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A new journey begins tonight. A new era of Edmonton Oilers hockey will commence at Rogers Place when the club opens the 2019-20 regular season against the Vancouver Canucks. For GM Ken Holland and Head Coach Dave Tippett, tonight marks the beginning of what they hope is a long and successful stint in Northern Alberta.
For fans of this organization, and for the players who have endured multiple lost winters, this is the beginning of what hopefully is the long awaited turnaround. It won’t be easy, and it most certainly will not happen overnight. The Oilers are not a threat to win the Stanley Cup this season, that is fact.
They also aren’t a rebuilding club, in the words of Holland. This is a team that is expected to play meaningful games late into the season. It is a team that is expect to fight for the playoffs. The goal, while developing players in both Edmonton and Bakersfield, is to make the playoffs in April.
It will be a grind, and quite honestly it might not be a goal the organization can obtain.
What is a realistic target for this club? What would constitute a success in 2019-20?
A Line In The Sand:
You may disagree, but this observer believes the Edmonton Oilers are wholly capable of reaching the 85 point plateau. That would keep them in the playoff race for a majority of the season, and would represent a return to respectability.
Hitting 85 points would show teams around the league that the Oilers are in fact trending in the right direction, and that there is still immense potential with this core group. Anything less than 85 points should be looked at as a total failure. Unless there are injuries to key contributors, this group must remain in the playoff mix.
85 points shouldn’t be looked at as out of reach. The Oilers have a great core led by the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They’ve also improved their depth up front, moved on from Milan Lucic and should have an improved penalty kill.
If the penalty kill reaches average levels and the club can cut down on the goals against, they’ll be respectable.
85 points is my line in the sand. It’s a mark the Oilers absolutely should hit in the coming season.
Goals Along The Way:
Ken Holland told the Edmonton media on Tuesday that he wants his team to compete for the playoffs. Getting to, or even surpassing, the line in the sand points wise should achieve that goal. There are plenty of other things the Oilers can accomplish this season as well.
Chief among them is developing their prospects. Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Kailer Yamamoto, Caleb Jones and Evan Bouchard are all starting the season in Bakersfield. Each one of those players should, at worst, be pushing for a recall during the season. In an ideal world, Jay Woodcroft can push two or three of them up to Edmonton during the season for full-time work.
Finding cheap, effective options will be key to Edmonton’s future success. If the club misses the playoffs but finds out that Benson, Marody and Jones can all handle NHL work, then the season will have its positive points.
Fixing one of the worst penalty kills in the NHL over the last five seasons is a huge task. Tippett, known as a defensive whiz, should be able to help in this area. Even if Edmonton fails to make the postseason, fixing the PK will go a long way towards turning this thing around.
The start of a new coach’s tenure can always be rocky. You have a full roster trying to learn a system for the first time, it can be a process. For the Oilers, adapting to the system and improving as the season goes along should be an easy goal. If Tippett’s breakouts, defensive structure and attack can take hold, the Oilers should be better off in the long run.
Quite frankly, I’m sick of talking about what is going to happen. It’s time to finally get back to hockey and play the games. This could be another long, dark winter in Edmonton. That’s an unfortunate fact as we embark on a new journey.
Even someone like myself, accustomed to the seemingly constant beat-downs, can’t help but be excited for the dawn of a new season and a new era. That’s the beauty of October.
The Oilers, led by Holland and Tippett, will get a chance to prove everyone wrong starting tonight. Not a single expert believes this is a playoff team. Most fans anticipate another dark season. The Edmonton Oilers are an afterthought. If they need a chip on their shoulder, there it is.
The goals are set, the line in the sand has been determined. If the Oilers are going to deem this season successful, they’ll need to eclipse 85 points and develop some internal talent.
Can they do it? The answer will be determined over the next 82 games.