The Oilers had 360-plus man games lost due to injury this season, many of them to major role players on the team. Oscar Klefbom missed 52 games, Connor McDavid’s outstanding rookie season was cut short by 37 games. Eric Gryba, Brandon Davidson and Benoit Pouliot all got hurt down the stretch, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was also plagued by injuries.
The injury bug made it difficult on the Oilers coaching staff when it came to evaluating their roster. Injuries and health of the roster is something the Oilers will look at moving forward.
“One of the disappointing things, amongst others, was the fact that we just couldn’t get or stay healthy and we have to look at that as well. We have to look at why. Did we rest enough? Were we over-aggressive in some practice situations, did nutrition or our work off the ice, did any of that cause injuries?” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
“We never really had our group together and got it to roll a little bit, but I think we saw snippets enough to know individuals and how they react and respond in certain situations.”
Nurse, 21, appeared in 69 games with Edmonton this season, registering 10 points (3G, 7A) and 60 penalty minutes. The Hamilton, Ontario native has posted one assist and seven penalty minutes in six games with the Condors this season.
Oesterle, 23, appeared in 17 games with the Oilers this season, posting five assists. The Dearborn Heights, Michigan native played in 42 games with the Condors this season, registering 23 points (3G, 20A) and eight penalty minutes.
Reinhart, 22, played in 29 games with the Oilers this season, recording one assist and 20 penalty minutes. The North Vancouver, British Columbia native has accumulated nine points (2G, 7A) and 14 penalty minutes in 27 games with Bakersfield this season.
Brossoit, 23, appeared in five games this season with the Oilers, posting a 3.61 goals against average and a .873 save percentage. The Surrey, British Columbia native has played in 28 games with Bakersfield this season, recording a 15-9-3 record with a 2.69 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — recently labelled as “The Core” — have been a long-standing trio that have remained with the Oilers organization since the start of their NHL careers.
“Those three are, they wear the Oilers logo on their heart more than anybody does here,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “They’ve been through a lot, they’ve played in front of the fans. They drive home after their meetings yesterday or meetings with you and they feel it. It cuts deep to them. They want to perform and give the city the best they have.”
Hall and Eberle have been with the team since 2010, while Nugent-Hopkins joined the Oilers in 2011. In those six years, neither has experienced a post-season run but McLellan said it’s not for lack of trying.
“They’re disappointed, they’re emotional about it but they want to win as much as anybody does,” he said. “I watched Jordan and Taylor, unfortunately Nuge wasn’t there, win at the World Championships (last year), and yea it’s a different environment, a different world, but they know how to win. They knew how to do it there, they knew how to do it for a month straight.”
But McLellan is also quick to point out that the path to team success can’t all fall on these three to carry the team forward.
“They need a little bit of help from us as a staff, from the organization and they need to accept a little more responsibility,” he said. “But if we think those three are just going to be the solution to the problem we’re dreaming because it’s the whole organization, the scouts, the coaches… And then anybody else that sits next to them in the locker room — everybody has to improve.”
"They wear the logo on their heart more than anyone. They want to perform & give the city their best." Coach McLellan on 4, 14 & 93— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 11, 2016
With the Oilers season wrapped up and the players gone their separate ways, the coaches will sit down and re-evaluate much of the year.
While strategy, skill, positioning, player growth and player changes are all hot topics, what many fans may not realize is that the fan-base will be a big piece that’s factored into the coaches conversation.
“The knowledge-base of the fan and media here in Edmonton is exceptional,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “They understand hockey, they get it, and you guys see it like we do.”
After his first full season as Edmonton’s head coach, McLellan said they have now had the time to analyze where the room for improvement lies, what can be adjusted and what can be changed.
“[Fans] sure don’t want to hear the word ‘rebuild’ and ‘patience’ and I’m not using that,” he said. “I think they want to hear that they’re considered in the evaluation. So we have to start with them. We have to make sure that at least we’re giving them an honest effort. Most of the nights we did.
“They want to know that there’s hope. That we’re going the right direction. I think they want to know that there’s some stability, most of them would like to know what’s going to happen today.”
Though McLellan said they’re unable to answer all of these questions right away the staff are aware of what it is the fans don’t — and won’t — hear.
“But [fans] sure don’t want to hear ‘rebuild’ or ‘patience,’ because I don’t want to hear it anymore and I’ve only been here a year.”
- FEATURE: Oilers applaud McDavid's leadership
- BLOG: Eberle reflects on season
- BLOG: Yakupov's summer plans
- BLOG: Hendricks sees leader in McDavid
- BLOG: Room for improvement
- BLOG: The core
- BLOG: Chiarelli provides update on Klefbom
- OILERS TODAY | End of Season
- YEAR END RAW | Patrick Maroon
- YEAR END RAW | Matt Hendricks
- YEAR END RAW | Jordan Eberle
- YEAR END RAW | Nail Yakupov
- YEAR END RAW | Taylor Hall
- YEAR END RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- YEAR END RAW | Cam Talbot
- YEAR END RAW | Connor McDavid
- YEAR END RAW | Peter Chiarelli
Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom saw his season cut very short due to two separate injuries. A knuckle ailment, which was expected to need a quick recovery, turned into an infection and the blueliner missed 52 games.
Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli provided a fairly in-depth update on Klefbom, who could be back skating soon.
“It was a frustrating thing, and it was almost like the perfect storm as far as kind of two successive infections and really, a cut on his knuckle resulted in an infection in his ankle and there have been some players going through the same thing right now,” said Chiarelli.
“Timeline, I think if we were in the playoffs he would have been available. I basically just shut him down. I said, ‘Klef, enough. You’re probably trying too hard to come back,” and it was aggravating it a little bit. He’s going to get the proper equipment. We’ve been looking at getting the proper skate, customized, and the silver lining is he’s in terrific shape. I would anticipate him back skating in a month’s time.”
Chiarelli confirmed there is no tendon or ligament damage, so Klefbom should be hitting the off-season hard in a few weeks’ time.
“It’s out of my hands now, the season’s done, the games have been played out so whatever happens, happens,” said Oilers forward Taylor Hall.
After the Oilers finished the season with a 31-43-8 record, questions about the possible movement of key players — also referred to as “The Core” — are on the rise.
“My message is still the same,” said Hall. “I’d love to be here, it’s home for me now. You see some really good pieces on our team that you want to be with going forward, so it’s still the same.”
A season of overcoming obstacles saw Oilers players succumb to unexpected injuries that prevented the team from forming a constant flow for the team on the ice.
“I think late November we were still right there in the playoffs,” Hall said. “If we would have ran together three or four we would have been right there. Klefbom went down, we had some injuries that were unfortunate. In saying that, every team goes through injuries all season and unfortunately for us it was two of our biggest guys, so maybe not a true judgement of our team.”
“You never know what’s going to happen,” said Hall. “I think now that the season’s done it’s kind of out of your hands and you conduct your summer the way you usually would. I’m looking forward to going over to the World’s and experiencing Team Canada and everything that has to offer. I’m excited for that, it’s been a tough year but there’s also some positive.”
Oilers forward Nail Yakupov is steering his focus this summer on his fitness and zoning in on anywhere he sees room for improvement.
“I’m just going to train, train hard, work hard, improve some things and keep looking forward,” he said. “I love this city and the team that I play with.”
After an unfavourable season that saw the forward succumb to an ankle injury in November that sidelined him for eight weeks, Yakupov regained his momentum on the ice.
“I’m trying to enjoy the life and try and enjoy the game and have fun with my teammates, who I play with,” he said. “It’s my favourite game, it’s the only sport I play, I want to push hard — everything. I want to give everything, I want to leave everything on the ice, but sometimes it’s been a really tough time and I really got the opportunity to play. Last couple of weeks have been pretty good… I just try to have some fun.”
As the 2015-16 season comes to a close, the Oilers regrouped once more at Rexall Place to speak to the media about their upcoming summers.
Oilers forward Jordan Eberle was just such a player that reflected on the season that played out for Edmonton this year.
“No one likes losing. We’re all professionals, we’re competitive people, it’s not fun being out of the playoffs and having to sit at home and watch other teams fight for something that you ultimately want to win,” he said matter-of-factly. “I think, when you look back on this season, we’ve definitely made improvements, I know… we’re nowhere near where we need to be but I think, when you look back on our goals-against average, our goals differential, our specialties, we have made improvements and that’s definitely a positive sign. But ultimately, like I said we’re not where we want to be.”
A season that did not see the team finish in a favourable position stirs questions about player changes that may be made in the summer, to which Ederle admitted that changes are inevitable in a business such as this.
“There’s always going to be questions, as with any team, I don’t think it’s really different from any other years. It’s always going to be the same, who’s going to be back and whose not,” he said. “I think when you’re finishing 29th there’s always going to be changes. With that being said, there’s changes throughout every lineup coming in, but ultimately that’s out of the player’s control really. All they can do is play on the way the left and deal with what happens in the summer.”
Connor McDavid came to the Edmonton Oilers with big outside expectations, and even bigger internal ones. The rookie first-overall pick posted 48 points in an injury-shortened 45-game season. He impressed his teammates, even the veteran ones, with how he carried himself through his first NHL season.
“Great person,” said Matt Hendricks. “You couldn’t ask any more of him in that regard, for sure, and I don’t know if you could ask any more of him as a player either. He came into our group this year, into a struggling group, as a young player with a lot of expectations and overwhelmed a lot of us. He’s a heck of a player and a heck of a player to be around and I’m real fortunate to be able to play and enjoy his rookie season with him.”
The players have consistently voiced their pleasure and surprise about his leadership in the room as well. Taylor Hall a week ago said although McDavid is the youngest player in the room, a lot of players look up to him. When asked if McDavid could be a captain some day, Hendricks had no hesitations.
“Absolutely. Absolutely, he could be.”
“That’s not a question for me, but you’ve seen players at his age wear the ‘C’ after their first year or so, but I have no doubt in my mind he’d excel at it,” Hendricks said.