The time will come when the Edmonton Oilers are down to a roster full of NHL players, and playing a game that should have them somewhere near the top of the NHL standings.
That time, however, was not Saturday in Vancouver, where an overmatched Edmonton club took far too many penalties, dropping a 5-2 decision to a well-stocked Canucks lineup.
Adam Erne and Raphael Lavoie scored the Oilers goals on a night when the Canucks dressed 17 regulars to Edmonton’s 10 — including neither Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid for the Oilers. Edmonton is 2-2-1 through five preseason games, while this was the Canucks first win of the preseason.
Here is how Edmonton lined up:
“We liked the way we started tonight,” said head coach Jay Woodcroft. “We made a mistake here or there, we took some penalties, and it kind of compounded.”
“A little bit, yes,” Woodcroft admitted. “We had a plan, and then the real world happens and you have to react to it. Regardless of who he plays with, (Broberg) has to lay down another good game tonight.”
We’re not sure if there is a player who is ready to help a Stanley Cup contender, however, as Broberg played another quiet game against Vancouver. Who knows how much improvement could be ahead for Broberg — he’s young and has a career ahead of him.
But in this preseason, Ben Gleason has been better. Vincent Desharnais is also ahead of Broberg, to my eye.
It will be up to Woodcroft to decide how much time they are willing to spend on the Ekholm-Broberg project, on a team that is long past developing payers in the NHL. On Saturday, Broberg played 19:00 and was an even player, adding an assist.
Dylan Holloway has made an impression in every game he’s played this fall, the best player on the ice Friday night in Calgary. He’s playing with a confidence that he lost last season, when he made consecutive gaffes in early season games that directly cost the Oilers goals.
“You can talk about what it’s like in the NHL, and the plays that need to be made in order to continue to guarantee ice time,” Woodcroft said. “But sometimes you have to experience it. You have to go through it, and work through some of the lessons. For me, that’s what his year was about last year.”
He had some injuries, and Holloway jumped back and forth between Bakersfield and Edmonton as a result. He ended up with 51 NHL games and a stats line of 3-6-9, numbers he appears to be ready to more than double this season.
“It’s OK that there was a little bit of struggle. There’s value in things not being easy,” Woodcroft said. “He’s a great kid who is working hard, and he seems to be progressing. We were happy with his game last night, but it’s up to him to make sure he gets the most out of his day today.”
Holloway did not play Saturday night in Vancouver.
The Oilers flew to Seattle after the game Saturday, where team building will ensue Sunday with a big pickleball tournament prior to Monday’s game against the Kraken.
By the time they fly home for the final two preseason games in Edmonton, they’ll be down to “24, 25 guys” according to Woodcroft. “I see value in bringing players on the roads so that they can come together. This is where we’ll have a bit of a team builder,” the coach said.
Injured Mattias Ekholm, Ryan McLeod — who may play Monday in Seattle — and Sam Gagner are all on the road with the team. Ekholm (hip) is healing up for a long season. He’d be playing if we were in a playoff series in May.
“Oh yes, for sure,” Woodcroft said. “It’s the start of the year and we’re just trying to be smart.”