5 Burning Questions the Edmonton Oilers Must Answer Early in the 2013 Season
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Though the Oilers have finished in last place two out of the last three seasons, expectations are rather high going into the condensed 2013 season.
With the high-profile additions of Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov, the Oilers will look to improve upon their dismal results last year and compete for a playoff spot.
Here are the top five questions the Edmonton Oilers must answer early in the 2013 season.
5. Was Ralph Krueger the Right Choice as Head Coach?
Ralph Krueger will have to come out of the gates strong to help justify his selection as head coach.
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There were plenty of established coaches available in the offseason when the Edmonton Oilers decided to promote a familiar face and name Ralph Krueger as head coach.
Krueger, who had been the defensive coach of the Oilers, brings a wealth of international experience to the position, and is a coach whom players should feel comfortable with already.
Unfortunately for Krueger, the expectations are starting to rise for the Oilers franchise and Krueger will have to find a way to utilize the wealth of talent that he has on his team.
Krueger will benefit from the decision of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to play in the AHL together for the Oklahoma City Barons.
If Kruger can help Nail Yakupov get off to a hot start, he should do a lot to silence any would-be critics.
4. Is Justin Schultz for Real?
Justin Schultz has come a long way since the 2008 combine and has a lot of expectations heading into the 2013 season.
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Thanks to Schultz's amazing performance during his time with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, the expectations for the highly sought-after free agent will be quite lofty.
Schultz registered an impressive 48 points in his 34 games with the Barons and will now look to duplicate that performance in the NHL.
While it's unrealistic to expect Schultz to have the same impact in the NHL, the Oilers defenseman should factor to have a productive season with the host of talent the Oilers have on their roster.
3. Has the Defense Improved Enough?
Fistric, an Edmonton native, is a nice addition to the team.
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One of the biggest questions the Edmonton Oilers must answer early on into the 2013 season is whether their defense has improved enough to give the team a legitimate chance to make the playoffs.
The team will certainly benefit from the addition of the offensively talented Justin Schultz.
The team desperately suffered from the lack of a puck-moving defenseman and Schultz should slide nicely into that role.
The team also recently added Mark Fistric, formerly of the Dallas Stars, who provides the Oilers with a strong physical presence.
Fistric won't put up flashy numbers but is an improvement over alternatives such as Theo Peckham.
2. Was Nail Yakupov the Right Choice?
It will be important for Nail Yakupov to establish himself early into the 2013 season.
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There was plenty of debate as to whether the Edmonton Oilers should draft the offensive dynamo Nail Yakupov or the highly touted defensive prospect Ryan Murray with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Ultimately the Oilers opted to pick the player they thought was the best available instead of satisfying an organizational need for defenseman.
Expectations will be high for Yakupov, and whether the Russian sniper can fit in with the other superstars the Oilers have upfront will be a concern
Yakupov will no longer be the first option, and if he can accept this fact and contribute, he should justify his selection.
1. Is Devan Dubnyk a No. 1 Goaltender?
The Oilers need Devan Dubnyk to step-up if they want to compete this season.
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The Edmonton Oilers made a pretty substantial investment in Devan Dubnyk when the signed him to a two-year, $7 million contract.
Now it is up to the the former Kamloops Blazer prospect to justify his selection.
In 2012, Dubnyk went 20-20 with three overtime losses, two shootout losses and a respectable .914 save percentage.
With the aging Nikolai Khabibulin serving as backup, Dubnyk should see the majority of the action this season and will be relied upon heavily if the Oilers are to have any chance of competing this season.