Welcome to the season in review! In this, and other articles, I’ll be, well, reviewing the Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 season. You can read about the analytics behind my analysis here.
The Edmonton Oilers offence was one of the most potent in the NHL. They scored the seventh most goals for per hour with 3.26 with a dip to 2.52 (10th) at 5×5.
Edmonton was led offensively by the prowess of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who finished first and second in the league in scoring. Their 105 and 84 points, respectively, were massive parts of the Oilers season.
But beyond that pair, the Oilers struggled. With them both of them off the ice, the Oilers only scored 1.27 GF/60 and posted a gut-wrenching 29.36 GF% — a number far and away from where it needs to be.
Offensively, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tried to pick up the slack as the third-highest scoring forward, but his 35 points in 52 games weren’t able to turn the tide all that much. His scoring rate this season was only down .05 points per game from his career average, but his 5×5 production plummetted. He scored only 1.15 points per hour, a significant drop from the 2.23 he scored in 2019-20, or the 1.57 he scored in 2018-19.
As much as he’s a valuable part of the team, Nugent-Hopkins has struggled to drive a line on his own throughout his NHL career and Edmonton, if they choose to play him away from Draisaitl or McDavid, need to find him someone who can help drive play.
Jesse Puljujarvi’s return to Edmonton was huge and he was a solid complementary piece on the Oilers top line. He showed his ability to be a strong play driver not only offensively, but defensively, too.
Kailer Yamamoto came back down to earth after a solid 27 game stint in his first season. He scored 21 points in 52 games, decent production for a sophomore player. Dogged away from the puck, he’s a player whose game needs to take a step forward next year as someone who should be a top-six player for a long time in Edmonton.
Avert your eyes for anything beyond that as Edmonton struggled to get production out of nearly any other player. Sure, Josh Archibald chipped in seven goals and both Alex Chiasson and Dominik Kahun found the net nine times each, but there was a consistent lack of production from what became a docile group consistently getting outscored.
In fact, the only Oilers not named Draisaitl, McDavid, Yamamoto or Puljujarvi to not be outscored was Tyler Ennis.
All in all, the Oilers offence was potent, but that largely came from top of the best players in the NHL. Righly so, but if Ken Holland and the Oilers want to win a Stanley Cup anytime soon, they need to find players who not only can be productive in bottom-six roles, but players who don’t consistently get outscored the way the Oilers did this year.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
Coming into the season, Jack Campbell’s role with the Toronto Maple Leafs was clear- be the best and most reliable backup Frederik Andersen has had since Curtis McElhinney.
The amazing story that played out couldn’t have been more different than what had been drawn up, in the best way possible, because Jack Campbell finally hit his potential.
Originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2010 with talk around the league watercoolers describing him as a kid who has ice in his veins and was projected to be a near-elite starter, once he developed, Campbell struggled mightily to establish himself in the world of professional hockey, due in no small part to injuries and debilitating confidence issues, but now, he has fully arrived. One small side note before we begin, if you have a subscription to The Athletic, I highly recommend reading James Mirtle’s profile on Campbell from April 5th. In this amazing feature, Mirtle explores Campbell’s journey from his childhood all the way up to him taking the starter’s role in Toronto. It was the kind of writing that I (a journalism student) strive to achieve at some point in my career.
Campbell appeared in 22 regular season games for the Leafs and amassed a 17-3-2 record, recording two shutouts along the way and one NHL record for most consecutive wins from the start of a season with 11 (albeit spread over three months because of an injury). He played in all seven of the team’s playoff games and by many metrics, outperformed Carey Price. It was the best playoff goaltending the Leafs have seen in ages and the team in front of him absolutely squandered it (a fact I am still very, very bitter about).
Let’s not mince words here, Andersen was bad in his (likely) final season as a Leaf, and even without him suffering an injury that sidelined him for nearly two months, Campbell, with his sterling stats and sunny disposition, would have supplanted Andersen as the starter by playoff time. And though he does allow a few goals you wish he would have saved, I personally feel more comfortable with him between the pipes than I have been with Andersen for several years. I was certainly comfortable enough in his abilities to invest in this:
— Dylan Murphy (@dylanmurphy329) April 22, 2021
One advanced metric I want to draw specific mention to is his Goals Saved Above Expected. For the everyday person who doesn’t know what this is, GSAx is an objective measurement of the number of goals a goaltender has saved compared to the number of goals they’re expected to have allowed based on the quality of shots they have faced. Campbell’s GSAx this season was 8.85 (according to PuckPedia), placing him at 9th on the league-wide leaderboard for that metric.
While he’s not the biggest guy, Campbell makes up for that with sheer athleticism and simply makes saves that his counterparts in the Toronto net, both this past season and the year before, were not making. His .921 save percentage speaks for itself (Campbell was 9th overall in the league in this metric as well among goaltenders that played in 15 or more games). All the statistics show that Campbell was among the greats at his position this season. If he can replicate that next year (and keep breaking out beautiful saves like the one I’m attaching below) then the Michigan native will step fully into legend status.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I believe that Jack Campbell, like Justin Holl before him, is a late-bloomer who came into his prime at exactly the time he was needed most. He is absolutely the starter for next season, a core member of this team, and one of the most genuinely nice guys in professional hockey. In case you forgot, have a look at this gem of an interview
Jack Campbell who is now 10-0-0, setting a record, interview
— David Nestico (@davidnestico200) April 8, 2021
My final observation about Soupy is a bit of a hot take, but I think that, over a full 82-game season, Campbell can be even better as he gains further experience as a full-time NHL starter. Kyle Dubas may want to consider drafting up a contract extension this offseason rather than next because I don’t think his next contract will be as affordable as his current $1.65 million cap hit.