The 2021-22 season has been a roller coaster for the Edmonton Oilers. After starting the season 16-5-0, they went on a massive slide that had many calling for head coach Dave Tippett’s job. However, they seemed to get back on track before dropping two straight in an embarrassing fashion after the All-Star Game, which led to Tippett’s dismissal.
Under their new bench boss, Jay Woodcroft, this highly skilled Oilers squad seems to be getting back on track. They began Woodcroft’s tenure with a 5-0-0 start. However, they were blown out by the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. The inconsistencies have been plentiful this season, and that has had to do with several players underperforming. With that being said, here are the three most disappointing Oilers at this point in the 2021-22 season.
It appeared the Oilers had struck gold late in the first round in the 2017 NHL Draft when, midway through the 2019-20 season, the team recalled Kailer Yamamoto, and he played like a blossoming star. Though he only got in 27 games with the big club that season, he put up 26 points and had many believing he was the offensive winger the team had lacked for so many years.
Unfortunately, his play has regressed a lot since then. Last season, he struggled immensely, recording just eight goals and 21 points in 52 games, along with just one assist in four playoff contests. Some chalked it up to an off-year and believed he would bounce back in 2021-22, but that hasn’t been the case. Despite being given a regular spot in the team’s top six, he has managed just 10 goals and 19 points in 50 games. At this point, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see general manager Ken Holland move on from him this summer.
After struggling with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019-20, Tyson Barrie bet on himself and signed a one-year deal with the Oilers. It paid off brilliantly for both sides, as he was a great fit on a lethal power play and led all NHL blueliners with 48 points in the shortened 56-game season.
Thanks to his great year, Holland chose to give him a three-year extension with a cap hit of $4.5 million. The deal didn’t catch a ton of criticism at the time, as fans believed his offence would continue and overshadow his questionable defensive play. That hasn’t been the case in 2021-22; his offence is lacking with just 20 points in 44 games, while his play in his own zone has been catastrophic at times. What seemed to be a reasonable contract headed into the season is now considered unmovable by some, though you can bet Holland will do everything in his power to try and deal the 30-year-old this offseason.
Perhaps the most heat Holland took this summer was failing to address the Oilers’ goaltending situation and instead brought back a 39-year-old Mike Smith on a two-year contract. In Holland’s defence, Smith was incredible the season before, though many questioned how his body would hold up given his age.
Those questions are proving to be warranted, as Smith has dealt with a multitude of injuries this season and has only played in 12 of the Oilers’ 50 games as a result. When he has been healthy, he has played quite poorly with 3.61 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .895 save percentage (SV%). To make matters even worse, Mikko Koskinen has struggled as well, with a 3.13 GAA and a .899 SV% in 28 games. The reason Smith is on this list over his partner is simply that most of the fanbase had higher expectations for him coming into the season.
Talented Oilers With Several Holes
Though their forward group often gets called out for lacking depth, that isn’t really the case anymore. Having two of the best players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl helps a ton, while players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi have provided solid secondary offence for most of the season. On top of that, the addition of Evander Kane has turned their top six into a very legitimate group.
The problem with the team instead lies on the blue line and in between the pipes. Losing Adam Larsson, though not Holland’s fault, has proven costly as the Oilers desperately need a shutdown defenceman on the right-hand side. Additionally, not bringing in a better goaltender was a major mistake. Given their lack of cap space, Holland will likely have to sit tight leading up to the trade deadline and hope some of his players, particularly the three above, can up their games as the postseason nears.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.