The Edmonton Oilers’ recent rash of injuries has meant a lot of call-ups from their American Hockey League (AHL) farm team down in Bakersfield. With the early-season injury to goaltender Mike Smith back in October — and recent injuries to Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith, Slater Koekkoek, as well as Cody Ceci in COVID protocol — the Oilers have had to rely on AHL call-ups that have included goalie Stuart Skinner, as well as defensemen William Lagesson, Phillip Broberg, and Markus Niemeläinen.
You could even throw Ryan McLeod’s name in there, as he was called up in early November after Devin Shore went down with a lower-body injury. This injection of youth and inexperience into the Oilers’ lineup has some fans sitting back nervously wondering when the sky will fall.
After the team’s first lengthy losing streak of the season, all the Twitter general managers (GM) are demanding that Oilers coach Dave Tippett get fired along with GM Ken Holland. But is it as bad as it looks? Or is there a silver lining to all of this?
Oilers Prospects Helping the Team and Gaining Valuable Experience
If you’re a glass-half-full Oilers fan, you’ll realize that Skinner, Broberg and Niemeläinen have especially been gaining valuable experience and will be able to help the Oilers down the stretch and into the playoffs if they make it. It’s possible that Lagesson’s days with the club are numbered, especially after his agent, Allan Walsh, posted a message in support of his client on Twitter recently.
Walsh never mentioned that Oilers assistant coach Jim Playfair had notified Lagesson he wouldn’t be in the lineup for the Dec. 5 game against the Los Angeles Kings. But you have to respect Walsh’s passion for his client and the fact that realistically, Lagesson could use a fresh start somewhere else.
Thank Former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli for Restocking the AHL Talent Pool
The decade of darkness in Oil Country started when the team suspended their AHL farm team, the Edmonton Roadrunners, back in the summer of 2005. In the 2005-06 season, the organization was without a dedicated AHL franchise, and players were shared between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Iowa Stars. Oilers prospects were limited in their development, as they had to compete with prospects from the Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Stars for ice time.
As much as many Oilers fans didn’t like Chiarelli and couldn’t forgive him for trading Taylor Hall and signing Mikko Koskinen to an inflated contract, he deserves some kudos for his draft record. During Chiarelli’s tenure as Oilers GM, the team drafted Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, Connor McDavid, Markus Niemeläinen, Tyler Benson, Jesse Puljujärvi, Dmitri Samorukov, Stuart Skinner, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod and Evan Bouchard. Not bad.
Chiarelli and Oilers assistant general manager Keith Gretzky don’t get enough credit for drafting this group of Oilers. Albeit, the first-round picks like McDavid were easy. However, their draft record past the first round is looking pretty good these days, especially with more depth down on the farm to choose from.
AHL Coach Jay Woodcroft Making a Difference With Oilers Prospects
It’s been said that Bakersfield Condors coach Jay Woodcroft doesn’t just coach prospects but that he actually prepares them for the NHL. He may not get enough credit for the job he’s done with the Condors, as the big club in Edmonton has had to rely heavily on him and the players down in Bakersfield early this season. Some fans are petitioning for Woodcroft to take over as head coach of the Oilers, but how far Tippett takes the team this season could determine the fate of both men.
As players like Nurse, Shore, and Ceci return to the main club, the Oilers will have to make decisions on Broberg and Niemelainen. When Mike Smith returns to the net, it might be best to send Stuart Skinner down to Bakersfield for extra playing time. However, based on the performance of Edmonton’s young prospects, you can bet they’ll be ready to help the Oilers down the stretch if needed.
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.