The Edmonton Oilers are a team that relies heavily on the production of two players. While the roster is deeper at forward than it has ever been in the last three decades and success in the regular season and playoffs will come from the group working together, there’s no denying that any significant injury to Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl would greatly affect this group.
While this article isn’t meant to jinx the organization, the team’s odd history of injuries compared to others in the league does pose an interesting question: Is this much deeper Oilers team deep enough to withstand the inevitable injuries that will come? And, is this still the case if they run a few players short because of salary cap issues?
Oilers Injury Situation Compared to Other Teams
Heading into this season, the roster is ready to go, even if the squad is a couple of men down compared to other NHL rosters. The only question marks are Kailer Yamamoto and Warren Foegele, both of whom are game-time decisions in the home opener on Wednesday. This is good news to open the 2022-23 campaign.
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The hope is that, like last season when few key players were out for extended periods of time, Edmonton can avoid major issues. Luck plays a huge role and if the Oilers are going to live up to the expectations many have placed on them this season, they’ll need a little.
Sports betting site Betway has completed a study into NHL injuries and among their findings, the Oilers are a team, who in each year since 2017 has dealt with more injuries than in the past. That’s all while injuries in the NHL have declined compared to the league as a whole and other sports. Their study shows that overall, NHL injuries have decreased by 14 percent in the last five seasons. The Oilers, however, have seen their injury count increase. The only other team in that same situation is the Chicago Blackhawks.
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While keeping in mind these injuries include everything, whether a sprained ankle, a small cut, or a serious injury requiring medical intervention, it is something the organization should be concerned with. It could be the speed at which the Oilers play and it could be the lack of a physical enforcer to give the stars a little breathing room, but it’s something the team will have to navigate as the season unfolds. And, with a shortened roster — something Ken Holland admitted they’ll likely have to run with at times — this is even more important.
The Oilers Depth Will Help
No team can really afford to lose their top stars and hope to win more than they lose. But, this isn’t the NBA where one, two, or three players can change the entire fortunes of a franchise. Hockey is a team game that requires 18-23 players to work together. This 2022-23 Oilers roster is as ready to deal with injuries as they’ve ever been.
The Oilers are incredibly deep down the middle with McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins playing in the top three spots. If they lose one of those three, they’ve got Ryan McLeod and guys like Derek Ryan ready to move over from the wing to the pivot spot. Newcomer Dylan Holloway has played center, as has Brad Malone, Mattias Janmark, and Devin Shore.
On the wing, Edmonton is loaded with talent, even if not as deep. All four lines will be dangerous and many of the players slotted in the top nine can really be deployed as regular top-six NHLers. What will be key for the Oilers is who can come up from Bakersfield if Edmonton runs into smaller issues and has to run with less than the NHL limit of 18 skaters. The NHL allows callups of AHL contracts for players under $850K when that occurs and it doesn’t count against the cap until the team can get back on track with their missing injured players. That may happen from time to time this season.
On the blue line, Edmonton is a bit more inexperienced but their depth is strong. In fact, there’s so much talent bubbling up from underneath, the Oilers felt they could afford to trade Dmitri Samorukov because he wasn’t likely to get a real shot at NHL duty this season.
In goal, Calvin Pickard will be worth watching. Should something happen with Jack Campbell or Stuart Skinner, Pickard becomes a critical piece to the Oilers’ success. He’s got loads of NHL experience and on some incredibly bad teams.
The Oilers Just Need to Stay Healthy
Oilers fans will be crossing their fingers that injuries stay away from this year’s team. If the number can drop instead of climb, that’s a good sign. And, if Edmonton can avoid significant man-games missed, they should be in great shape to compete for a Stanley Cup.
There are big expectations coming into this season. The stars will need to be the stars but the depth will need to step up and contribute on a nightly basis. The easiest way for everyone to play their part is for injuries to avoid this group as often as possible.