What the Edmonton Oilers Need to Become a Threat
The Edmonton Oilers have either been extremely lucky or unlucky, depending on how you view it, finishing in last place two out of the last three seasons and garnering three No. 1 overall picks.
Each time the Oilers drafted the most skilled player available, and while they accumulated some talented pieces, there are still some glaring holes that the team will need to fill in order to take the next step.
Comparisons have been made to the Chicago Blackhawks, another team who built through the draft and ultimately achieved great success with a Stanley Cup victory. But unlike the Hawks, the Oilers did not draft to fill positions of need.
Here are five things the Edmonton Oilers need to become a threat in the NHL.
So far into the 2013 season, the Devan Dubnyk experiment is beginning to show that the former first-round draft pick is a decent goaltender, but not a great one.
Dubnyk has played admirably at times, but has given up a few too many soft goals and doesn't seem to have the ability to make those timely saves to give his team a boost.
In order for the Edmonton Oilers to truly be considered an upper-echelon team, they need an upper-echelon goalie, the type of player who can steal games for the team.
This reliability is a much-needed trait on such a young team, and though superstar goaltenders are hard to come by in the NHL, the Oilers certainly have the assets available to acquire one.
Size Up Front
The Oilers boast one of the most talented group of young forwards in the NHL, that much is true.
With names like Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov the Oilers have a nice blend of speed and skill but lack a true physical presence in their top-six forward groupings to truly make a difference.
The days of having a "big guy" or a "goon" in the lineup might be gone, but the league has seen an increase in the prominence of big-bodied power forwards who are also extremely gifted offensive players.
The Oilers would benefit from having a guy like Jamie Benn, James Neal or David Backes on their team to provide some size and strength to an otherwise small lineup.
The addition of a talented power forward would add that extra dimension to an already diverse offensive team, while not sacrificing skill level.
The Oilers took a huge step forward with the addition of Justin Schultz to the roster, finally adding that offensive, puck-moving defenseman they had been lacking for so many years.
And while this was a great move, it did not solve all of the issues that the team currently has on the blue line.
Ladislav Smid is probably the best defenseman on the team, and Nick Schultz is a serviceable third or fourth defenseman, but the team lacks that legitimate No. 1 guy to anchor the team defensively.
The team needs a player who is a rock in the defensive zone, that can kill penalties and is serviceable enough with the puck when called upon.
For all of the complaints that he draws for his large salary, Jay Bouwmeester would be an excellent addition to the team. He's a fast skater with size and skill who excels at both the offensive and defensive aspect of the game.
A Reliable Faceoff Winner
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has all the skill in the world, but due to his lack of size and strength he has become somewhat of a liability in the faceoff circle for the Oilers this season.
Hovering around 43 percent for faceoffs is not going to cut it for a No. 1 center in the NHL, and the Oilers have suffered because of this.
If RNH cannot win faceoffs in the offensive zone, the team cannot establish puck possession and begin to work the cycle. This is a major reason for the lack of even-strength goals this season.
While trading RNH is not the answer, the Oilers do need to bring in a center who can win draws and has the offensive abilities to play with the talented group of forwards that Edmonton currently has.
Perhaps even teach RNH a thing or two about winning draws in the process.
A Culture Change
For too long, the Edmonton Oilers have seemed like an "Old Boys Club," meaning that it seems that the Oilers are one of the only teams who consistently hire former Oilers to management and coaching positions.
Craig MacTavish was hired as head coach with no experience.
Kelly Buchberger and Charlie Huddy were hired as assistant coaches.
And then there is Kevin Lowe, who, after being relieved of duties as GM was promoted to President of Hockey Operations.
How does that make any sense?
It is becoming clear that the Oilers are desperate need of a culture and identity change, and that starts at the top before it gets to the ice.
The team needs new direction, a new voice, and Steve Tambellini and perhaps Kevin Lowe need to be removed from such pivotal roles with the team.