For the Edmonton Oilers, is this "cup"? Or is this "bust"?: 9 Things

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The Oilers are 5 wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.

That is a subtle but vital edit of my lead line from 7 days ago in this space.

They are closer. Closer than last Sunday. Closer today than they have been since 2006.

And yet, they are still not even three-quarters of the way along their journey to their intended destination.

Will that change for them on a Sunday tonight in Edmonton?

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That and more on in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman presented a cheque for $25,000 for the 25th Anniversary of Hockey Fights Cancer (on behalf of the NHL and NHLPA). The gesture was tweeted out by Ben Stelter’s dad Mike, who added “Benny made the best friends.”

8. Kalle Larsson has been added to Edmonton Oilers Hockey Operations as Senior Director of Player Development. Larsson was most recently with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the UHL. There is a hole in the donut when it comes to development past the organization’s top picks. Larsson’s job: Fix that.

7. The Oilers tied a franchise record on Friday night with their 25th consecutive post-season penalty kill. To me, a great PK is more impactful than the Power Play. You accept that a certain number of Power Play goals will be scored. It’s just the odds. So, every time an opportunity is killed off, a little hope dies along with it.

6. Connor McDavid’s 104th post-season point on Friday night passed Paul Coffey for fifth in franchise history. Connor is now tied with Leon Draisaitl. Those above the Glimmer Twins: Wayne Gretzky (252), Mark Messier (215), Jari Kurri (202) and Glenn Anderson (183). These two are truly in the company of legends. We are so lucky. You know that, right?

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5. I have always thought the blowback against former Oilers coming back to try and help the Oilers was in exceedingly poor taste. So it is with some satisfaction that I watch as Paul Coffey has such an impact with the present-day Edmonton D-Corps. Here is a guy who does not “need the work” but has rolled up his sleeves anyway. There are lots of good coaches out there. What a winning team needs, however, is the right coach at the right time. Coffey appears to be that.

4. On the heels of his best-ever regular season in the NHL (37-67-104 in 82 games in 2022-23), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is now enjoying his finest post-season ever (6-14-20 in 17 games played). He was the best Oilers skater on Friday night. What sweet redemption for a player who soldiered through some of the leanest, lousiest years in franchise history. Can we agree now that Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, et al were never the problem?

3. Evan Bouchard is now the fastest Defenceman to 50 playoff points in NHL history. Only the great Bobby Orr (39 games) and Brian Leetch (41 games) accomplished this feat faster. Think about that for a minute. Even if Bouchard had not taken a significant step forward in his defensive abilities that would still be an incredible accomplishment. During this post season, Bouchard has been on the ice for better than 7 out of every 10 goals Edmonton has scored.

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2. A few words about Brett Kulak playing his weak side. I have mad respect for what Kulak has accomplished these past two games. When I played competitive hockey, I was a Defenceman. I shot left and primarily played the left side. I had weaknesses as a player that prevented me from making it. But my skating was certainly not one of them. I was in Moose Jaw Warriors camp back in the Fall 1986 (Glen Gulutzan was Warrior’s property then, too). I could keep up with Thereon Fleury and Kelly Buchberger (who ended up with the Oilers 6+ months later) just fine on my strong side. But trying to do that on my weak side was another thing entirely. I have told people that it is a bit like backing up a trailer for the very first time. Until it is sorted out in your head, everything seems to be the opposite of what it should be. So, to watch Kulak to do it at his level, in these situations, this much on the line? Some wanted Brett Kulak gone for cap reasons. I was never one of them. And this is one of the reasons why.

1.What a wild 200-day journey it has been for the Edmonton Oilers to date. They were mired in a terrible slump 200 days ago. They were 31st in the standings. And it did not seem like they could do anything right. But now, here they are, one win away from a berth in The Stanley Cup Finals. It is damn hard to get this far. And it will be just as difficult to lock the series up and advance. The Dallas Stars will not go away. I will fall over backward if they do. But it is there for the Oilers to go and get.

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This is what championship teams do. They keep giving themselves a chance until they finally break through. And as much as it is fair ball enough to criticize any General Manager for some or any of their decisions, it is hard to argue with the team that Ken Holland has assembled in 2024. They are in the Final 4, and just 60-minutes away from the Final 2. Consider this, from an interview that SportsNet writer Mark Spector did with the Oilers General Manager last August:

What I’ve learned through my experiences, through the years, is that you’ve just got to keep with it. You’ve got to be good year, after year, after year, after year, after year. The teams that you’re talking about (previous cup winners such as Tampa and Vegas), that’s what they do.”

These Oilers have learned some hard, painful lessons in previous playoff losses. Go as far back as Winnipeg and Chicago. Or as recent as Colorado and Vegas, who went on to win their own cups. All of those were steps along the way to the top of the mountain.

Can this collection of Oilers ascend to the next flight of stairs? Is this their time?

We will have a much, much better answer to that question…

…tonight.

Drop the puck.

Now on Threads @kleavins. Also, find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and Mastodon at [email protected]. This article is not AI generated.

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