Edmonton Oilers reject their latest failed forward, yet things keep improving upfront

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Kyle Turris, now on waivers, is the latest in a long line of Edmonton Oilers forwards who have arrived and failed to thrive in Edmonton during the Ken Holland regime.

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Yet for all that, Edmonton’s forward lines have improved dramatically under Holland, so much so that at today’s trading deadline the Oilers are reportedly not in the market for another forward.

They no longer need a top line winger or two to go with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They no longer need a third line center who can get the job done. They don’t even need some big grinding and tough forwards for the bottom line. All those roster spots have now been filled.

All that said, the list of players whom the Oilers have tried at forward in the Ken Holland era, 2019 to present, is long and full of players who could not cut it in Edmonton, with Turris being one of the most notable as his signing was meant to fill a key roster spot at third line centre, but he did not come close to doing so. The wheels simply weren’t there, nor was the ability to defend the defensive slot.

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Others who have come and gone at forward?

Gaetan Haas, who was fast put unproductive, Riley Sheahan, who was slow and unproductive, Joakim Nygard, fast and unproductive, Patrick Russell, industrious but near historic unproductive, James Neal, old and unproductive, save for the power play, Alex Chiasson, a decent fourth liner and strong power player but slow, Sam Gagner, a fan favorite at the very least, Jujhar Khaira, inconsistent and too often injured, Markus Granlund, past his best before, Tyler Ennis, a strong attacker but chaos defender, Andrea Athanasiou, who never got untracked here, Tomas Jurco, skilled but slow, Tyler Benson, skilled but slow, Dominik Kahun, very skilled but slow, Colton Sceviour, slow, Brendan Perlini, big and skilled but ineffective, and Seth Griffith and Cooper Marody , who have had only the briefest of auditions.

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Big Brad Malone is back in Bakersfield, but given how well he played in Edmonton, given his size, PK-ability and leadership, I expect we’ll see him back in Edmonton this year. He’s one of those fourth line grinders who can help Edmonton in a playoff run.

That is about 18 forwards who have come and gone.

But, again, for all that Edmonton’s situation at forward is uncommonly strong.

The team was smart enough to draft Leon Draisaitl and lucky enough to get Connor McDavid. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has found extra lives as an Oilers with his versatility at even strength — his latest incarnation as a third-line center — and excellence on special teams. Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi are both developing nicely as two-way players in a Top 6 role. Ryan McLeod is coming on strong. Zack Kassian can still hit and skate, even if his even strength play is marginal.

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All those players were here before Holland got here, though he hit it big by convincing Puljujarvi to give it another go in Edmonton.

But Holland has hit it big again this year with the additions of Evander Kane and Zach Hyman, two quality Top 6 forwards, both of them big, skilled and aggressive, neither of them fast, but both fast enough, with solid hockey sense.

Warren Foegele has also been a decent addition, as he can skate and and he’s starting to now contribute more on the attack. Finally Derek Ryan has been a solid addition as a winger/centre. After a rough run of games from late October to early December, his two-way play has been strong, especially on the wing.

If all are healthy, Edmonton can go into the playoffs with the following lines

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Kane McDavid Yamamoto

Hyman Draisaitl Puljujarvi

Foegele RNH Ryan

Kassian McLeod Archibald

Shore Malone Holloway

Add it all up and for the first time in years there are no obvious holes at forward. This is an excellent group, capable of doing their bit to take the Oilers deep into the playoffs. The same can’t necessarily be said of the defenders and goalies on this team, but we’ll see if Holland can do anything about that on deadline day.

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Why is Steven Guilbeault trying to kill off Canada’s best source of low-carbon energy?

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steve Guilbeault in his days as an anti-Alberta oil and gas activist.  Image from the Allan Inquiry, which identified Guilbealt's group as anti-oil and gas.
Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steve Guilbeault in his days as an anti-Alberta oil and gas activist. Image from the Allan Inquiry, which identified Guilbealt’s group as anti-oil and gas. PHOTO BY SUPPLIED

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