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Ryan Dadoun

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What Went Wrong: EDM, NYI

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Our annual What Went Wrong series examines the teams that failed to make the playoffs. Over the coming weeks, we’ll go through them team-by-team, discuss how their season went and then highlight the players that either significantly underperformed in 2017-18 or that they’ll need more from going forward.

 

Be sure to check out part one, part two, part three, and part four if you haven’t already done so.

 

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EDMONTON OILERS

 

The Oilers got within one game of the Western Conference Final in 2017 and their future looked brighter than ever with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl leading the charge.  What 2017-18 exposed though was that, right now at least, there isn’t much to the Oilers beyond that duo.

 

Trading away Taylor Hall in the summer of 2016 and Jordan Eberle in the summer of 2017 seems to have taken its toll as the Oilers only had one player even reach the 35-point milestone beyond McDavid and Draisaitl with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins finishing with 48 points.  Consequently, Edmonton finished the season in 20th place in goals per game, which is baffling for a team that had the Art Ross winner.

 

When it came to the Oilers blueline, there were also some injuries that held them back.  Oscar Klefbom, who led Edmonton in total minutes in 2016-17, was limited to 66 games.  Andrej Sekera, who averaged 21:29 minutes per contest in 2016-17, played in just 36 contests and only averaged 16:20 minutes when he was able to play.  Adam Larsson, who averaged 20:09 minutes per contest in 2016-17, participated in 63 contests.  That’s a total of 81 games missed among their top three defensemen.

 

That made Cam Talbot’s job harder, which was another big problem.  We’ll go into more detail about him when focusing on specific players, but while he was one of the big reasons for the Oilers’ success in 2016-17, he was inconsistent at best in 2017-18 and that seriously hurt Edmonton.

 

Edmonton looked troubled right from the start, opening with a 1-4-0 record and continuing to fade to 3-7-1 through Nov. 1.  The Oilers had period after that where they treaded water, but they never looked particularly impressive until finally the bottom fell out with a six-game losing streak from Feb. 7-17 that left the Oilers with a 23-30-4 record.  They finished at 36-40-6.

 

Andrej Sekera – This is of course a case of a player that disappointed for reasons beyond his control.  He suffered a torn ACL in the 2017 playoffs and underwent surgery in May as a result.  That kept him out at the start of the season and to make matters worse, he then missed additional time in 2017-18 due to a facial injury and a foot injury before his campaign ended when he tweaked his surgically repaired knee.  The Oilers have to hope that a summer to rest his knee will do him some good as they need him to go back to being one of their top defensemen next season.

 

Cam TalbotCam Talbot doesn’t get enough credit for his role in the Oilers’ 2016-17 success.  Even with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl playing like superstars, the Oilers might not have made the 2017 playoffs with Talbot posting a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage over a staggering 73 starts.  For evidence of that, please see 2017-18 where McDavid and Draisaitl were once again explosive, but Talbot wasn’t nearly as effective.  As mentioned above, the Oilers did have more than their fair share of defensive injuries in 2017-1, so Talbot’s job certainly wasn’t an easy one.  Still, he wasn’t reliable in 2017-18 with his 31-31-3 record, 3.02 GAA, and .908 save percentage in 67 starts and the Oilers need him to be an above average starter going forward if they are to bounce back.

 

Milan Lucic – In Milan Lucic’s final 46 games of 2017-18, he only found the back of the net once.  He’s paid to be physical, but there also needs to be an offensive aspect of his game and that was largely absent in the second half of the 2017-18 campaign.  To say that the Oilers are hoping that he’ll rebound would be a huge understatement.  There are still five seasons left in Lucic’s seven-year, $42 million contract.  They absolutely must get more out of him going forward.

 

Ryan Strome – When the Oilers acquired Ryan Strome straight up for Jordan Eberle in the summer of 2017, they did so in part to save cap space.  However, they were also hoping that Strome still had some untapped offensive upside.  The 24-year-old (he’ll turn 25 in July) didn’t show that in 2017-18 though as he was limited to 13 goals and 34 points in 82 games.  He is a former fifth overall pick that recorded 50 points back in 2014-15 though, so there is some hope for a breakout here.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

After finishing a mere point shy of a playoff spot in 2016-17, there was a reasonable hope that the team would be competitive this season, especially after the aforementioned Jordan Eberle acquisition in the summer of 2017.  The 2017-18 campaign looked like it might be particularly important to the Islanders given that it was the final season of John Tavares’ contract and the ideal would have been for him to enter the negotiations after an inspired playoff run.  Obviously that didn’t happen.

 

It certainly wasn’t due to any lack of effort on John Tavares’ part as he had 37 goals and 84 points in 82 games.  There was no lack of support for him either as the Islanders had four players with over 60 points, including rookie Matthew Barzal, who scored 22 goals and 85 points in 82 contests.  A fifth player, Eberle, finished just a single point shy of the 60-point milestone.  Taken as a whole, the Islanders had the seventh best offense in the NHL in terms of goals per game.

 

The problem is that they also had the league’s worst defense and goaltending.  That was evident right away as the Islanders allowed 13 goals in their first four games alone.  While the Islanders were 7-4-1 by the end of October, they had allowed at least three goals in nine of those 12 contests (10 if you wanted to add a 3-2 shootout loss on Oct. 9).

 

The Islanders continued to power through largely on sheer offense through Dec. 4.  They had a 16-8-2 record at that point due to the fact that they were second in the league with 97 goals scored.  Their defensive woes finally caught up to them though as the Islanders went 4-10-2 over their next 16 games.  The Islanders managed to stabilize and through Feb. 16 they still had a shot of making the playoffs with their 29-25-6 record, but then they completely collapsed, going 3-12-4 over their next 19 games before ending the season with a moot three-game winning streak to finish at 35-37-10.

 

Thomas GreissJaroslav Halak had a rough campaign, but he’s an unrestricted free agent now and it would be shocking if the Islanders re-signed him.  So the focus shifts to Greiss, who is coming off a disastrous season with his 3.82 GAA and .892 save percentage in 27 contests.  The Islanders are presumably going to look for a strong alternative to Greiss over the summer, but he still comes with a $3,333,333 for each of the next two campaigns, so it’s fair to say that they’re going to be looking to get at least something out of him going forward.  Fortunately for the Islanders, Greiss certainly has the potential to bounce back.

 

Mathew Barzal - Mathew Barzal’s probably going to win the Calder Trophy after posting one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in recent memory.  I don’t expect him to do any better going forward, nor does he need to, but the Islanders need to hope that he doesn’t regress.  Ideally, he’s going to be a big part of the team for years to come.  If the Islanders are able to re-sign Tavares then the duo could be a great one-two punch, but if Tavares does walk, then the Islanders will be looking to Barzal to be their offensive leader.

 

Andrew Ladd – The Islanders inked Andrew Ladd to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract in July 2016 and it’s been a disaster so far.  Ladd scored 23 goals and 31 points in 78 contests in 2016-17, but the hope was that he would bounce back now that he had settled in with the Islanders.  Instead he was limited to 12 goals and 29 points in 73 games in 2017-18.  It’s hard to see him bouncing back at this point, which makes him an unfortunate drain on their cap resources.

 

Joshua Ho-SangJoshua Ho-Sang has a lot of offensive upside, but he hasn’t been able to prove himself with the Islanders.  There’s some debate as to whether or not he’s been given a fair enough shot, but he’s also been inconsistent.  While he had 12 points in 22 games with the Islanders in 2017-18 and another 31 points in 50 AHL contests, he also ended up being a healthy scratch at the AHL at one point.  He’s still just 22-years-old, so he perhaps he can still become an impact player for the Islanders.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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