Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie discuss the Edmonton Oilers hitting the third-round wall, and whether or not it will be easier for Ken Holland to attract talent after an impressive playoff run.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: But I think there's things to build on here. And I just hope that, around the league, the reputation in Edmonton improves, that players will want to go and play with McDavid, because look how close he is to being this giant in the playoffs and carrying a team all the way to the Stanley Cup Final and perhaps winning it.
I hope the optics around this team improve, because it was a nightmare in previous seasons. It was a nightmare during this season. But they're figuring things out a little bit. And it's going to be hard to get talent there because of their proximity in North American map and because they don't have that much room under the salary cap.
It looks like they're going to sign Evander Kane. And we'll see what happens there. But I hope that some players, like the Corey Perrys and the BelMars and the Spezzas, people that want to win, I hope that the Oilers are one of the teams that is circled that has a possibility to win, because I think that's the step that they've made this season. That's the progress that they made this season is that they're not a complete nightmare and that McDavid and Draisaitl can be Hercules, come playoff time when they're right. It's just not good enough this year.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: The one thing I wonder, though, for the Oilers-- good on them that they were able to get to the third round. And you're right. They advanced a lot farther than 28 other teams. But once the offseason starts, there are so many other opportunities for other teams to get better.
The Flames, if they find a way to keep Tkachuk and Goodrow together, I mean, that's a very big if, but that's still a very good team that, if they find a way to game plan a little better next time around if they play the Oilers in the series, they could win that series.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Vegas is coming back.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Vegas has to come back. I'd be stunned if they miss the playoffs two years in a row with the talent that they have if everyone is at full strength. There's a lot of good teams in that Western Conference. And it is not a guarantee, unfortunately, for the Oilers that they'll be able to go back to the Western Conference Finals, even with the two best players in the National Hockey League.
So I mean, we've built up how important these last few months have been in terms of getting deals done for Ken Holland. And he's managed to find a way to get by with just Mike Smith being his goalie and Evander Kane as basically his major signing and, of course, Jay Woodcroft being named interim. But this off season is going to be paramount.
And I know it's a little early. I get it. The Oilers still have to play out the rest of this series. And maybe they play out a miracle scenario and they win the next four. But we both deem it very unlikely. I think actually personally, there's like a small child version of you that is holding out hope for that comeback win. But we don't have to rehash 2006 Justin Cuthbert.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: It doesn't seem likely. I mean, I feel like Oilers fans-- and as you mentioned, I've lost it. I think they've got to be resigned to the fact that they're not good enough. Even with Nurse and Draisaitl hurt, it's just not there for them this year.
But you mentioned teams getting better or teams getting worse. Colorado's not going to be the same team next year. They're going to lose guys. And then Nathan MacKinnon needs to get paid the next year.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: They're still going to be good though.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: They're going to be good. But if you lose Nichushkin and Kadri, you're not going to be as good. So maybe the Oilers are on the come-up here, and there's still opportunity. But it means making the right moves. And Ken Holland got, I think, lucky with what happened this year, because guys have outperformed what the reasonable expectations are. But they still need work. It's really obvious that the Oilers are not a finished product.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: And to your point, if Nichushkin and Kadri leave Colorado and they end up getting big money elsewhere, very likely for those two players in particular, not only is Ken Holland going to have to try to find a way to get some of the Ben Mals or the Spezza types or the Corey Perry type to try to join his organization. He's going have to find a way to keep them from joining Colorado, because Colorado is likely to have to tap into those players to fill those roles.
And I don't know about you. If I'm a player of that ilk and I'm getting an offer from either Joe Sakic to play in Colorado or Ken Holland to play in Edmonton, even if Connor McDavid is there, Colorado being much closer to the goal, very likely would have come up for the Stanley Cup Final appearance or a Stanley Cup Final period? Oh, yeah. I'm taking the Mile High City.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah. I mean, I think when tasked to choose between those, it's pretty obvious. Josh Manson illustrated that for us, saying that, yeah, I'm just going to Colorado. So figure out a way. And that, of course, benefited Colorado. But I guess my point is, I'm just hoping that the optics are better and that it's not seen as this trash fire wasting away the greatest player on the planet's career, because I don't think that it is that anymore.
And I think I think there's an opportunity there. I think Zach Hyman's one of the people who saw that, although that was probably the most money being thrown at him. But I feel like Edmonton may be not a wasteland anymore, hopefully even despite how they've shown in these playoffs.
But you're right. You know what? Valeri Nichushkin would be a perfect winger for Connor McDavid, by the way if--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: That's not a bad idea.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: --if Ken Holland wants to go that route. Although he's going to have plenty of options. And maybe he doesn't see Edmonton the same way I'm trying to spin Edmonton, as a place that you might want to go in order to try and win.