Happy New Year friends! Welcome to 2018, a year that is more dire for the Edmonton Oilers than anyone expected. The Oilers sit outside of the playoffs as we approach the mid-way point of the season, a wildly disappointing reality after last year’s turn north.
The club very well could miss the dance, and if that happens we should expect many people to feel the consequences from that reality. As we enter a new year on the calendar, I’ve decided to get a little bold. Today, I’ll give you ten bold predictions for the Edmonton Oilers over the course of the next twelve months.
Let’s begin, shall we?
10.) The Edmonton Oilers will miss the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Sadly, this is no longer a truly ‘bold’ prediction. The Oilers had a brutal month of October and have never truly recovered. There are simply too many teams separating Edmonton from a playoff spot right now, and ground is nearly impossible to make up in the era of three point games. After such a promising 2016-17 season, the Oilers will take a massive step back this year and fail to make the playoffs for the eleventh time in twelve seasons. Talk about disappointing.
9.) The Oilers will fire Peter Chiarelli after the season: In response to missing the playoffs, the Oilers will fire Peter Chiarelli, removing him from the general manager’s chair in Edmonton. Chiarelli has done some good things in Edmonton, but has lost basically every single major trade he has taken part in. After getting fleeced in the Griffin Reinhart deal, the Taylor Hall deal and the Jordan Eberle deal, Chiarelli has almost no supporters in the fanbase as it currently stands. As the team tumbles down the standings largely due to his actions this summer, the target is firmly on his head. Chiarelli will pay the price after the season, as ownership tries to appease an extremely upset fanbase.
8.) The Oilers will name Ken Holland their new General Manager: In response to firing Chiarelli, the Oilers will replace him with Ken Holland, current GM of the Detroit Red Wings. Holland is in the final year of his contract with the Wings, and many believe he will leave the organization as they embark on a rebuild. Holland, a native of Vernon, British Columbia, also has had ties to Hockey Canada over the years, meaning Bob Nicholson knows him well.
Holland has won multiple Stanley Cups as a GM and was able to keep Detroit competitive far past their time. If he’s looking for a new challenge, I think he’d be a great fit in Edmonton and is a logical replacement for Chiarelli. Personally, I’d rather Paul Fenton, but Holland makes more sense based on Edmonton’s past.
7.) Todd McLellan WILL return as coach next season: Even though the GM will change in 2018, the head coach will not. Holland knows Todd McLellan from his time in Detroit, and I’m willing to bet he knows that Todd is a pretty good coach in this league. Holland will give McLellan the benefit of the doubt, allowing him to return for a fourth season, albeit on a short leash.
The one caveat? McLellan has to make some changes on his staff, specifically regarding special teams. More on that later.
6.) Patrick Maroon will be traded at the 2018 trade deadline: With Edmonton basically done by the deadline, Peter Chiarelli makes his final move as Oilers GM. That move is to trade Patrick Maroon, who gets sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for the Penguins first round pick this June. The Oilers also acquire a prospect from the Penguins in the deal, who push their chips to the middle looking for their third cup in as many years.
5.) Edmonton will actually win a late June trade involving a big name: In June of 2016, Edmonton traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. I’m a big fan of Larsson’s game and what he brings, but Edmonton badly lost that deal based on value. In June of 2017, the Oilers traded Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, a deal Edmonton got absolutely crushed in. In June of 2018, the Oilers will make another noteworthy trade, this time with Ken Holland at the helm.
In search of a scoring winger to play with Connor McDavid, Holland’s first trade with the Oilers will involve trading one of his surplus left-shot defenders for a top-six winger. It’ll be a deal that almost all of Oil Country agrees is a win for the home team.
4.) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be an Oiler on opening night next season: With the salary cap going up, Patrick Maroon moving on and the season he is having, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be safe in Edmonton. That’s right, the Nuge will not be the next good player shipped out of Edmonton for pennies on the dollar in a Chiarelli special, rather he will lineup as the second line center on opening night in October.
3.) Edmonton will add a goalie to challenge Cam Talbot: Cam Talbot has taken a step back this season, but he’s starting to find the range again. Regardless, he’ll be entering a contract year next October and will likely be looking for a raise that is too much for the Oilers to handle. That means the club will pull the plug on Laurent Brossoit this off-season and add a goaltender that can challenge Talbot for the starting job. Pending free agent Petr Mrazek is an option, and could come along with new GM Ken Holland if my bold predictions follow suit.
2.) Ralph Krueger returns to the Oiler bench: Oh yes, we are getting real bold here. Ralph Krueger’s itch to return to hockey is finally scratched in 2018, as he rejoins the Oilers as their associate head coach. Krueger will be in charge of Edmonton’s dismal powerplay and penalty kill units, and we’ll see an immediate improvement in both areas once Ralph takes over.
1.) The Oilers will sign Joe Thornton on July 1st: After another early playoff exit in San Jose, Thornton once again tests the free agent waters. After seeing Edmonton make positive changes, Thornton agrees to join forces with former coach Todd McLellan and signs a one-year deal with Edmonton on July 1.