As far as I’m concerned, you are never too old to have a Christmas list. The Edmonton Oilers will celebrate the holiday in a playoff spot thanks to Dallas’ 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday night, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
The Oilers are far from a lock for the playoffs, and it is very possible that they find a way to miss the dance for the second spring in a row. For Peter Chiarelli and pals, the Christmas holiday gives them a chance to write up a list of gifts they hope to receive this holiday season.
Ken Hitchcock is likely, based on his recent comments, going to want a say in this list as well. We’ll be basing this list off of things that can help this current group right now and in the future.
1. Health On Defense:
The Oilers’ transition game is a mess right now, but that is in large part due to the injuries to Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera. Edmonton’s best two defenders are currently on the shelf, and that has no doubt hurt this club. When both of them get back in, Edmonton is going to be a much better team and in much better shape.
The return of Kris Russell, which could come as early as Thursday night, is going to be a welcomed addition as well. Get healthy on D, and that group should be good enough to get you into the playoffs and hang around.
2. Third-Line Center:
Ironic that we are listing this after Ryan Strome was dealt for a player in Ryan Spooner that hasn’t helped one bit, huh? Yet here we are, still searching for that elusive third pivot behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The options are bound to expand as we get closer to the deadline, and I’d argue that this is a huge hole for Edmonton.
Addressing this would allow Kyle Brodziak to shift back to the fourth line and Jujhar Khaira to shift to wing. On top of that, it would also give Edmonton a legit chance to set up a third line that helps out a little bit with the scoring.
3. Mats Zuccarello:
The Oilers are in need of another top-six winger and will have to fill this spot prior to the deadline. If they want to make the playoffs, they really have no choice but to augment their current forward group via trade.
Zuccarello is a legit top-six option that brings both speed and skill to an Edmonton lineup that is sorely lacking it. A consistent 45-55 point producer, Zuccarello would come to Edmonton and be the club’s top left-shot winger right away. He checks off a lot of boxes for the club, and I can’t help but think he’s an ideal fit.
4. Kailer Yamamoto’s Progression in Bakersfield:
There are a number of players, maybe for the first time ever, on the Bakersfield roster that will make an impact with the Edmonton Oilers if all goes well. No one in that group is more important than young Yamamoto. The most gifted offensive player on that roster, Yamamoto could be a huge addition to the team not just now, but in the future as well.
He’s a smart player who always seems to be in the right place, and his offensive ability should make him a top-six winger when all is said and done. His progression on the farm is the most important story in California this holiday season for the Oil.
5. Special Teams:
Seriously, what the hell man?! There was no way the Oil’s special teams could be just as bad this season and although they are better, they still aren’t close to good enough. I’m of the belief that the issue is the lack of skill from the players more than anything (look at the second powerplay….yuck) but something has to change.
For Christmas, I have to think even average penalty killing and powerplay production is on the list for Chiarelli, Hitchcock, you, me, your favorite Rogers Place beer vendor and everyone in between.