Season Projection, Part 1: Which Oilers Are On the Decline?

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Mike Smith #41 of the Edmonton Oilers in goal during a 4-3 Anaheim Ducks overtime win at Honda Center on February 25, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

With the 2021-22 NHL season right around the corner, I wanted to make some projections for the up-coming Oilers season.

I’ll be doing a 3 part segment on which players are bound to regress, which ones will have a bounce back year and who will have a breakout season, with Part 1 being which Oilers I think will have a hard time replicating strong 2020-21 seasons.

#1. Mike Smith

The most obvious choice is goaltender Mike Smith. Smith is coming off a season where he had a record of 21-6-2, with a 2.31 GAA and .923 SV%, along with 3 shutouts. Not to mention that he also finished 7th in Vezina trophy voting with two, 3rd place votes.

The 39 year old back stopper is going to have a hard time replicating his 2020-21 numbers, especially in a full 82 game season. Hopefully a more shared crease this season can help keep Smith rested and at the top of his game.

The Positive:

  1. It’s quite possible he’s in better shape then some guys half his age playing in the NHL.
  2. Nobody on the team shows more passion and will to win every single game.
  3. His puck handling skills help the defence and team more then people may think.

#2 Tyson Barrie

Defenceman Tyson Barrie is coming off a very strong offensive season where he had 8 goals and 40 assists, to lead all NHL d-men in points.

23 of his points came on the powerplay, along with 27 of his assists being secondary. Most likely due to being on the ice with either McDavid or Draisaitl.

I don’t see Barrie having any issues scoring points again but I don’t think he’ll have as much production. With Evan Bouchard having a more prominent role and maybe even stealing Barrie’s quarterback spot on the top powerplay, Barrie is bound to regress a little this season.

The Positive:

  1. With a lesser role, perhaps Barrie’s defensive game will improve.
  2. He excels at getting the puck up the ice.
  3. Scoring from the back end is a very undervalued attribute and I think the team is lucky to have it.

#3 Darnell Nurse

With Oscar Klefbom gone for the foreseeable future, someone had to step and Nurse did just that.

Darnell had a career year in 2020-21, where he had 16 goals and 20 assists. Most notably only 1 of those goals and 7 of those points came on the powerplay. He excelled offensively at 5 on 5 play.

What was most impressive was his shooting percentage at 10.4%, which almost doubled his previous career high of 5.88%.

Nurse had what I believe to be a very lucky season and that’s just it. It will be very difficult to replicate what he did, especially playing against more than just the Scotia North division.

The Positive:

  1. Nurse is still a huge part of the Oilers core and their #1 Dman.
  2. He showed a lot more confidence and composure with the puck last season.
  3. He’s still young and has more to prove and I believe he will still have an excellent 2021-22.
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