September 9, 2013 by andymisek
The Edmonton Oilers can be a tricky team to predict due to their young promising youth. With three first overall picks in a row (Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012), it is time for Edmonton to make the next step in their rebuild. They tried addressing their need for a defenseman by signing Justin Schultz in hopes that he would develop into a star, but he still has some developing to do before he hits his prime. It’s hard for me to put Edmonton so low on my list with all their promising young stars (as well as being my 2nd favorite team), it is hard to argue with the fact that Edmonton doesn’t have the defense or goaltenders of a playoff team. The Oilers rank #22 on our NHL Season Countdown.
The Oilers hired new General Manager Craig MacTavish to help push Edmonton’s never ending rebuild in the right direction and started by taking defenseman Darnell Nurse in this year’s draft. Nurse is a rugged but skilled player who will fit well on Edmonton’s blue line with Justin Schultz and budding prospect, Oscar Klefbom who will make up Edmonton’s defensive core in a couple of years.
Oilers then signed free agents Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon and Jason LaBarbera. They also let Nikolai Khabibulin (Chicago Blackhawks) go during free agency and traded Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas Stars. Andrew Ference will be a great veteran presence for the Oilers and will be a great role model for Justin Schultz. Gordon will also will bring experience and depth to the Oilers bottom six.
MacTavish wasn’t finished as he traded forward Magnus Paajarvi to the St. Louis Blues for David Perron. Paajarvi was part of the young Oilers rebuild but was pushed out of the top six with the drafting of Nail Yakupov. David Perron is a great return for Paajarvi and could add some playoff experience to a young Oilers team. Also, Perron is young (25 years old) so he should fit in well with the young team.
The top six for Edmonton is extremely young and talented. Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Jordon Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is enough to make any hockey fan salivate. You also have Sam Ganger and Perron rounding out the top 6. The only problem is they are a very soft top six. Hall has proven he can through the body around at the NHL level, but the entire top 6 is injury prone and gets pushed off the puck very easily.
The addition of Boyd Gordon gives the Oiler a strong bottom six by replacing Shawn Horcoff. Ryan Jones and Anton Lander are both solid players as well. Lander has proven to be a decent penalty killer as well. Ryan Smyth is in the twilight of his career and might slow down a younger team like Edmonton. The biggest question mark in the bottom six is Ales Hemsky. Aside from him being extremely injury prone, how is he going to fit on the 3rd line? His $5 million contract could be used better.
There are some solid defensmen in Edmonton, but much like Colorado, they are missing a top pair. Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid have proven they can be top four defensemen, but are they able to play against an opponent’s top line game-in and game-out? Justin Schultz will be entering his 2nd season and looks to build off his rookie year.
Andrew Ference rounds out the Oilers top four. He will be the leader of the group and help steer the Oilers back to their winning ways. Corey Potter, Nick Schultz and Denis Grebeshkov are a few players who will be fighting for the Oilers last spots.
Simply put, Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera are a shaking goaltending tandem. Dubnyk sometimes looks good, and sometimes he looks off. It doesn’t help that Oilers defense isn’t great either. The addition of Ference and Schultz with a full year under their belts might help. The goaltending is a huge obstacle and will be for Edmonton. Either, Dubnyk needs to step up his game or the Oilers need to find another goalie to replace him.
It would be nice to see the Oilers get back into the playoffs. The rebuild they have been struggling through since their 2006 Stanley Cup appearance has become a joke at this point. Three first overall picks in a row and still having trouble to get out of a lottery pick. MacTavish has taken some steps in order to kick start the rebuild again, but is it enough? This could be the year the Oilers actually make a run, but we have all heard that before. It was hard to put Oilers anywhere else other than another disappointing season.