Oilers Ranked 5th-Worst Run NHL Team, “Squandering” Best Players

According to fans who read The Athletic and closely follow the Edmonton Oilers, the franchise didn’t rank terribly well among 32 teams in the NHL when it comes to how the organization is being run. In fact, it ranked No. 28 out of 32 teams, putting it fifth from the bottom.

Among the comments fans had about the way the club built its roster this season, phrases like, “The Oilers are going to waste having two of the top players in the league, in their primes” and “Trading for Duncan Keith without having Chicago retain any salary was an absolute show of incompetence by Ken Holland.” were used to describe this team’s offseason.

Why Such a Low Ranking?

The belief seems to be the Oilers are actually a deeper and stronger team than they were prior to this offseason. The additions of Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele, Derek Ryan and others have been well received. Even the addition of Tyson Barrie at a low-cost deal hasn’t been blasted by fans without a fair share of supporters to argue the other way. But, it’s the terms, the trades and the questionable gambles the Oilers are making that have fans worried.

Author Dom Luszczyszyn writes:

“I genuinely think the Oilers will be a strong team next season, but that’s in spite of management and not because of it. They were given a gift with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two of the league’s best players on two of the league’s best contracts. The front office is squandering that opportunity.”

source – ‘2021 NHL front office rankings: Fans weigh in on every team’ – Dom Luszczyszyn – The Athletic – 08/25/2021

Ironically, if you asked McDavid and Draisaitl, you might find that they are big proponents for the moves that were made. It hasn’t convinced the fan base and there is little patience for a lack of success in the four-year window that seems to be closing quickly now for this team.

What Are the Oilers Biggest Concerns?

The Keith deal still isn’t sitting right. Even though some have come around to the idea that he could be a good veteran presence who plays better than many fans — especially ones who didn’t closely watch his last season — think he will, the trade and how it went down is bothersome. Holland paid full price and no marketing or sales pitch from Holland about what Keith can offer will make a good portion of the fan base ok with the fact the GM overpaid.

Duncan Keith Blackhawks
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks, Nov. 9, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Of course, coming back with the same goaltending tandem has been questioned as well. Mike Smith’s 2020-21 campaign was terrific. But, can he duplicate it? There’s serious concern in that regard and despite him being 39 years old, the Oilers gave him a two-year deal.

Most fans like the addition of Hyman, but the Oilers had to offer up seven years to make it happen. Not long after, Holland also gave Cody Ceci four years. Hyman’s injury history worries many and Ceci’s term seems like a reach based on one rebound season in Pittsburgh. It felt obvious the Oilers scrambled to find a replacement for Adam Larsson.

What to Make of the Ranking

As The Athletic admits, their ranking system of fans “may not be the truest reflection of the entire hockey population, as it’s selectively biased toward those dedicated enough to subscribe (and likely have a more analytical slant).” Does this mean the opinions of their readers should discounted entirely? Probably not.

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They also argue that the results “should still be close enough to gauge the temperature of how strong each front office is” and there’s certainly enough evidence of vitriol on social media when it comes to the Oilers that a lot of fans aren’t happy with the way management, specifically Ken Holland built this roster.

Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland
Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Holland’s fingerprints are now all over this team. Until this summer, he was able to argue that he didn’t have the money needed to make the changes he’d have liked. He can no longer make that argument. It’s what he did with the money that has a lot of fans worried.

Until games are played, this is just a ranking and the opinion of a section of the fan base. And, as expected, opinions will vary. Personally, I like this roster. It’s not perfect, but few NHL rosters are. I like the addition of Keith, but I hated the acquisition cost. I like adding Hyman, but in three years, it’s hard to know how I’ll feel about it. I also think a goaltending solution will come at some point this season. I don’t know enough about what kind of player Ceci has turned himself into to say that this new deal is a terrible one or will be seen as value in two years. All that said, I get that fans are skeptical.

Do I think the Oilers should be ranked No. 28 out of 32 teams? No. Only Buffalo, San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver ranked below them. That teams like Anaheim and Chicago are above, or that Columbus is in the middle of the pack feels a bit off.