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The Edmonton Oilers have not started the 2023-24 season the way they had hoped. Having been clearly outplayed in their first two matchups against the Vancouver Canucks and then following up their first win with a really rough loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, they would love to try and turn their season around immediately and luckily, there’s plenty of time to improve. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are contributing as well as they can and are dominating offensively just like they have since entering the league.

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One player who has stood out to many fans and insiders as having a bad start is defenseman Evan Bouchard. As someone who was expected to explode offensively on the top man-advantage unit, as well as improve his defensive play from the dumpster fire last season, he has only done one of those things. His offensive game has shown no signs of slowing down, but his laziness on the defensive side of the ice has been apparent to everyone, except for Jay Woodcroft who continues to put him in the top four.

Evan Bouchard’s game was a tire fire — for the second time in four games this season

– Mark Spector (Oilers vs Flyers Post-Game Article: October 19th, 2023)

Mark Spector, a senior columnist for Sportsnet and the sideline reporter for Sportsnet’s regional Edmonton Oilers broadcasts, didn’t hold back when referring to Bouchard’s play against the Flyers in the team’s 4-1 loss. In his post-game article, Spector labeled Bouchard’s game a “tire fire” and mentioned that it was the second time he had a brutal game this season.

Yes. Bouchard is a fantastic player when looking at the offensive side of the ice, but he has no defensive skill whatsoever. He has not started out the season well and has cost the Oilers big time when he’s on the ice. His lazy play in the defensive zone combined with his inability to backcheck as seen against the Flyers where he cost the team a goal, he really needs to pick up his play if he wants to stay with the Oilers and earn a massive contract when his current bridge deal expires.

Bouchard can’t play any worse, minus-3 in a 4-1 game.
He has been awful, even against the backdrop of an Oilers team that has played this poorly.

— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) October 20, 2023

Spector is one of many people who haven’t been happy with Bouchard’s play, and there are numerous fans on social media who are not happy and are letting their feelings be known. While Oilers fans are known for being a bit tougher on their players, and with Edmonton being a bigger market, Bouchard’s feedback is justified. He’s lucky it’s early in the season, and he has time to turn his game around completely.

Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Coming into the season, Bouchard was a prime breakout candidate for the Oilers. With the departure of Tyson Barrie after he was traded to the Nashville Predators last season, he was lined up to take over as the power-play quarterback and take on more ice time in a bigger role with the Oilers. He hasn’t blossomed into much of anything more than he was last season, and his time is quickly running out if he wants to be a top defenseman in the NHL.

What Does the Future Hold for Bouchard and the Oilers?

Bouchard signed a two-year extension this summer with the Oilers in what was a “prove it” bridge deal. It will be no surprise if Bouchard demands a pay raise at the conclusion of his current deal with how tough it is to find good defensemen. If the Oilers are smart, they won’t bring him back. They should even think about trading him before his value runs out, because if he continues on this path of lacklustre defensive ability and having a one-sided game, he won’t have any value left.

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With how early it is in the season, hopefully, Bouchard can snap out of whatever it is he’s dealing with and start playing real hockey. He hasn’t been good, but I hope he can improve and make everyone eat their negative words, including myself.

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The post Oilers Insider Labels Evan Bouchard a “Tire Fire” appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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