The present day Edmonton Oilers should be one of the NHL’s best teams given certain circumstances. However, like the St. Louis Blues of the 1990’s, they fall short and are wasting prime years of one of the league’s best.
As the St. Louis Blues prepare to face the Edmonton Oilers for the final time in 2019-20, in lieu of your standard preview article, a thought occurred that needed discussion. The current Oilers remind me a lot of the early 1990’s Blues teams.
The current incarnation of the Oilers should be loaded with talent. They have had lottery draft picks since 2010. With the cost certainty that comes with younger players in their first handful of years, the Oilers should have been loaded by now.
Instead, only four of those picks are currently on the roster. In fairness, we do not know how the picks from 2017-2019 will pan out yet.
However, it cannot be denied that the Oilers hit big time in 2014 and 2015. Those two picks gave them their current two leading scorers in Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.
Their current numbers are fantastic. Through 50 games, they have combined for 54 goals and 154 points. It is rare to have guys that push one another to that point where they both up each other and match one another point for point.
The problem the Oilers have is the same problem the Blues used to have back in the early-to-mid 1990’s. They had the star power and the goals, but it was all at the top and then a chasm.
Two players have 154 points. The team has 426. More than a third of their points are coming from two guys.
Draisaitl and McDavid have 27 goals each, 54 total. The team has 156. Again, more than a third of the total coming from two players.
The 1990-91 Blues team had the fantastic duo of Brett Hull and Adam Oates. They combined for 246 points that season. Unfortunately, that was right around a third of the team’s production and they got knocked out of the second round of the playoffs.
In 1991-92, the Blues got the best from Hull and Shanahan. They also had Oates, but he got traded away. If you take Oates out of the equation, including from the team points, the winger duo had 178 points which covered a quarter of the team’s total. The Blues got knocked out in the first round.
When the Blues added Craig Janney the following season, they had one of the best top lines in the league. The trio combined for 301 points. That covered nearly half the team’s point total – 40.2% to be exact.
The point being, stars attract eyes, gain ratings and get fans excited. They don’t win championships alone in today’s game, if they ever have in the NHL.
The Edmonton Oilers dynasty was led by Wayne Gretzky, but he didn’t win it alone. He had some Hall of Fame players and role players on his team like Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey. The trio of top scorers for those Edmonton teams also had roughly 25% of their team total, but they were so good in every other aspect that it made up for it.
Things are different today. You cannot win with only two guys or even just two lines.
The Blues of the 90’s had some great players. Hull, Oates, Shanahan, Janney, Scott Stevens, Jeff Brown and Curtis Joseph. However, though fans loved every member, they did not have the depth lower in the lineup.
The same is true of the Oilers now. They have some really good players, but the current day Blues are comfortable plugging in all their scratches and guys from the AHL and still playing the same way. The Oilers are not there yet and depend on McDavid and Draisaitl to carry them the way the Blues always looked to Hull.
Regardless of the names at the top of the roster, though there have been some greats, teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and even St. Louis could roll out four lines in almost any situation. Edmonton is not devoid of talent lower in their lineup, but they are forced to play a more old-school approach of shortening their bench in tight games.
It is great to have star power, but you wonder if the Oilers are wasting some of the best years of their current duo’s careers. The Blues certainly did with Hull.
Perhaps waste is harsh since he meant so much to the city and kept the team on the map, but in terms of championships you wonder what he could have accomplished had his Blues had the depth the franchise has enjoyed in recent years. The same might be true with the Oilers.
McDavid and Draisaitl are both young and have many great years ahead. However, their names have popped up in rumors every now and then, so you wonder if they’re already growing antsy with the lack of support elsewhere in the lineup.
Blues fans know all about that. Some of the best teams in their history had some big names at the top of the lineup, but it was not until their team was evenly spaced out that they finally won a championship.