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NHL free-agency review: How Edmonton Oilers stack up in Pacific Division

NHL free-agency review: How Edmonton Oilers stack up in Pacific Division

Editor’s note: NHL free agency was fast and furious, and the moves that teams did (and did not) make set the tone for next season. All week, we’ll examine the Sharks’ Pacific Division rivals, and whether their free-agency approach put them in better, worse or the same position. Today, we dive into the Edmonton Oilers.

It was only a couple of postseasons ago when the Oilers booted the Sharks from the Stanley Cup playoffs. But boy, have they spiraled out of control since then.

Despite having one of the best hockey players in the world on their team, the Oilers have developed a reputation for being inconsistent and sometimes looking like they really don't give a darn. The drama got turned up an extra notch this past season with the firing of coach Todd McLellan in November and of general manager Peter Chiarelli in February.

Now Edmonton is set with a new bench boss and GM and is making moves in free agency to improve its roster. But is it enough to completely rebound from a disappointing 2018-19 campaign?

Here's a look at what the Oilers have done since the free-agent market opened. 

Players who signed

New GM Ken Holland has gone to work trying to provide the Oilers with offensive depth in free agency, re-signing forwards Alex Chiasson and Jujhar Khaira and adding Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco, and Gaetan Haas. 

But the most interesting signing thus far has been that of goaltender Mike Smith, previously with the Calgary Flames. Smith is coming off an inconsistent season where he lost out on the starting job to David Rittich, but was good down the stretch -- although the Flames were booted pretty quickly from the playoffs.

This addition could go one of two ways. Smith could have a bounceback season playing for David Tippett -- who has been his coach twice before -- or lose out on the starting job yet again, this time to Mikko Koskinen. 

Whichever goalie wins the job is going to have a challenging time with the lack of quality defense being played in front of them. Speaking of ...

Players who left

Edmonton started clearing room before the market opened by buying out the rest of Andrej Sekera's contract. Even though Sekera's career has been on the decline since he sustained an ACL injury a couple of seasons ago, it leaves a void on the Oilers' blue line.

Not ideal if your team is going up against an offense like the Sharks' multiple times a season.

[RELATED: Sharks re-sign RFAs Gambrell and Suomela to contracts]

It's believed Holland is going to make a big trade at some point this summer ahead of training camp to beef up the blue line. Until that happens, though, Edmonton's defense isn't looking too sturdy.

Better, worse, or the same?

As of right now, the Oilers don't appear to have made any big changes that could completely turn their fortunes around and still have pieces they need to add before next season starts.

They may have a new coach and general manager in place, but they'll need to do more than that if they want to be more competitive next season.

Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

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USATSI

Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks went 39-1 last season when allowing two goals or fewer. Scoring rarely was an issue for them, which meant many games were decided on their play without the puck.
 
“We scored a lot of goals, but unlike other years, where we relied on being tight defensively, those goals came at the expense of being a little looser defensively,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer recently said at training camp. “And they were getting different looks.”
 
Criticism of goals allowed thickened during the final stretch of the regular season, and fingers were pointed in two distinct places: Team defense and goaltending.
 
“I’m sure [Martin] Jones is the first guy to say he wishes he played better at times," Sharks captain Logan Couture said of his goalie. "But there were a lot of times we didn’t help him out. We gave up too much."
 
The plot thickened in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, when Vegas took Games 2, 3 and 4 by scoring goals early and often. The Golden Knights looked unstoppable on the scoreboard.

In retrospect, Jones believes he tried to do too much.
 
“You want to go out and make a difference," he said. "But as a goalie, you need to have more patience and let the game come to you. You can’t race out and make 30 saves in the first period. You have to take what comes to you.“ 
 
Facing elimination in Game 5, the Sharks turned their Achilles heel into a strong point.
 
“Breakaways, odd-man rushes, tap-in goals -- he didn’t have a chance,” Couture said. "I don’t know how we did it, but we flipped a switch, and buckled down after that."
 
Added DeBoer: “I know the group around him takes some responsibility for the ups and downs of last year. To his credit, he found a way. He dug himself out of that place where he wasn’t feeling great about his game.”   

[RELATED: Four players Sharks are counting on to take step forward]
 
The final 16 playoff games should clearly indicate what Jones -- who posted a career-worst .896 save percentage and 2.94 goals-against average in the regular season -- can do, especially in the most critical junctures. That must breed confidence in what the Sharks can accomplish this season, if they can support their goalie.
 
“I can tell you this,” DeBoer said confidently, “the group never wavered once, even at the lowest moments, about whether he could get the job done.”

Jonny Brodzinski's audition for Sharks roster spot off to good start

Jonny Brodzinski's audition for Sharks roster spot off to good start

SAN JOSE - When Jonny Brodzinski played on the Ontario Reign during the 2016-17 season, he regularly faced a San Jose Barracuda roster consisting of Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, and Marcus Sorensen -- among other names familiar to Sharks fans.

Now, the 26-year-old out of Minnesota is sporting the same teal sweater as the aforementioned players while the Sharks preseason gets underway. 

Heck, he and Sorensen are even playing on a line together to kick off training camp.

"I played against a lot of these guys, yeah," Brodzinski reflected after Tuesday evening's preseason game. "Played against a lot of them and now we're teammates. It's exciting."

The Sharks have roster spots to fill on offense and having a player with Brozinski's skillset could help fill out their forward attack. While Sharks' bench boss Peter DeBoer insisted he isn't penciling in his final roster just yet, he's impressed with what he sees from Brodzinski so far.

"He's got a great shot, he's got good speed, he works hard," DeBoer observed. "He's auditioning for some pretty big roles we have open here. He's one of a handful of guys here where tonight was the start of that audition."

The coach was right. Although Tuesday's contest against the Anaheim Ducks ended in a 4-3 loss, it did help kickstart observing the talents of San Jose's roster hopefuls. And Brodzinski's resume was on display. 

Following an NCAA career at St. Cloud State where he posted 112 points (64 goals, 48 assists) and a plus-42 -- and helped lead the Huskies to their first Frozen Four appearance in 2013-- Brodzinski spent four seasons with the Reign and occasionally got recalled to play for the Kings. The 6-foot-1 winger spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between the AHL and NHL as he developed his game, building himself up to be a regular goal-scorer.

That scoring consistency, mixed with the element of speed Brodzinksi demonstrated in Tuesday evening's game, could be one piece of the puzzle pieces the Sharks are looking for to bolster their bottom six.

Brodzinski may still be in the audition phase of his tenure in teal, but he's also getting some veteran guidance along the way. Playing wing opposite Sorensen also means he's spent the start of the preseason on a line with Joe Thornton. Sharks' general manager Doug Wilson said ahead of training camp how excited the organization was that No. 19 would be around for another season to help usher in the next wave of new players -- much like Thornton did with Sorensen last season. So far, Brodzinski is getting that exact opportunity.

"All of those guys, especially Joe, are pretty easy to play with," Brodzinski complimented. "He sees the ice really, really well."

This isn't to say the line combinations won't get mixed up at some point before the regular season starts. DeBoer isn't one to get too attached to combos and pairs, no matter what time of year it is. For the time being, though, Brozinski is trying to figure out how he can best contribute to that line.

[RELATED: Martin Jones aims to prove himself again]

"Those guys have a lot of chemistry already," he said of Thornton and Sorensen. "So, I'm just trying to mesh. Find the way that they play and try to acclimate my game as much as I can to the way they play.

"Now I just have to take this opportunity and run with it."