Division: PacificGM: Craig MacTavishHead Coach: Dallas Eakins
2012-13: 19-22-7 (3rd in Northwest)Playoffs Did Not Qualify
Goals For125 (18th)
Goals Against134 (19th)
Powerplay 20.1% (8th)
Penalty Kill 83.4% (9th)
Youth movement soldiers on for the Oil
Richard Bachman, Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Denis Grebeshkov, Ryan Hamilton, Jesse Joensuu, Jason LaBarbera, Philip Larsen, David Perron.
Yann Danis, Mark Fistric, Darcy Hordichuk, Shawn Horcoff, Nikolai Khabibulin, Magnus Paajarvi, Theo Peckham, Lennart Petrell, Andy Sutton, Ryan Whitney.
Last year: The Oilers entered the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with reason for optimism.
After three straight years of finishing either last or second-last in the NHL standings and selecting first in the draft, they were expected to take a big step forward and challenge for a playoff spot.
Things got off to a decent start, too. The Oilers were right in the thick of things in the Western conference with a 16-13-7 record at the NHL trade deadline.
Then the wheels fell off.
Edmonton lost nine of its next 10 games to fall completely out of the race and stretch the team’s playoff drought to seven years. For all of the team’s young offensive talent, the shortcomings on the back end were simply too much to overcome.
And while the 12th place finish in the Western Conference was still something of an improvement, it wasn’t enough for general manager Steve Tambellini or first-year head coach Ralph Krueger to keep their jobs.
This Year: It’s a new era in leadership for the Oilers with former Oilers player and head coach Craig MacTavish taking over for Tambellini as GM.
MacTavish wasted little time in putting his stamp on the team, replacing Krueger with up and coming coach Dallas Eakins. Eakins spent the last four seasons coaching the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, leading the Maple Leafs’ affiliate to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Once he had his coach in place, MacTavish went to work on revamping the Oilers roster - team captain Shawn Horcoff, Theo Peckham, Ryan Whitney, Magnus Paajarvi, Nikolai Khabibulin and Andy Sutton are all gone.
David Perron, Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Denis Grebeshkov and Jason LaBarbera, meanwhile, were added in the off-season to fill the gaps.
From The Insider
Check out TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie's take on the Edmonton Oilers.
When healthy, Perron is a talented left winger should fit in nicely with the other talented young forwards on the Oilers roster. Ference provides some much needed veteran leadership on the team’s blue line. He has 120 games of playoff experience and won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.
The Oilers also got defensive in the draft, selecting hulking Sault Ste Marie blueliner Darnell Nurse with the seventh overall pick in the draft.
The new additions are nice and should make the Oilers a better team in 2013-14, but the real key to the team’s success is the continued development of its core of young stars.
No. 1 picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov as well as Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner (who signed a new three-year deal in the offseason) and Justin Schultz give the Oilers plenty enough talent to end the long playoff drought. Now it’s just a matter of turning all that talent and potential into wins.
Top Prospects: For the first time since 2009, the Oilers didn’t have the top pick in the draft. They still landed a pretty solid prospect in Darnell Nurse though. The 6-foot-4 Greyhounds defenceman will likely need an extra year or two of seasoning in the OHL, but gives the Oilers a very solid future talent on the blue line.
Another defensive prospect who is closer to making the jump to the NHL is Oscar Klefbom. With the Oilers selecting Nugent-Hopkins first overall in 2011, it’s easy to forget that the team had another first rounder that year. They used that pick on Klefbom who might be the only rookie with a legitimate shot at cracking the Oilers roster this year.
The 6-foot-3 200-pounder was very impressive at the Oilers’ development camp and has the size and skill to make the team. Klefbom has been limited by injuries for the last few seasons though and with nine veteran pros ahead of him on the depth chart, it may be another year before he makes his mark in the NHL.
Martin Marincin and David Musil are also solid defensive prospects who should spend the year in Oklahoma City seasoning with the Barons.
Up front, Marc-Olivier Roy and Daniil Zharkov are probably the Oilers top forward prospects. Roy, the Oilers’ second round pick in 2013, is a speedy young centreman who scored 29 goals and 38 assists for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in his second QMJHL season last year.
Zharkov, the 91st pick in 2012, showed improvement offensively in his second year in the OHL last season scoring 25 goals for the Belleville Bulls.
TOP FIVE PROSPECTS
||Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
||2013 Draft (7th overall)
||2011 Draft (19th overall)
||2011 Draft (31st overall)
||Oklahoma City (AHL)
||2010 Draft (46th overall)
||Oklahoma City (AHL)
||2009 Draft (133rd overall)
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Oilers' performance after a shortened season?
This season will mark the first time in quite a while that the Oilers won’t be relying on rookies for significant production.
In 2010-11 it was Eberle and Hall, in 2011-12 it was RNH and during last year’s abbreviated schedule it was Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov. Well, they all have NHL experience now so it’s time for the rebuild to start paying dividends.
The Oilers’ core is young and fast and the team has also added solid depth over the off-season, so holding out over a full 82-game schedule shouldn’t be much of a concern.
What will be a concern is keeping this much youth focused and on the same page for a full season. That’s where Eakins comes in. Eakins will challenge the Oilers’ talent to work as a cohesive unit and compete night-in, night-out.
His presence should keep the Oilers on task and in the playoff hunt.
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Oilers make to get themselves back in cap shape?
The Oilers entered the off-season with a fair amount of cap space to build around their young core. They used a bunch of that space to sign Ference ($3.25 million cap hit) and Gordon ($3 million cap hit). Sending Paajarvi ($1.2 million cap hit) to St. Louis for David Perron ($3.8 cap hit) also cost the team some room.
Still, the team was able to lock up Gagner to a three-year deal with an average annual value of $4.8 million. This means that the Oilers have all Gagner, Hall and Eberle all under contract until at least 2015-16.
Nugent-Hopkins is still on his entry-level deal and will become a restricted free agent next season. The team would obviously like to get him locked up long term as well. Justin Schultz will also fall into that category.
Starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk, meanwhile, will become an unrestricted free agent following this season. The team will need to decide this season whether they think he is a long term solution in net.
The team also has several other players set to hit unrestricted free agency after this season including Ryan Smyth, Ryan Jones, Nick Schultz and Denis Grebeshkov.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Oilers after realignment.
All of the Oilers' traditional rivals remain with them as fellow Canadian teams the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks join them in the new Pacific Division.
The Oilers may also be happy to see less of the Wild, who have had Edmonton's number over the last few years, as they move over to the Central. The Oilers also say goodbye to the Avalanche while saying hello to the Kings, Coyotes and Sharks.
Playing in the West, the Oilers also have the advantage of having to compete with only 14 teams for eight playoff spots rather than 16 like the teams in the East do.
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C - After his fine rookie season was cut short by injury, Nugent-Hopkins' numbers dipped significantly in his second season and led to April shoulder surgery. While all indications are that Nugent-Hopkins recovery has been good, the expectation was that he could in the first month of the season. Even if he's ahead of schedule on rehab, it's conceivable that he won't necessarily be ready to play when the first puck drops on the regular season.
Even with that back-drop, there are several positive factors in Nugent-Hopkins' favour too. One, when he is healthy, there is the chance that he could centre Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle on the Oilers' number one line. Not many teams can boast that kind of young talent, let alone put them on the same line.
Nugent-Hopkins also has some likelihood of bouncing back from bad percentages last year, from converting only 5.1% of his shots on goal to his on-ice shooting percentage dropping more than 20% from his rookie season, it's reasonable to expect Nugent-Hopkins to be better. If he's healthy and the percentages flip in the other direction, he could have a breakthrough season.
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Pressing Question: Can the Oilers finally end their playoff drought?
When the Edmonton Oilers came one game short of winning the Stanley Cup back in 2006, nobody could have believed that the team wouldn’t make it back to the playoffs for the next seven years.
Well, seven years later here we are.
On the bright side, several years of losing have allowed the Oilers to do a full scale rebuild and reload with a plethora of young talent.
For the last few seasons, the future has looked plenty bright but despite flashes of brilliance, success has remained just out of reach.
Compared with other teams that have undergone this type of rebuild through the draft in the last decade, winning has not come as easily in Edmonton. Pittsburgh and Washington both made it to the playoffs while Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were still on entry-level deals. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, won the Stanley Cup while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were still on their rookie contracts.
Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle never made the dance on their first contracts despite having the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov follow them onto the Oilers roster.
Will that all change this year? Can the Oilers end their seven-year playoff drought or, despite all that talent, will they spend yet another season on the outside looking in?
- Edmonton Oilers Preview by Mitch Ward, TSN.ca