4 Weaknesses the Edmonton Oilers Must Address During the 2013 Season
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In a lockout-shortened season every game has that much more significance, as teams slowly find their footing and reestablish their routines.
With all of the hype surrounding the Edmonton Oilers' offseason additions of Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz to an already young and talented roster, the team still had some major questions to answer.
With eight games already completed, there are some negative tendencies and areas that the Oilers must find a way to correct in order to take the next step and compete for a playoff spot at the end of the 2013 season.
Here are four major weakness that the Edmonton Oilers need to address in the 2013.
Five on Five Play
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been doing all of the small things correctly and helping his team, but has yet to find his offensive stride.
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The Oilers have been dynamic on the power play and the penalty kill but have had a slow start finding any offensive prowess while at even strength.
Though their attack has looked extremely dynamic at times, players such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been unlucky to convert any chances and the team as a whole has had a hard time finding goals when not on the power play.
The Oilers have also had a hard time establishing the lead in hockey games, compounded by the fact that the team has had a hard time converting five-on-five opportunities.
The Oilers can not continue taking penalties at such a high rate.
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Though the penalty kill has been one of the best in the NHL, the Oilers will not be able to advance in the standings if they continue to take penalties at the rate that they are doing so.
Not only does taking penalties kill any momentum that the team is trying to establish, it also keeps offensive stars such as Yakupov and Nugent-Hopkins off of the ice.
It is hard to win when your best hockey players aren't on the ice, and for the Oilers, most of their young stars do not kill penalties and are left languishing on the bench as the penalty killing unit goes to work.
Back Up Goaltending
Nikolai Khabibulin isn't the goaltender that he used to be, and perhaps the Oilers need to find a different option as backup.
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Devan Dubnyk has taken his opportunity as the Oilers No. 1 goaltender and has done admirable thus far, but Edmonton will have to address what will happen when Dubnyk needs a night off or is under-performing.
While the team has veteran netminder Nikolai Khabibulin, "The Bulin Wall" has suffered a series of injuries and inconsistent play that have left the Oilers in need of a guy like Dubnyk to be the No. 1 option.
Yann Danis stepped in nicely from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons and replaced Dubnyk after a shaky outing against San Jose, but has proved to be nothing more than a decent AHL option.
The Oilers will need to find a reliable backup goaltender going forward to provide the team with some insurance should something happen to Dubnyk.
Ryan Smyth has yet to find his scoring touch for the Oilers.
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While all of the young stars on the Edmonton roster are competing and delivering at a rapid pace, it is the secondary cast of players that needs to step up and share the offensive load if the team is to have a chance during the 2013 season.
Names like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov have been filling up the stats sheet, but as teams focus on these players, guys like Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff will need to step up their performance in the offensive zone.
The Oilers have a lot of role players capable of finding the back of the net, and will need these players to start delivering sooner rather then later.