Postseason Postmortem: Edmonton Oilers

Credit: Getty Images

The coroner is in. Let us commemorate the tragic fall of the Edmonton Oilers.

The skinny: In this series, Edmonton received another grim reminder: this is not the NBA where two superstars is enough to guarantee a deep playoff run. Despite a likely Hart Trophy winner in Connor McDavid putting up one of the best offensive seasons in recent memory and Leon Draisaitl also putting up great numbers, the Oilers once again failed where it mattered most in the postseason.

Despite facing a Winnipeg Jets team that was limping into the postseason and saw its offense dry up in the final few weeks of the season, they were able to pull out an impressive victory over Edmonton and its two superstars. It leaves the Oilers with serious questions, but where did it all go so wrong? Let’s break that part down first…

Offensive struggles: Normally, this is where pundits would begin their seemingly annual roasting of Edmonton’s depth, but that would discount how well Winnipeg did defensively. McDavid and Draisaitl weren’t without their struggles, as both players were held off the scoresheet in the first two games. Their final numbers weren’t too bad, but the depth once again couldn’t keep up when the defense focused on the superstars. All of two goals came from players not playing with McDavid or Draisaitl, and the defensive corps failed to score a goal. It was a bad showing all around for the Oilers in the opposing zone.

Failure to close: Game 3 was the moment Edmonton’s fate was sealed. It seemed like Edmonton was on its way to scoring their first victory in the series with a 4-1 lead with nine minutes remaining, only for disaster to strike. In a little over three minutes, Winnipeg would fire off three unanswered goals to tie the game up, then see Nikolaj Ehlers score the overtime winner. Edmonton did try to fight back in Game 4, but costly turnovers from Ethan Bear and McDavid ended up leading to Winnipeg goals that completed the sweep.

Special teams: Special teams battles can decide how a series goes down, and that’s exactly the case here. What is shocking is how much of a far cry Edmonton’s special teams went from regular season to postseason. From first in power play percentage and ninth in penalty kill percentage in the regular season, Edmonton struggled in both, putting up 18.2% on the power play and a tepid 70% penalty kill. Again, give credit to Winnipeg for adjusting to Edmonton’s style and wearing them down, but the impetus has to be on the Oilers to produce in some capacity.

The crystal ball: The good news about Edmonton’s situation is that their cap situation should improve this offseason. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will likely be heading out, and it appears that the Oilers are favoring an extension for Adam Larsson over Tyson Barrie. Kailer Yamamoto and Dominik Kahun may warrant extensions as restricted free agents, but they likely won’t cost much. It also appears the Oilers will work to extend Mike Smith and buyout Mikko Koskinen. Regardless, it should give the Oilers a chance to figure out their situation and hopefully make some meaningful moves this offseason.

That said, the real question about the future lies with McDavid. How long can the Oilers reasonably expect their captain’s patience to hold out? It won’t be this offseason, or even next offseason, but at some point, the trade rumors will become more than just rumors. What happens when McDavid nears 30 if the Oilers continue to struggle in the postseason? The personal accolades and tremendous output are all fine, but they ultimately mean nothing if they come without an opportunity at the Stanley Cup. The frustration can’t keep building up, and GM Ken Holland will have to keep that in mind when it comes to building this team for next season and beyond.


Postseason Postmortem: St. Louis Blues


The coroner is in. Let us regale the tragic tale of the St. Louis Blues.

The skinny: Let’s not kid ourselves here: this series ended the only way it could. St. Louis had a fine team, but they were the clear fourth team in a division that held a three-headed monster at the top of the mountain. Whether they drew Colorado or Vegas, it felt like a matter of time until the inevitable happened.

Sure enough, the deed was done quickly. The Avalanche war machine dominated the series, giving the Blues their first sweep since 2012 and pushing the miracle Stanley Cup run in 2019 further into the distance. So how did this all happen? Let’s go through the three primary factors.

Injuries: It feels like a cheap excuse, but there’s no question injuries played a key part in the Blues’ demise. Chief among them was leading scorer David Perron, who missed the entire series due to being on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. Justin Faulk missed the rest of the series from Game 2 on after a nasty hit from known playoff headhunter Nazem Kadri (Kadri was suspended eight games for the hit, but he is currently in the appealing process). Defensive corps mainstays Vince Dunn, Robert Bortuzzo, and Jake Walman also missed games during the series. Injuries can decimate a team and, against a quality opponent in Colorado, that’s exactly what happened to the Blues.

Stars going silent: It wasn’t much better for the players that were on the ice, either. Captain Ryan O’Reilly, who publicly stated that the Blues would win the series, would end up lambasting his own performance after failing to score in the series. Offensive stalwarts like Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou, and Mike Hoffman would each find the back of the net, but only once apiece. To put the offensive output into perspective, the Blues scored 20 points as a team; the Avalanche’s top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen combined for 23. When a single line is dominating the series and running circles around your own stars, you can’t expect to win.

Jordan Binnington: Binnington might not be nervous, but Blues fans might be starting to get that way about their new franchise netminder. Ever since being one of the main catalysts of the Blues’ magical 2019 season and Cup win, he hasn’t won a single playoff game since. After a miserable series where he mustered a 3.59 GAA and .899 save percentage, Binnington has gone 0-9-0 with a .875 save percentage. The most fight he showed against Avs goaltender Philipp Grubauer was trying to start a fight with him after Game 1 (a moment Grubauer would poke fun at after the sweep). Blues fans need to hope he can rebound within the next six seasons of his new contract, or this will be familiar territory for them.

The crystal ball: You can’t expect a humiliating defeat like this to pass by without some changes, and the Blues are in the mix to do just that. Mike Hoffman will parlay his season into a contract with a Cup contender. Jaden Schwartz and Tyler Bozak have likely played their final games in Blues uniforms as well. Dunn could be an attractive candidate to be selected by Seattle in the expansion draft, with the hopes of him becoming their version of Nate Schmidt. It wouldn’t be much, but it would give the Blues a chance to get their roster in order and bring in some new blood (ahem, Scott Perunovich, ahem).

However, there is a massive question that can be asked: what will the Blues do about Vladimir Tarasenko? Sure, the Russian winger still has his offensive chops (he got both of the Blues’ goals in Game 4), but he’s only played 34 games over the last two seasons. The best ability is availability, and Tarasenko hasn’t been successful in that department recently. They could conceivably put him up in the Expansion Draft, or open him up to trade to see if someone will take a shot. It would be a massive shakeup to the Blues roster, but maybe that’s what they need.

Postseason Postmortem: The Collection

Credit: Sporting News

The First Round of the NHL playoff is nearing an end. From this point on, the eliminations will be coming in fast and furious. With no power rankings to do and future hockey-based projects needing a bit of time to develop insight, what is a sports blogger to do?

Do the equivalent of an autopsy for the eliminated teams? Sounds like fun.

While it will be the first time this series is done here, the Postseason Postmortem is not an entirely new idea. Those who have seen my work prior to The Sports Nerd Speaks may be aware of “What Went Wrong?”, where I delved into the major points that pushed a team out of Stanley Cup contention. The postmortem will be that with added depth, as well as where this might take the team and what decisions they will have to ponder as they trade their hockey sticks for golf clubs.

The first of the postmortems (the St. Louis Blues, who were swept shortly prior to this post) will be released soon, and they will continue to be provided until we finally have a champion. While they will all be separate articles, this post is designed to be the one-stop shop to find all of them. Links to the postmortems will be added as they go active.

Good luck to your team (unless they’re facing my team) and I hope you enjoy!

Boston Bruins

Carolina Hurricanes

Colorado Avalanche

Edmonton Oilers

Florida Panthers

Minnesota Wild

Montreal Canadiens

Nashville Predators

New York Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins

St. Louis Blues

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Vegas Golden Knights

Washington Capitals

Winnipeg Jets