The beginners guide to the 2020-21 Edmonton Oilers: the team

This is an article idea I got from friends at TheLeafsNation, where writer Scott Maxwell wrote the same style about the leaves.

As the NHL continues to strive to grow the game, I want to be able to do the same here at OilersNation. If you are a first-time ice hockey fan, welcome! This is an inclusive space where I help you learn more about your new favorite team, the Edmonton Oilers.

It’s the first of three parts you’ll see here ahead of Wednesday’s puck drop. This article will break down the organization from top to bottom, while part two looks at the Oilers’ offense and power play. Part three will cover Oilers defense and penalty shootouts.

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So, without further ado, let’s get started.

The Edmonton Oilers are one of the longest established franchises in the NHL. They entered the league in 1979 and took their team from the World Hockey Association to the big league. While these Oilers initially struggled to adjust to the new league in years one and two, they exploded over the course of the ’80s.

Between 1983 and 1990, the Oilers won five out of seven Stanley Cups led by Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and countless other legends who were among the best players to ever play the game.

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But as the decade drew to a close, the Oilers entered a rebuilding phase. When the ’90s rolled around they traded Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and Kurri and the Oilers were never the same. They managed to make some playoff appearances and post some solid regular seasons, but they weren’t the same.

Edmonton’s next cup run came in 2005-06 when the Oilers had a Cinderella story run to the Finals. They rode through the Western Conference as the 8th seeded team and earned a date with the Carolina Hurricanes in the finals. Edmonton fell in seven games and the team entered the decade of darkness. Between 2007 and 2016, the team failed to make the playoffs.

The team appeared to be in a constant state of rebuilding but now seems ready to take a step forward. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, two of the league’s top attacking players, lead the Oilers in a North Division against all other Canadian teams.

July 28, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA; Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring during the first period of an exhibition game against the Calgary Flames prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place July 28, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta . Mandatory Credit: Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

This season is unique in the NHL as the league restructures its divisions due to COVID-19. Edmonton will play in the Scotia North Division alongside six other Canadian teams, the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.

The Oilers had a disappointing return-to-play return last year when they were eliminated by Chicago in the qualifying round. This while being one of the better teams in its Pacific Division and fighting for the top spot in the division when the league closed its doors in March.

The expectation this year is nothing short of a playoff berth, and I could see the Oilers fighting for the division title even in a weak division.

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11/17/2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) and left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) battle with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and center Leon Draisaitl (29) in the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Now let’s take a quick look at the other teams in the division.

The Calgary Flames are the Oilers’ closest division rival and a definite threat in the division. Calgary is just a few years away from an incredible regular season in which he won the conference before a first-round dispatch. While they’ve lost some parts this off-season, they also have the best free agent on the web in Jacob Markstrom. Edmonton and Calgary have some bad blood dating back to last season, with a couple of fiery games where a goalie struggled.

The Vancouver Canucks are a team that will likely take a step back this year after losing a number of players in free hands this year. Markstrom, defenseman Chris Tanev and forward Josh Leivo headed to Calgary, while forward Tyler Toffoli left for Montreal after Deadline. Despite this, they do have some elite talent in young players like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Brock Boeser.

Eastbound, the Winnipeg Jets will likely be one of the worst teams in the division. While they have one of the best goalies in the league in Connor Hellebuyck, their defense struggles and bleeds away chances. But they have some solid players up front in Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, although the latter may be traded next year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are probably the best team in the division with some elite offensive talent in Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. While they are weak in defence, they have a very good goalkeeper in Frederik Andersen. They will definitely fight for the top spot in the division.

In Ottawa, the Senators will most likely be the worst team in the division. They were bottom of the league last year but had two top-10 draft picks. The Sens made some solid acquisitions, including swapping goaltender Matt Murray. You will take a step forward but still fight.

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Montreal, meanwhile, is one of the most interesting teams to follow. They have one of the best goalies and defenders in the league in the last decade in Carey Price and Shea Weber. They have solid attacking players but no big-name superstars up front.

Both entering their sophomore years, there’s no time to look at the Oilers who aren’t impressing on the ice.

Ken Holland

Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland joined the club after spending decades with the Detroit Red Wings. There he led one of the best organizations in the NHL and won several Stanley Cups. He didn’t make big moves in Edmonton in the first offseason, but this year he’s brought in a number of players by freelance who will make an impact on the ice.

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He brought back Jesse Puljujarvi and Tyler Ennis while inking free agents Kyle Turris and Tyson Barrie. All four are expected to make solid contributions for the Oilers this year.

He shot at the NHL Trade Deadline last year and showed he’s ready to take steps to try and improve his roster for a playoff push. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did something similar this year.

David Tippett

Also in his sophomore year, head coach Dave Tippett comes to the Oilers with a wealth of knowledge behind the bench. Last year was his first coaching in three years after completing a five-year stint with the Arizona Coyotes.

Tippett is a motivator and a player-coach who shows a great ability to build chemistry with those on the team. He coached the Oilers to a 37-25-9 record last year and expects to take the Oilers to the playoffs again.

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On Twitter: @zjlaing

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