The Edmonton Oilers have been the NHL’s hottest team for a good long while now. They’ve won 13 in a row, and since that woeful 2-9-1 start, they’ve gone 24-6-0, which over a full season would be a 131-point pace. They’ve vaulted themselves out of the Motel For Men where the Sharks live, that they spent October residing in, to tied for one of the automatic playoff spots in the Pacific in just about 10 weeks. As of right now, they kind of feel like the Western Conference favorite, as they have the best player on the planet, perhaps the best second-line in the game, a power play to take on Galactus, and on top of that, the past two months goalie Stuart Skinner has a .931 save-percentage. It’s all clicking.
So what do the Oilers need to put them over the top? According to GM Ken Holland, they need Corey Perry, a fourth-line winger who is three days older than water and a couple months ago got booted off the Hawks for getting gassed up and either getting handsy, scream-y, or both, with a female team employee. Welcome to HOCKEY THINKING!
Perry is still getting a ton of mileage out of being a fourth-line winger for three straight Stanley Cup finalists, even if every team lost that Final and two of them were the space oddity of either the Bubble playoffs or the Covid season. He was also able to cobble together a bunch of power play goals for the Lightning, even though the Tampa Bay power play has been self-aware for a good six seasons now, and as long as a player in front of the net can remain conscious, then Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos or Victor Hedman will ping enough pucks off them to score goals (it’s the Nuno Gomes corollary).
The Oilers don’t have any need for any of this. One, the spot in front of the net on the man-advantage is taken by Zach Hyman, who’s sixth in the league in goals with 28, nine on the power play. The Oilers have no need for net presence on their second unit either, because the Oilers don’t really use a second power play unit. The top unit of McDavid, Draisaitl, Bouchard, Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins average more than three minutes of power play time per game. Only Evander Kane averages more than a minute otherwise. The Oilers know they have a doomsday device with PP1, and use it as much as possible.
Second, the Oilers don’t need the help on the fourth line, which is the only place Perry could slot. Sam Gagner and Connor Brown have been more than fine in those roles, and if it’s veteran savvy the Oilers think they need, well, Gagner is also 700 years old, just like Perry. Except he can still skate. He’s also less likely to take an unbelievably stupid and selfish penalty, like Perry still might, assuming he can still get anywhere near anyone anymore to piss them off enough to goad them into something.
As for “veteran presence”, that continues to act as Blue Chew to every NHL GM, the Oilers aren’t some wayward grouping of kids who just giggle at everything before taking bong rips in the dressing room. McDavid and Draisaitl are in their late 20s now and have been around forever, and McDavid, at this point, has a singular focus on completing his resume with the only thing he’s missing that borders on scary. The Oilers haven’t lost in the playoffs the past couple years because they lack focus or determination. They’ve lost because their goalies sucked or their defense wasn’t deep enough. The latter may still be something of an issue, but Perry doesn’t help with that.
But NHL GMs can’t help themselves, especially Ken Holland, who doled out a huge contract to proven-asshat Evander Kane, after all. Perry doesn’t have a long track record of being a douche canoe off the ice (very much so on it), but at his age and current use, he’s certainly not an automatic for the second chance that no front office can wait to dole out. He’s made tens of millions over his career, has a MVP award and a ring, and if his actions in Chicago ended his career he wouldn’t really be “missing” anything. He’s exactly the type of player the league can discard when they run afoul of workplace rules, and yet here he is in Northern Alberta.
This screams of something Holland did just to do it, whether to take credit for some sort of redemption or to show he’s a nice guy or to do Perry a favor he most certainly didn’t need. It’s unlikely to cost the Oilers anything other than McDavid and others having to answer some awkward questions for a week or two, if the baying hockey press can even be brought to ask them. But it certainly doesn’t gain them much either, which makes you wonder what the point of it is.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @Felsgate.bsky.social