The Edmonton Oilers had a rough go of it in 2013, for a variety of reasons. For one, they couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net, a problem which may continue on into the season, but at the same time, they also dealt with injuries throughout the year.
Those injuries resided particularly in the middle, where the Oilers had a difficult time fielding competent centers on a nightly basis. With Sam Gagner already out anywhere from six to eight weeks after suffering a broken jaw, they’re looking at a lot of the same problems this year.
We know that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is at the top of the depth chart as far as pivots go. He’s a talent with elite potential. We already know that, despite the fact that he went through a pretty brutal sophomore slump. But after him, and especially with Gagner out, what do the Oilers have to work with?
The answer is not much.
They traded Shawn Horcoff. Whether you agree or disagree with the move, it’s hard to argue the fact that it left them even thinner in the middle than they already were. They signed Boyd Gordon to a ludicrous contract, but he’s a solid defensive presence in the bottom six.
What this lack of depth in the middle has done is force the likes of Taylor Hall into a potential role in the middle, at least while Gagner is out. The results of that experiment remain to be seen. Still, the fact that they’re moving Hall, a player who had an outstanding year last year out on the wing, does go to show their desperation for bodies in the middle.
It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out for the Oilers again this year, given their lack of center depth. It was a major issue last year, particularly when injuries occurred. If they can stave off any issues, beyond Gagner being out, they may be okay. But at least at this point, their lack of depth in the middle should be a point of concern.