There are never any excuses in hockey, at least there shouldn’t be. That’s especially true when it comes to injuries. They are inevitable to each NHL team every season. The Edmonton Oilers roster is currently looking a bit like a M*A*S*H* unit as forwards Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod, and Warren Foegle are all on the injured reserve list. What looks like misfortune to some represents opportunity to depth players such as James Hamblin, Brad Malone, and Tyler Benson. Even Dylan Holloway has recently benefited from the Oilers’ rash of injuries as he is getting more ice time, and beginning to prove that he belongs with the team.
Needless to say, Holloway may still be sent down to the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Bakersfield once some of the players return from injury. However, if he keeps playing like he has in recent games against the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers, he could be here to stay.
Oilers Establishing a Next-Man-Up Culture
As Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft recently put it, “That’s the type of culture we’re trying to build here. It’s a next-man-up kind of philosophy.” The more players that get called up from Bakersfield, the more experience they will gain at the NHL level, and this could serve Edmonton well once the calendar hits April, May and possibly June. The team was hamstrung roster wise by the salary cap, and having more reserve players with favourable contracts can only help.
Who Will Emerge as a Bona Fide NHLer for the Oilers?
When you examine the Oilers’ depth chart, you have to believe that depth players such as Holloway, Klim Kostin, and possibly even Benson could contribute in a significant way. The Oilers are already benefiting from their farm system on defense with both Philip Broberg and Markus Niemelainen seeing significant ice time.
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You have to believe that Oilers general manager Ken Holland along with assistant general managers Brad Holland and Keith Gretzky are keeping their fingers crossed that the recent parade to the injured reserve list will slow to a trickle.
Oilers’ Trade Deadline Options
The Oilers are hoping beyond hope that Kane will be able to return to form when he comes back from the scary wrist injury he suffered against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Oilers are hoping his rehab goes well so Kane can pick up where he left off when he helped the team drive to the Western Conference finals last season. As the 2022-23 NHL season progresses and we get closer to the trade deadline, the organization will be keeping an eye on Kane’s recovery and possibly looking at moving some players with higher salaries to fill holes where needed as the playoffs inch closer.
Fan favourite Jesse Puljujarvi, as well as offensive defenceman Tyson Barrie, could possibly be on the move this year. Puljujarvi is on a one-year, $3 million contract and could be on his way out, while Barrie might prove to be a good trade chip for the Oilers as Evan Bouchard continues to emerge as the team’s best offensive defenceman option and power-play specialist.
Oilers’ Depth Down the Stretch Could Help The Team in the Long Run
The Oilers are definitely looking for more scoring from their depth players to take some of the pressure off of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In a way they’re looking for the next Fernando Pisani, who scored 14 goals during the Oilers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Even if one of the young guns steps up and contributes like the Oilers’ kid line of Joe Murphy, Martin Gelinas, and Adam Graves did the last time the Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1990, you have to be sure that management and fans would be happy with that. There might even be a Petr Klima somewhere on the squad—a guy who can come out of nowhere to deliver a big goal in a big moment.
If you’re an Oilers fan, you can either look at the recent injuries as the glass half-empty or half-full. Time will tell as the Oilers try and climb the standings in the Pacific Division and the NHL’s Western Conference.
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.