One year ago today, I laid out ten predictions for the Edmonton Oilers in the coming year. 365 days have come and gone, and it is time to flip the calendar to a new year and a new decade. How did my predictions go? Did I get any right? Let’s take a look back, shall we?
1.) Oilers Miss The Playoffs: Edmonton is now falling back from the pack after a great start to the Ken Hitchcock era. The club will be without D Oscar Klefbom until February and simply doesn’t have the scoring depth to go with their big guns up front. The Oilers aren’t good enough to make up ground and as a result will sit the spring tournament out for the 12th time in 13 years.
Correct: The Oilers had just traded for Brandon Manning and Alex Petrovic, but neither move could save the banged up defense. The Oilers made up a little ground heading towards the trade deadline, but it was far too little, too late. Outside of the injuries, this paragraph is eerily similiar to what we are witnessing right now. Here’s hoping 2020 will be a different year for the Oilers.
2.) Oilers Fire Chiarelli: After missing the playoffs for the third time in four years with Connor McDavid, there is no where to hide for Peter Chiarelli. The President of Hockey Operations and GM who botched this era so badly will finally get his walking papers in February prior to the deadline when the Oil officially fall too far back in the playoff chase.
Correct: BOOM! Hit this one right on the head, as Chiarelli was not only fired, but got his walking papers before the deadline too. The Chiarelli era was a disaster, and the Oilers had seen enough last January. The club is still recovering from the mess he created, and quite frankly he should never be a GM in this league again.
3.) Darnell Nurse Gets Traded: The first thing a new GM is going to want to do is add to the forward ranks. The Oilers have a plethora of good but not great defenders on this roster. See where I’m going here? Nurse’s potential far exceeds his current performance, and the Oilers could pounce on that via trade. They do at the draft, moving Nurse for a scoring winger to join the undermanned top-six.
Wrong: The Oilers kept Nurse, but the returns have been mixed. After a solid start to the season, Nurse has been prone to serious defensive mistakes and has been bleeding both chances and goals against. The way he is playing right now, he is not a $6,000,000 a year defenseman. I think it is possible Holland moves him in the summertime.
Nurse survived 2019, which comes as a slight surprise to me.
4.) Condors Win Playoff Round: For the first time in their AHL history, the Bakersfield Condors will make the playoffs. Led by future Oilers Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Ethan Bear and Cameron Hebig, the Condors win their first ever playoff series before falling in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Correct: The Condors not only made the playoffs, but they won the Pacific Division. They also won their first ever playoff round, eliminating the Colorado Eagles before falling to San Diego in the second round. Without doubt, it was a highly successful season down on the farm.
5.) Ken Hitchcock Doesn’t Return as Coach: Hitch, unable to get the Oilers into the playoffs, elects to not return for a first full season behind the bench in Edmonton. Instead, I believe Hitch takes a front office job with the club as part of a new look Hockey Ops department.
Correct: Ken Holland’s first decision as GM was to move on from Hitchcock, eventually hiring Dave Tippett. Hitch has stayed on as an advisor and I believe played a big role in getting Tippett to Edmonton. Correct on both fronts here, although I will say I’m a little surprised. I thought Holland might keep Hitch around.
6.) Only Two Survive: When the dust settles, only two people involved on the hockey side will survive in management. Bob Nicholson will remain with the club, along with Assistant GM Keith Gretzky. Both will stay in their current roles. That means so long Scott Howson, Craig MacTavish, Bob Green, Peter Chiarelli and Duane Sutter.
50/50: I was right about Chiarelli, Sutter and MacTavish, but wrong on Green and Howson. Chiarelli and Sutter were fired, while MacTavish “resigned” to accept a job in the KHL. Keith Gretzky, as expected, has remained with the organization and I would wager is next in line to be GM when Holland retires.
7.) Mike Futa For GM: The Oil go outside the organization once again, this time bringing in Mike Futa from the Kings organization to become the General Manager.
Wrong: I’m not even sure the Oilers really looked at Futa. They did go outside the organization, but elected to go with Holland over someone like Futa or Bill Guerin. Was it the right decision? Only time will tell.
8.) McDavid Hits 115: It’ll be another career year for McDavid, who improves his career-high point total by eight this season. He’ll finish with 115 points, coming in second in the NHL behind Nikita Kucherov in the Art Ross race.
Correct: McDavid finished with a career-high 116 points (41-75-116), coming in second for the Art Ross Trophy. Nikita Kucherov scored 128 points on his way to claiming the award.
9.) Hard Sell: Keith Gretzky, as interim GM, makes a number of deadline moves for the Oilers as a seller. The club moves Zack Kassian (Pittsburgh), Matt Benning (New York Rangers), Tobias Rieder (Boston) and Cam Talbot (Philadelphia) in the days leading up to the deadline.
95% Wrong: Okay, I’m a little proud of myself for calling Talbot to the Flyers, which happened in February. Other than that, the club elected to keep Kassian, Rieder and Benning as “self-rentals”. Kassian has become a key piece for the club since then, but could be moved at the upcoming deadline if the Oilers fall out of contention.
10.) Oilers Sign Myers: The Oilers, in search of another top-four D after dealing Darnell Nurse for a winger, finally get their hands on big Tyler Myers. The Oil sign the veteran defender on July 1st, using the cap space generated from Kassian and Talbot’s deadline departures.
Wrong: Myers signed an absurd contract with the Canucks to take a top four role with the divisional rival. The Canucks currently sit in a playoff spot, however, so perhaps laughing at that contract isn’t my smartest decision. Still, there is no way I’d have been happy with Edmonton inking Myers to that kind of deal. It was smart to stay away.