With training camp set to begin later this month, Edmonton Oilers fans are gearing up for what should be a thrilling 2022-23 season. Though they have entered training camps the past few years with very solid rosters, it feels like this is the first time they are being viewed as serious Stanley Cup contenders thanks to an impressive showing in last year’s playoffs.
Despite the top talent on the Oilers’ roster, however, there are still some question marks entering the season. If those said question marks are able to work out in a positive manner, it will greatly improve the chances of Connor McDavid hoisting the greatest trophy in sports next spring. With that said, let’s take a look at the three players on this Oilers’ team who have plenty to prove in 2022-23.
This offseason has been yet another rocky one in what has been a strained relationship between the Edmonton Oilers and Jesse Puljujarvi. The two sides seemed to have mended things when the Finnish winger returned to the team for the 2020-21 season, but that may not entirely be the case.
Earlier this summer, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Puljujarvi would be traded after several reports stated both sides felt a change of scenery would be best. That was believed to have come as a result of a diminished role, as he really struggled over the second half of the season with just four goals and 11 points in 25 games.
Due to teams around the league not offering what the Oilers had hoped, however, he appears to be coming back for the 2022-23 season. Kudos to Puljujarvi himself, who has said nothing but the right things throughout this entire situation, and seems focused on nothing other than putting together a great season to help benefit his team. Expected to start on a line with Connor McDavid, he should be able to surpass last season’s totals of 14 goals and 36 points. If not, his detractors will only get louder. (from ‘David Staples: Jesse Puljujarvi saying all the right words about new season with Edmonton Oilers’, Edmonton Journal, 9/5/22).
The majority of the Oilers fanbase was thrilled when news broke that general manager Ken Holland had signed Jack Campbell to a five-year, $25 million deal, as it is not only an improvement in goal but simply a change from a tandem many had grown sick of. Despite the early excitement, however, Campbell has a ton of pressure on him heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
Prior to 2021-22, Campbell had never appeared in more than 31 games in a single season. The 11th pick from the 2010 Draft was a very late bloomer but really appeared to be coming into his own through the first half of last season. An ugly second half, however, has some hesitant on what goalie the Oilers will be getting in 2022-23.
Over that second half, Campbell posted an ugly 3.28 goals against average (GAA) along with a .894 save percentage (SV%). He certainly isn’t as bad as those numbers would suggest, but he likely isn’t as good as his 2.30 GAA and .925 SV% through the first half had some believing, either. At this point in time, this signing seems like a pretty big risk from Holland, though Campbell can dispel any concern with a strong 2022-23 campaign.
For a number of years now, Darnell Nurse has been a very polarizing player amongst Oilers fans. Through the eyes of supporters, the 27-year-old is a minute-munching, top-pairing defenseman who has the ability to produce offense from the point. To detractors, he is a second-pairing defenseman at best, one who is prone to big mistakes at inopportune times and doesn’t defend particularly well.
Regardless of your own personal thoughts on Nurse, it can’t be denied that his polarizing status won’t become even more of a talking point moving forward given that his extension will kick in this season. That extension, one that has been considered to be one of the worst contracts in the league by The Athletic, will see Nurse carry a cap hit of $9.25 million for the next eight seasons (from ‘Dom Luszczyszyn: NHL’s 10 worst contracts, 2022 edition: Tyler Seguin, Seth Jones and others’, The Athletic, 7/26/22).
Given his extremely lucrative deal, Nurse may be facing more pressure than any other player on this Oilers roster moving forward. He will have the eyes of many on him each and every time he is on the ice, several of which will be ready to pounce if he makes a mistake. However, he also has the opportunity to win over several of those individuals if he is able to consistently play to the level he has, at times, proven he is capable of.
Plenty to Be Excited About
While things may seem concerning given what has been discussed with the three above, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic when it comes to the Oilers this season. With two of the world’s top players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, they should have no problem being one of the league’s top teams for the entirety of the regular season. If they are able to get major contributions from the three above, they could be in store for an even lengthier playoff run than this past year.