Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Edmonton Oilers are up first. Get the lowdown on their off-season, the issues they face this season, and Scott Cullen's fantasy analysis. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Oilers!
2009-10: 27-47-8 (15th in West, missed the playoffs)
General Manager: Steve Tambellini (3rd Season)
Head Coach: Tom Renney (1st Season)
What they did in the off-season:
The Oilers made a coaching change following last year's dismal campaign, moving coach Pat Quinn into a front-office role and bumping associate coach Tom Renney up to head coach. Renney then brought in former Swiss national team coach Ralph Krueger as an associate coach. Then, with the prize selection at June's entry draft, the Oilers used the top pick to select Windsor Spitfires' sniper Taylor Hall -- their franchise player of the future -- and a young star who will most definitely battle for a spot on the team right away. The Oilers also signed 35-year-old netminder Martin Gerber as an insurance policy on their existing three goalies, bringing the Swiss keeper back to this side of the pond after a one year KHL sojourn. The extra insurance between the pipes became necessary when incumbent number one Nikolai Khabibulin was sentenced to a minimum 30-days in jail after being found guilty in an Arizona court on speeding and DUI charges. In other dealings, the Oilers gave restricted free agent forward Gilbert Brule a two-year contract, rewarding the 23-year-old for the best season of his NHL career and also re-upped Sam Ganger with a two-year deal of his own. Edmonton then gutted their underachieving roster that finished dead last, shedding Ethan Moreau, Mike Comrie, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ryan Stone, Chris Minard, Robert Nilsson, Marc Pouliot and Riley Nash.
Biggest issue facing the team:
Although there is plenty of reasons for optimism in the one-time “City of Champions”, make no mistake, the Oilers are not going to be a very good hockey team once again this season. The silver lining is that the team will give their young players as much ice time to develop as they need.
The Oilers biggest objective going into the season is to allow ‘uber-prospects' Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajvari (after dropping the additional Svensson surname) and Linus Omark to get their feet wet at the NHL level and hopefully by the end of the season they will be rewarded for their faith in the youth movement. That being said attempting to break in that many youngsters at the same time means that there will be some very long nights this season for the team as the losses pile up. The club will be forced to take their lumps along the way, assuming they stay the course and don't panic in an attempt to win right away, if they do so the Oilers will see dividends likely as early as next season. In the meantime Oilers fans can sit back and watch a young team develop, safe in the knowledge that the rebuilding effort is in full swing.
Player to watch:
It became clear last season that Jordan Eberle had absolutely nothing left to prove in Junior hockey. Eberle first rose to prominence by helping lead Canada to gold at the 2008 U-18 World Championship and then etched his name in the Canadian hockey history books by scoring the tying goal with under five seconds left in the semi-final game at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship.
For an encore Eberle returned to the World Junior tournament this past January, and led an improbable Canadian comeback once again in the gold medal game; scoring twice in the final three minutes to force overtime. While Canada would eventually lose in OT, it was clear that a star had been born. Eberle was named the top forward and Most Valuable player of the tournament as Canada claimed silver. His play earned him an invite by Mark Messier to join Canada's team at the 2010 World Hockey championship in Germany. Despite his young age and diminutive size, Eberle proved that he belonged with the best in the World and earned player of the game honours in a rout of Norway.
Eberle is clearly ready for a new challenge and has been earmarked for a spot on one of the Oilers top two lines this season. He will be given a very long leash by Oilers brass and will be given every opportunity to flourish. With all the ice time he can handle, a Calder Trophy may well be on the horizon for the Regina native.
For additional Oilers analysis, be sure to read Scott Cullen's fantasy take.