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Expert Analysis

What Went Wrong: Leafs, Oilers

by Corey Abbott
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

It is time to revisit our What Went Wrong series for the teams that didn't qualify for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We will look at the clubs that missed out on the postseason in groups of two, while going over some players who underperformed or who the team will be looking for more from after they struggled in some capacity.


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Toronto Maple Leafs


The Toronto Maple Leafs made improvements to their possession numbers and they competed much harder than a year ago when it looked the team had thrown in the towel, but they suffered from a lack of goal scoring and shaky goaltending in 2015-16. Coach Mike Babcock promised that pain was coming after he was hired and that was certainly the case. The Leafs finished last overall in the league standings with a 29-42-11 record and had the second-worst goal differential in the NHL at minus-48. Toronto also had the worst record on home ice this past season, where they posted just 14 wins in front of the home crowd.


They tallied just 2.34 goals for per game, which ranked 28th in the NHL and they allowed 2.93 goals against per match, which tied Colorado for 24th overall. The Leafs had the worst team shooting percentage in the NHL at 7.63 percent despite placing sixth overall with 2,515 shots on goal. Toronto's struggles on offense extended to the power play, where the team had 40 goals on 259 chances for a 15.4 success rate. That was good for 29th in the league.


The Leafs led the league in man-games lost with 448, but Stephane Robidas and Nathan Horton absorbed 82 games apiece of that total. Still, injuries to James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Matt Hunwick were key losses to a group that doesn't have much depth to begin with. Those absences as well as the trading of Dion Phaneuf, Roman Polak, Nick Spaling, Daniel Winnik, Shawn Matthias and James Reimer gave long looks to the organization's AHL talent in the second half of the year. William Nylander, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov and Connor Carrick displayed some promise. However, it will be interesting to see how they perform with a little more pressure on them in 2016-17, as they will all be in the mix for roster spots out of training camp next year.


The Leafs will add another important part to their rebuild at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft when they will probably take consensus No. 1 prospect Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. He is the top center that the team has been waiting for since Mats Sundin left and they have the opportunity to select him after winning the draft lottery. Toronto still has question marks on the back end and between the pipes, but whoever is drafted first overall in 2016 along with a returning JVR and prospects like Mitch Marner and William Nylander should give the offense a much-needed jolt. There is some hope brewing in Leafland even though they still have a long way to go and several more pieces have to fall into place. Having Babcock and a management group committed to patient building helps as well.


Nazem Kadri - Kadri led the Leafs in scoring in 2015-16 with 45 points in 76 games. He was rewarded with a six-year contract worth an annual average value of $4.5 million at the end of the year. Kadri was counted on to provide a two-way game for the Leafs, but he never took off offensively. He racked up 260 shots on goal, but scored just 17 times. That 6.5 shooting percentage is well below his career average of 10.5. Kadri should be able to hit 20 goals and 50 points next season with a healthy Van Riemsdyk and Komarov on his wings.


Jonathan Bernier - After James Reimer was traded to San Jose, Jonathan Bernier played some of his best hockey of the year, but his struggles before that led to an AHL demotion. He finished with only 12 wins along with a .908 save percentage and a 2.88 goals-against average in 38 appearances. Bernier will probably enter the 2016-17 campaign as Toronto's number one netminder and he'll have to be much better. Even if he does improve, the Leafs will no doubt be looking for ways to upgrade their crease situation.


James van Riemsdyk - JVR didn't play again after Jan. 9 because of a non-displaced fracture in his foot. He was leading the Leafs in scoring with 29 points in 40 games at the time of his injury. Van Riemsdyk is expected to be back for training camp and his presence in the lineup will help Toronto significantly, especially on the power play.


Morgan Rielly - Rielly was the best Toronto defender at moving the play into the attacking zone and his offensive skill set gave him personal bests with nine goals and 36 points in 82 games. Still, he had some troubles in his own end and a minus-17 rating came out of that. Rielly will continue to face difficult minutes next season and the Leafs would be wise to acquire or sign a steadying presence to help take some pressure off of him. Toronto's brass locked him up to a six-year contract worth $30 million in the off-season with the expectation that his two-way game will continue to improve.


Edmonton Oilers


After finishing 28th overall in the league standings for the previous two seasons, Edmonton slipped a spot to 29th in 2015-16. They finished one point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Lady Luck was not on their side this time at the NHL Draft Lottery, as they slipped to the fourth overall pick.


The Oilers rarely had a healthy lineup up front as Connor McDavid, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov missed plenty of action. McDavid sat out nearly half of the season after he suffered a broken clavicle, but still managed to amass 48 points in 45 appearances. Surprisingly, Taylor Hall played in the first 82-game season of his career, so he didn't contribute to Edmonton's 367 man-games lost. Injuries to defensemen Oscar Klefbom, Brandon Davidson and Eric Gryba spread an already thin group even thinner, which didn't help matters either.  Edmonton was unlikely to contend for a playoff spot, but it's reasonable to believe that they wouldn't have been as close to the bottom of the NHL if they had a healthy top-six forward group.


Edmonton posted a .905 save percentage on the season, which tied them with Nashville for 21st in the league, but Cam Talbot improved as the season progressed. His consistency will remain an issue next season, though. The Oilers ranked 27th in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.95. A better defense group would certainly go a long way to improving that. The loss of Klefbom was especially damaging for the Oilers. Offensively, Edmonton finished 26th with 2.43 goals for per match.


McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Hall represent some hope for the franchise, but it's easy to see why many are losing patience with the team. They have four first overall picks on the roster and still haven't made any progress. For that to happen the Oilers must address their need for defense. Names like Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov have come up frequently in the rumor mill and the fourth overall choice in the 2016 NHL Draft could be in play too to land a stud defenseman.


Jordan Eberle - Eberle missed the first 13 games of the season because of a shoulder injury. He struggled after his return, but played well with McDavid for stretches. Eberle managed to score 25 goals in 69 games thanks to a 14.5 shooting percentage, but his scoring pace was down from his previous two seasons. If he is back with the Oilers next season then he will look to get back on track with a healthy start.


Nail Yakupov - Yakupov had a hot start to the season alongside Connor McDavid, but that evaporated quickly. He struggled after McDavid's injury and then he sustained an injury of his own. Yakupov didn't contribute much offensively when he returned. He ended up with just eight goals and 23 points in 60 appearances. The 22-year-old forward has been mentioned as a trade candidate, so his future may not be with the Oilers.


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - RNH is viewed as another trade option for the Oilers. The emergence of Draisaitl and the presence of McDavid appears to have made him available. Nugent-Hopkins struggled in 2015-16 with 12 goals and 34 points in 55 matches. A broken hand and a concussion contributed to his woes in the second half of the season. He has topped 50 points in three of his five NHL campaigns and should be able to bounce back next year even if he is playing elsewhere.


Cam Talbot - Talbot struggled early in the season and Anders Nilsson saw the bulk of the action in November. Talbot managed to reclaim the crease in December and he played well for the Oilers for most of the team's remaining games. There were some inconsistencies, but he didn't look completely out of place as first-year starter, especially when Edmonton's defensive struggles are factored into the equation. The Oilers will expect more of the same from him next year, with the hope that he continues to progress.

Corey Abbott

Corey Abbott is an Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @CoreAbbott.