So, who saw that coming? The Oilers are excited and honored to be the inaugural Beard Hockey cup champions.
We’d like to acknowledge the commissioners for all of the work laying the groundwork for this first season and guiding the group through the journey. Kudos to all the fellow GM’s in making this an entertaining venture.
In the build up to free agency and the upcoming season I did a quick look back at last year. There were some observations and learnings that will influence decision making going forward.
Like many of the teams the Oilers went into the 2020/2021 season with some optimism. The draft yielded a younger team focused on RFA aged players supplemented by some key veterans. I felt this team had a lot of room to grow but wouldn’t necessarily compete in year one.
As the initial season progressed there were obviously signs of what was working and what wasn’t. On the trade front Edmonton ended up being a low volume participant. There was a total of 8 transaction up to the trade deadline 2021. Although the number of moves were small the impact turned out to be huge.
Another benefit of bolstering the team depth chart was sending youngsters Texier and Fabbro to the farm to play big minutes and further their development.
Nelson - Hertl - Mantha
Killorn - Hayes - Texier
Eriksson - Barbashev - Lehkonen
Sanford - Haula - Verhaeghe
Werenski - Johnson
Graves - Andersson
Roy - Fabbro
Nelson - Hertl - Niederreiter
Mantha - Haula - Hayes
Barbashev - Kesler - Lehkonen
Sanford - Dubinsky - Maroon
Nurse - Johnson
Werenski - Hagg
Roy - Soucy
At the end of the regular season the team pretty much backed into the last wildcard playoff spot. This was a bit of an achievement considering they were at the bottom of the west standings at one point. Although the roster was better balanced and had a modest increase in skill the team was still mired in the same ruts that persisted earlier in the season.
Overall, the scoring, special teams, faceoffs, and goaltending were well under par. A good number of players started out underachieving and never really broke out of it.
So what changed to start the new playoff season? Although this may be a controversial take I truly believe the morale reset was the reason the Edmonton Oilers stormed to the 2021 BEARD Championship. The notion of a new season and clean slate cannot be overstated in my view.
The team started round one strong and never slowed down obviously. All of the regular shortcomings became strengths as the post season evolved. The top six scored at a solid enough rate, special teams were outstanding, and goaltending was excellent. All of the team’s best players were playing to their potential at first glance.
After reflecting on the roster changes heading into the playoffs, I’ve identified some attributes that I firmly believe were essential to our team success.
FO – Faceoff percentage was certainly a shortcoming early on in the regular season. The addition of Kesler and Dubinsky while moving Haula into the 2C spot was instrumental in our success. Ended the regular season at 49% while the playoffs yielded close to 55%. In the playoffs that delta represented roughly 70 more faceoff wins (2.6 per game). Centers with a strong FO and ST will be important for the Oilers moving forward.
LD – The overall leadership level to start the season was lacking. The additions of Nurse, Kesler, and Dubinsky were crucial to increase the team LD. Prior to that the team was relying on Eriksson and Johnson to cover that aspect of the game.
DF & CK – Firm believer that defensemen need to defend first and foremost. The additions of Nurse and Hagg definitely helped get our shots against down to a manageable level. At the end of the playoff run the team had a much improved 104.7% Shots F/A. The Oilers will strive for at least 80’s in the D-man DF & CK ratings.