Judging from NHL's final four, Edmonton Oilers still have a long way to go

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Watching the Colorado Avalanche get rolled out of the playoffs has to be a little unnerving for Edmonton Oilers fans who thought their team might be just a few tweaks away from contending.


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The Presidents’ Trophy winners have depth, experience, a Hart Trophy nominee at forward, a Norris nominee on defence and a Vezina nominee in net and still couldn’t get past the second round.

So much for the notion that just because the Oilers have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, some good young defencemen and an anomaly in goal that it’s only a matter of time before they are going three and four rounds deep.

If you’re watching the brand of hockey being played, and the teams playing it, it’s becoming pretty obvious that the gap between Edmonton and a championship calibre roster is uncomfortably large.

Despite McDavid and Draisaitl finishing 1-2 in the NHL scoring race and Tyson Barrie first among all defencemen, they got swept by the Winnipeg Jets, who got swept by the Montreal Canadiens, who are heavy underdogs against Vegas.

Last year they lost to Chicago, who lost to Vegas, who lost to Dallas, who lost to Tampa.

What the Oilers are discovering now is that regular-season and post-season hockey are two very different games, and this roster needs a lot of work before it starts improving on a playoff record that stands at 1-7 over the last two years.

Once you get past McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi up front, there just isn’t much there. Assuming Nugent-Hopkins stays, they need two more top six forwards, an experienced, high end third line centre and at least two more big, experienced, two-way, bottom six players before they’re in the same league with Vegas and Tampa.


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On defence, Darnell Nurse is a legitimate star, but Tyson Barrie could be gone, Oscar Klefbom is a giant question mark, Adam Larsson remains unsigned, Ethan Bear is still fighting through growing pains and Evan Bouchard is just starting the three- or four-year process it takes for a rookie defenceman to properly ripen in his own end of the ice.

Ken Holland has a big to-do list in front of him if the Oilers are to avoid becoming the Edmonton Maple Leafs. He’s not typically an aggressive general manager, but he needs to step out of his comfort zone and push this team to the next level instead of waiting until Bear, Bouchard, Dylan Holloway, Ryan McLeod and Kailer Yamamoto mature into playoff heroes.


If there is a common theme among the final four teams, aside from elite goaltending, it’s size on defence — another area where the Oilers are lagging.

When the games get tighter and tougher in the post-season and players are fighting for every inch of space around the net, size matters.

A template that St. Louis used to win a title in 2019 with Alex Pietrangelo (6-3, 210), Colton Parayko (6-6, 230), Joel Edmundson (6-4, 227) and Jay Bouwmeester (6-4, 206) is still in place today.

Tampa’s six defencemen check in at 6-6, 241; 6-3, 230; 6-3, 215; 6-2, 233; 6-3, 216 and 6-3, 204.

Montreal: 6-4, 229; 6-3, 234; 6-4, 227; 6-3, 208; 6-1, 192 and 6-0, 197.

Vegas: 6-4, 216; 6-4, 214; 6-3, 210; 6-2, 211; 6-1, 209 and 6-2, 195.

The Islanders: 6-5, 220; 6-2, 215; 6-3, 205; 6-0, 207; 6-4, 195 and 5-11, 190.


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Edmonton’s starting six in their last playoff game: 6-4, 221; 6-3, 208; 6-2, 193; 5-11, 195; 5-11, 197 and 5-10, 170

While Vegas, Tampa, Montreal and the Islanders combined have a grand total of five defencemen under 200 pounds, the Oilers had four. While Tampa, Montreal, Vegas and New York have one defenceman under six feet tall, the Oilers had three.

You can’t be chasing trends or you’ll always be a step behind, and you have to build your roster around talent, but big, strong, rangy guys who can skate are what wins in the playoffs.

Add that to Holland’s shopping list.


It’s become quite clear now that the Toronto Maple Leafs made the wrong call in pushing out Lou Lamoriello in favour of Kyle Dubas three years ago.

Lamoriello might be old school, but he knows the winning formula, even when the formula evolves over time. He made New Jersey one of the most efficient and successful franchises in the NHL, he helped rebuild the Leafs, and he turned the New York Islanders into tenacious contenders.

The Islanders’ leading scorer is 44th in the NHL and only two players make more than $5.5 million (Matt Barzal at $7 million and Brock Nelson at $6 million), but they’ve gone to the conference final two years in a row.

In Toronto, they went with the hip newcomer who was going to reinvent the way teams are run. And here they are, top heavy with just under $40 million tied up in four forwards and nothing to show for their spreadsheets but three first round exits.

On Twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski

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