Edmonton Oilers at the Quarter Pole: The Good & The Bad
The Edmonton Oilers have hit the quarter mark for the 2013 season and are currently sitting tied for 8th in the Western Conference with a 5-4-3 record. For a team that wants to be part of a playoff chase by the end of the year, they appear to be where they expected to be.
There have been many positives, and also many much needed improvements that have been evident through the first 12 games.
This is a team that is fun to watch, no doubt about it. With young stars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, a rejuvenated Ales Hemsky and a suddenly hot Sam Gagner, there is no shortage of high flying offense. It has been the latter two, surprisingly that have been the Oilers’ best forwards on many nights. When Eberle, Hall and RNH finally get pucks going in, this could be an extremely dangerous group.
Justin Schultz, the much hyped college free agent, has been as advertised and then some. He is the Oilers’ leader in average ice time and leads the defense in scoring with 7 points. He has also shown a maturity and decision making with the puck that is not normally seen in a rookie at his position.
Devan Dubnyk, one of the main question marks coming into the season, has been arguably the team’s top player through the first quarter of the season. He has been rock solid in all of his outings but one and has bailed the team out on numerous occasions when they are lax defensively.
For all the excitement there has been offensively, there has been equally as many cringe-worthy plays defensively. With such a young group of offense-first forwards, there is bound to be miscues defensively. The team as a whole needs to improve their play without the puck, as they give up far too many quality chances each night.
Injuries have also been a factor early in the season, especially to the forwards and the centre position. Through 12 games the Oilers have already used 8 players at the center position alone. The four that started the year in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger, they have used call-ups Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander and Chris VandeVelde already. Not too mention they’ve slid winger Ryan Smyth into the middle for a few games.
The lack of depth due to injuries have been apparent, especially in the faceoff circle where the Oilers rank as one of the worst in the league.
The Oilers are a team that have finished in the league’s cellar the last three years and want this season to be one where they are challenging for a playoff spot.
Through one quarter of the season they appear to be right on track, currently sitting tied for 8th. Going into the year they expecting to have a high flying offense but to struggle defensively and give up more chances than they should.
They have gotten more from some players than they expected such as Schultz and Dubnyk and have had other factors such as injuries set them back.
If they can get healthy and they young stars continue to progress and mature, they could just be knocking on the playoff door come the end of the season.
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