The Edmonton Oilers will head into the 2013 season with renewed hope, after yet another disappointing season. The club comes in with a fresh face behind the bench and a front office that has shown, and demonstrated, a willingness to make changes. But the true question facing this team heading into 2013-14 is whether or not they are contenders.
This is the major question the organization faces heading into the new season. Stanley Cup contenders, they are not, but they might just be playoff contenders. At least on paper. This is a very solid club with some elite level talent. It’s a matter of the talent that they do have on paper translating to success on the ice.
Up front, we know they are supremely talented. Taylor Hall reached star status last season, in a year in which he was finally completely healthy. Nail Yakupov came on strong at the end of the year and is another high end offensive talent. It’s hard to imagine that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins won’t rebound from a brutal sophomore slump. And don’t forget about Jordan Eberle.
As far as their forwards are concerned, this team is a contender. They have enough talent up front, and enough depth, that they won’t have a problem scoring goals. The issue for the Oilers will be exactly the same as it was last year: keeping the puck out of their own net. It remains to be seen if they can do it.
Sure, the blue line has been marginally improved. Andrew Ference makes them better. Justin Schultz is awesome, in the simplest terms. There is some intriguing youth here as well, including Oscar Klefbom. But as for whether or not they have the right pieces in place on the blue line, the answer is still no.
However, they do appear to have a more than capable goaltender between the pipes. Devan Dubnyk is in his make-or-break year with the Oilers. He showed some good things last year, it’s just a matter of consistency. With no one to challenge him, this is his year to really prove himself.
Again, on paper this team is a potential playoff contender. They’ll be right in there with those teams battling for the seventh or eight spot in the Western Conference. But until they prove that they’re actually capable of keeping the puck out of their own net, they’re not much more than that.
Cheer on the Oilers as they look to make it back to the NHL Playoffs. Get your Oilers tickets to see the action live all season long.