Rant Sports NHL 30 In 30: Previewing The Edmonton Oilers
As the lockout war rages on, onward we go, continuing to profile teams around the NHL. Today we will profile the Edmonton Oilers.
The 2011-2012 season was largely another season to forget. Oilers had a promising October that quickly turned into doom and gloom by December, ultimately ending up 29th in a 30 team NHL. The Oilers had all kinds of issues defending and just couldn’t score enough goals to keep them out of trouble. Long losing streaks in the dog days of winter led this team down the path of another high draft pick. All of this ended up in getting the opportunity to draft Nail Yakupov. The Oilers have missed the playoffs for 6 seasons in a row.
Positive contributions were made by the trio of young guns. Taylor Hall enjoyed a fine sophomore season but had his season cut short due to having to repair his shoulder. Jordan Eberle had a fantastic 2nd season, leading the team with 34 goals. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had an excellent rookie campaign, finishing with 52 points in 62 games, runner up for the Calder Trophy.
The negative came from most of the vets. Shawn Horcoff was a team worst -23. Ales Hemsky had his worst point total since his rookie season, finishing with 36 points in 69 games. Eric Belanger had a paltry 4 goals on the year. Nikolai Khabibulin faded badly as the season went on, to the point where they could not win with him between the pipes. The veterans really did not pull their weight this season.
Key Offseason Additions
Very little activity coming from the front office this offseason. The Oilers drafted the aforementioned Nail Yakupov. managed to win the auction that Justin Schultz conducted over the summer. The acquisition of Justin Schultz is a big one for so many reasons. It shows the fans that someone is willing to pick Edmonton over 29 other cities and it gives the Oilers a staple on the defense that it can now build around. The Oilers defense is a work in progress but it gives the Oilers one piece it can start to work with.
Key Offseason Subtraction
The only players not returning to the club that played games for the Oilers last season are Cam Barker and Linus Omark, although Omark headed over to play in Switzerland and is still Oilers property. Neither are that big of a loss and likely would have been squeezed out anyway to due to increasing depth on the Oilers.
Many things are going to be needed before the Oilers are considered to be a playoff team. The veterans, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger need to take ownership of becoming better defensive players. The defense needs a bounce back season from Ryan Whitney. The most pressure is going to lie at the doorstep of goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk is getting ready to become the go-to goaltender for the Oilers in the upcoming season. If Dubnyk falters, it will likely mean more of the same for the Oilers.
Under The Radar
Swedish players Magnus Paajarvi and Anton Lander don’t get the fanfare that some of the other Oiler super youngsters get but are just as important to makeup of the Oilers team going forward. Paajarvi and Lander will likely become more of the defensive conscience of the Oilers’ future. The Oilers could use a more physical contribution from Ben Eager this season. The Oilers need to give Eager more ice time but in turn, Eager needs to be more engaged, more consistantly throughout the season. Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry don’t get a lot of praise but are very important in terms of playing against tough opposition. Smid and Petry treaded water nicely last season and will need more of the same from them this upcoming season.
The Oilers offense will be greatly enhanced by the acquisitions of Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz. The Oilers defensively are no better off unless bigger contributions come from Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger to the defensive aspects of the game. Most fans are looking for playoffs this upcoming season but I think the Oilers need one more high draft pick, preferrably a defenseman, that can ensure this team will become very competitive in the future. The Oilers have many high-flying, offensive players but still lack in the defensive departments and physicality. Until there is balance, the Oilers will be on the outside looking in when it comes to playoffs.