They couldn’t get over the hump in the playoffs in 2023 against the Vegas Golden Knights, but Edmonton Oilers TV and radio play-by-play man Jack Michaels says they’ll take their next big step this regular season.
“I think the Oilers will win the division for the first time since 1987,” Michaels stated. (Video at bottom)
And it all begins with a home and home against the Vancouver Canucks starting on October 11th.
“Vancouver is going to need a much better defence,” Michaels pointed out. “The guy that I think can make a real difference is (Carson) Soucy. I didn’t know why Seattle didn’t necessarily love him, he was kind of in and out of the line-up at times, I’d be shocked when he was a healthy scratch. I think he can really help Vancouver.”
On paper it appears Soucy will get a step up in ice time and responsibility compared to his tenure with the Kraken, and it might mean moving this lefty to the right side. Line-up experimentation will begin in training camp for Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet and it might even mean seeing Soucy on the right of superstar D-man Quinn Hughes.
“Obviously he’d be an unbelievable player to play with,” Soucy told Vancouver Hockey Insider on Thursday, “I’d like to think I’ve done a decent job in my time with Minnesota playing on the right side, so it would be pretty special to play with him, kind of just watch him, protect him defensively and let him do his thing.”
The Canucks don’t have an edge offensively on the Oilers, but then again very few teams do, particularly on special teams. Edmonton added superstar Connor McDavid’s pal from junior hockey and 448-game NHL’er Connor Brown during the off-season.
The D-corps comparisons are tough at the moment. Edmonton can still be a bit of a mystery on the back-end while the Canucks have added some depth. Besides Soucy, more offensively minded righthander Filip Hronek plans to get a full season under his belt with Vancouver, while Ian Cole adds some veteran depth and playoff experience.
The standout difference for the Canucks, if he stays healthy, is Thatcher Demko. Yes, Stuart Skinner was a Calder Trophy finalist for NHL rookie-of-the-year, but if he’s on his game, Demko is a consistent, elite NHL netminder.
“That’s the key right there,” Michaels points out. “Thatcher Demko cannot play to a .901 (save percentage) again, or Vancouver has no chance, they’re going to be out of it by Christmas again. If he comes back as a .915 goaltender … “
… Then Michaels and others like their chances to slip into a playoff spot. Of course, injuries played a part in Demko’s struggles even before he was officially hurt.
“I mean Edmonton is obviously a favourite, Vegas is the defending Stanley Cup champion, Colorado will have some questions, no Landeskog for the entire season, but they’ve learned to play without him, but outside of that, I see spots five through ten (in the Western Conference) as wide open,” Michaels concludes.
Not too long after the season opening set the Canucks and Oilers will see one another again on November 6th at Rogers Arena. There’s then a large time gap to the final regular season match-up, Saturday April 13th on Hockey Night in Canada.
It’s the final weekend of the season. Will the Oilers be cruising into the postseason and the Canucks battling for a berth? Stranger things have happened, and there’s 79 Vancouver games between now and then to see where everyone stands.