NHL preview: Edmonton Oilers are good, and everyone knows it now
Heightened expectations weigh on young squad like never before
This is part one of our series of season previews for the seven Canadian-based NHL teams.
2016-17 record: : 47-26-9 (103 points), 2nd out of 7 in Pacific Division, eliminated by Anaheim in 7 games in 2nd round of playoffs
Key off-season additions: F Ryan Strome, F Jussi Jokinen
Key off-season subtractions: F Jordan Eberle
Probability of winning the Cup*: 11.11%
Probability of winning division*: 35.71%
*derived from betting odds posted by Bodog
Last season's story
Led by a healthy Connor McDavid and a MVP season, the Edmonton Oilers ended a 10-year post-season drought to come within one win of reaching the Western Conference Final. Needless to say, expectations will be higher this season after Edmonton locked up their dynamic duo long-term by extending both McDavid and playoff revelation Leon Draisaitl over the summer. Goalie Cam Talbot also proved to be dependable, racking up 42 wins in a league-leading 73 starts. The young team proved that the seemingly perpetual rebuild has led to a solid foundation.
In order to re-sign those star players, the Oilers had to free up some cap space. Edmonton sent its 2008 1st-round pick, Jordan Eberle and his $6 million salary, to the New York Islanders in exchange for the more affordable Ryan Strome. Left wing Benoit Pouliot had the final two years of his contract bought out, but things were otherwise fairly quiet. One notable addition is veteran forward Jussi Jokinen, who could prove to be a bargain at just $1.1 million US for one year.
Edmonton flourishes despite the added pressure and continues to make strides under Todd McLellan. In his second season coaching the Oilers, McLellan helped the team finish eighth in goals and goals-against, and built the fifth-best power play in the League. Edmonton will have no issue making a deep playoff run if McDavid can come close to the production that won him the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer with 100 points.
The stress of high expectations rattles the young squad as it appeared to in the second round of the playoffs when Edmonton lost to the Anaheim Ducks in seven games after going up 2-0 early in the series. Injuries to either McDavid or Talbot could also spell disaster. Draisaitl may arguably be able to take over in the captain's absence but workhorse Talbot still doesn't have a backup (Laurent Brossoit) who could realistically take the reins if needed.