Oilers Have To Look at All Options To Save Season

After a promising start to the 2021-22 NHL campaign, the Edmonton Oilers’ season has taken a turn for the worst in December, one they may not fully recover from. After being embarrassed by the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice on Dec. 14 for their sixth consecutive loss (and fifth in a row at home), you have to wonder how they’re going to turn this ship around.

Edmonton Oilers fans
Edmonton Oilers fans react after Detroit Red Wings score a goal during the third period NHL action in Edmonton on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Fans are starting to throw jerseys on the ice again as the Oilers suffer their worst losing streak since 2018. Now with news that head coach Dave Tippett is in Covid protocol along with centre Ryan McLeod, perhaps the team has hit rock bottom in the 2021-22 season.

It’s been a tough stretch in Oil Country as the team has weathered injuries to heart and soul player Zach Hyman, as well Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith and others. But other teams have had to weather the same, so Edmonton can’t use this as an excuse for slumping so badly.

Is a Healthy Oilers Team Enough?

Oilers’ number one goaltender Mike Smith is showing signs that he’s ready to return from injury. With his ability to pass the puck, as well as his leadership in the dressing room, he could bring the spark the team needs to turn things around. Keith’s return from injury will also help. But maybe it’s time for general manager Ken Holland to make a big move.

Related: Oilers’ Ken Holland Has At Least 3 Options to Upgrade Team

Much has been written about the Oilers’ need for a third-line centre, another veteran defenceman and an upgrade in net. Should Holland pull the trigger on a deal to ship out underachieving forward Kailer Yamamoto, underutilized forward Tyler Benson or backup Mikko Koskinen? Based on Holland’s history, he may sit back and be patient. But for how long? He may not have the luxury of time to wait until the trade deadline to make the moves needed. With so many teams still in contention, it may prove difficult to make a trade, as teams want to hang on to their top players for as long as they can. There’s also the salary cap ceiling that the Oilers are dangerously close to. They might have to trade draft picks and prospects to get other teams to retain salary on players who could help out Edmonton right now.

Could the Oilers Follow the Canucks’ Lead With a Huge Shake-up?

If they can’t stop the bleeding soon, the Oilers may have no choice but to make sweeping changes in their organization. After the Vancouver Canucks’ recent shake-up, including hiring Bruce Boudreau as head coach, the Canucks have gone on a five-game winning streak and are now only three points behind the Oilers (who have three games in hand). Could the Oilers benefit from a mid-season change of their own behind the bench or even higher up in the front office? That’s a question that Oilers owner Daryl Katz might be asking himself.

What Would You Do if You Were Katz?

One has to wonder what Katz is thinking. After receiving the good news that his team is now worth over $1 billion and has climbed into the Forbes’ top ten most valuable NHL franchises, he has to be getting nervous about the on-ice performance of his team. However, it’s likely that nothing will happen until after the holiday break.

Gary Bettman and Daryl Katz
Gary Bettman and Daryl Katz (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

But if the slide continues, will Katz make sweeping moves similar to the Canucks? Burning another year of McDavid’s and Draisaitl’s contracts without significant results will be a tough pill to swallow. The team needs to win now while both players are in their prime. If the current slump is actually a true reflection of who the Oilers really are, then they may need to turn to a coach like Jay Woodcroft, currently leading the Oilers’ farm team in Bakersfield, to get the season back on track. If it comes to changing the GM, they might want to interview former Montreal assistant GM Scott Mellanby or current ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes.

The Upcoming Road Trip Might Be Just What the Dr. Ordered

Starting on Dec. 22, the Oilers play their next eight games on the road while the World Junior Championship takes over Rogers Place. This road trip will most likely determine what moves Holland or possibly Katz will make. Many longtime fans of the team are preaching patience, as the players might be the only ones who can turn the season around. What would you do if you owned the team or were in Ken Holland’s shoes? Would you clean house mid-season like the Canucks? Or practice a bit more patience? You’re welcome to leave your comments below.

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