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May this yr's Edmonton Oilers beat final yr's Oilers? A Stanley Cup is dependent upon it

However will it lastly be the Cup that Connor McDavid has been ready virtually 9 years for, or one other soul-crushing bust?

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The contracts are signed, the PTOs have been finalized and it’s lower than every week earlier than the 2023-24 version of the Edmonton Oilers collect on the town to start skating.

The battle cry, let loose virtually instantly after final season’s playoff exit, is Cup or Bust — an inexpensive expectation given the place the Oilers are of their present trajectory.

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However will it lastly be the Cup that Connor McDavid has been ready virtually 9 years for, or one other soul-crushing bust?

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All of us noticed how shut they had been final spring, pushing the eventual Stanley Cup champions to 6 video games, however have the Oilers improved sufficient to recover from the hump that ended their season?

Would this yr’s crew beat final yr’s crew?

Let’s drop the puck on the comparisons:


There aren’t any modifications right here. Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner are each locked in and again to hold the load.

For this yr’s crew to have an opportunity of beating final yr’s crew, Skinner should not less than duplicate a breakout season that noticed him named to the all-star crew and voted as a finalist for the Calder Trophy. That’s a excessive bar, however he has to point out it wasn’t a fluke.

There isn’t any cause to consider Skinner is a one-hit surprise, however goaltenders can fluctuate wildly from yr to yr, so there are by no means any ensures on this entrance.

His shedding steam within the playoffs provides a little bit intrigue to the state of affairs, however he’s a level-headed participant who works onerous at his craft, so you need to suppose he shall be higher for the expertise.

As for Campbell, they should hope that an low season of coaching and decompression helped shake off the heebie-jeebies and get him again to being a extremely good goalie, which he’s been up to now. He must be a viable possibility they will depend on.

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Having Mattias Ekholm for a complete season provides this yr’s defence a leg up on final yr’s. He’s an enormous, robust, aggressive and rock-steady blue liner who preaches taking part in the sport the precise approach. A stabilizing affect on the ice and within the dressing room, Ekholm is a difference-maker all by himself. Ask Evan Bouchard.

With a yr on the helm of the facility play and with Ekholm beside him for a full season, Bouchard is anticipated to take an enormous step ahead. Already a 40-point participant, he may see his quantity leap into the 70-plus vary. These are two spots the place the 2023-24 crew has an enormous edge.

Elsewhere, you realize what you’re getting from Darnell Nurse and, although it won’t be price $9.25 million, he’s nonetheless a significant ingredient who brings it each night time. Brett Kulak confirmed some great things within the playoffs.

The decrease finish is the place some points may come up, with Vincent Desharnais and Philip Broberg combining for simply 105 profession NHL video games. The Oilers may have used one other stable defenceman, however total the blue line is barely higher.


Final yr’s crew had an influence play that was finest in NHL historical past and 4 of their top-six forwards having profession years offensively (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins beat his private finest by 35 factors, Connor McDavid by 30, Zach Hyman by 29 and Leon Draisaitl by 18).

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Now they must do it once more. That’s one other excessive bar.

They received fortunate with Connor Brown, becoming him below the cap on a pleasant technicality ($750,000 for an skilled top-six ahead with grit). If he can return to kind after lacking all final yr with an ACL harm, he shall be a marked enchancment on Kailer Yamamoto, a popular and hard-working participant who simply couldn’t produce offensively.

That’s the one change. Past Brown it is going to be as much as the remainder of the highest six to take care of their career-best stage of manufacturing or, within the case of Evander Kane, return to his type of two years in the past. He wasn’t the identical participant final season after the wrist harm, which is comprehensible, but when he’s all good and is again to being an impression participant, he and Brown shall be vital upgrades over final yr.


That is an space, together with goaltending, the place the Oilers had been second-best in opposition to Vegas. They discovered some chemistry with Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Derek Ryan on the third line, and received good depth scoring within the common season, however they didn’t have the form of fourth line that was in a position to go away its stamp on a sport.

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Additionally they have misplaced Klim Kostin’s physicality and vitality, and Nick Bjugstad’s versatility and face-off work, which doesn’t assist. They’re now relying on some mixture of Lane Pederson, Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie, Sam Gagner and Brandon Sutter to step in and produce at a Stanley Cup championship stage.


May this yr’s crew beat final yr’s crew? After a season by which the whole lot fell into place and virtually the entire prime gamers had been wholesome and on the prime of their sport, they would wish it to occur once more to get the higher of an excellent 2022-23 crew.

These are some robust asks, however that is as motivated as we’ve got ever seen this core group of gamers. They know they’re shut and so they understand it’s the little particulars that may push them excessive. Additionally they know that Stanley Cup home windows don’t keep open eternally.


2023-24 over 2022-23 in seven video games.

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