On the night of May 15th, 2023, after the Golden Knights eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2023 NHL playoffs Jack Eichel and Leon Draisaitl walked into two very different locker rooms. Eichel was promptly drenched with celebratory champagne and puffed on Ashton Aged Maduro’s with his jubilant teammates. Draisaitl stepped into a locker room that was emotional, furious, and unsatisfied with how their season abruptly ended. In fact, it was in that moment Oilers captain Connor McDavid sternly stated that he and his teammates were on notice.
We’ve heard the story now from a few places, that he cleared all but the closest team staff out of the room and laid down the parameters for his franchise going forward. That the window for learning how to win was slamming shut, and the time for applying those lessons — and winning Stanley Cups — has officially begun. – Mark Spector on Sportsnet.ca
Now, both Pacific Division contenders are preparing for a new 82-game regular season with a mutual agreement on how that six-game series ended in mid-May. In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 32 Thoughts blog, Draisaitl noticed the difference of quality bench players on VGK’s side.
At the NHL/NHLPA media tour in Las Vegas, Jack Eichel said the difference between Edmonton and Vegas in that second-round series was depth. Leon Draisaitl conceded that, but added, “We couldn’t get to our top game…They didn’t make those little mistakes we made and that was the difference.” –Elliotte Friedman in 32 Thoughts
Depth Goals By Teams In 2023 EDM-VGK Second Round Series:
- Game #1: VGK – Micheal Amadio
- Game #2: None
- Game #3: EDM – Warren Foegele, VGK – Zach Whitecloud
- Game #4: EDM – Nick Bjugstad, Mattias Ekholm, VGK – Nic Roy
- Game #5: VGK – Nic Hague
- Game #6: EDM – Warren Foegele
VGK’s deep bench was heralded throughout their Stanley Cup run due to the offensive emergence of Amadio, Brett Howden, and other depth players in the playoffs. However, based on game-by-game record sheets, the Oilers were not defeated solely because of the Golden Knights cavernous lineup. There’s a fair argument that Edmonton’s depth performed better than expected in their six-game defeat. The Oilers received two goals from a 12:00-minute-per-game forward and a pair from role players over the age of 30. Let’s not exclude that each club picked up multiple goals from defensemen in their second round series.
For some reason, the Oilers continue to ignore their weaknesses in net and on the blueline all summer long. After rolling back mostly the same roster, the Oilers are carelessly expecting a different outcome in 2024. If they end up facing Vegas again in the postseason, Edmonton will have to rely on more than just their depth.
Now, if Draisaitl agreed that allowing 3.7 goals per game to a quality opponent would have washed out any more depth goals. If only he noted his team’s glaring weakness in the defensive zone and in net, then maybe Eichel wouldn’t have been so kind with his assessment.