teams Rare in NHL
If Draisaitl, Kane, and McDavid all score 40 or more, history suggests that 2022-23 could be a season to remember in Edmonton. Of the five seasons in franchise history with at least three players scoring 40 times (1982-83 through 1985-86, as well as 1987-88), Edmonton reached the league championship series four times, won three Stanley Cups, had the most points in the regular season on three occasions, and finished atop their division every time.
While capturing Lord Stanley’s mug is the ultimate objective, to accomplish any of the above would represent a modern-day milestone for Edmonton’s NHL franchise. The 2022-23 season will mark 17 years since the Oilers last reached the Stanley Cup Final, 36 years both since they last received the President’s Trophy (awarded to the team with the most points in the regular season) and since they last finished first in their division.
Looking at the NHL at large, there have just been two teams in the last 25 seasons with three 40-goal scorers, the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning and 2021-22 Calgary Flames. Both teams had tremendous regular seasons – the Lightning won the President’s Trophy, the Flames topped the Pacific Division standings – but came up short in the postseason, Tampa Bay was stunningly swept in the opening round by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Calgary was knocked off 4-1 by the Oilers, incidentally. The last team with at least three 40-goal scorers that won a Stanley Cup was the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins with Mario Lemieux (44 goals), Joe Mullen (42), and Kevin Stevens (54).
A lineup of 40-goal producers doesn’t guarantee a championship, but it pretty much assures a lot of wins, and that’s just what’s expected of the Oilers this coming season. If nothing else, 40 goals apiece from Edmonton’s trio would be a pretty cool feat, and make for a lot of entertaining nights at Rogers Place in 2022-23.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.