5 Lessons the Edmonton Oilers Must Learn from 2013 to Improve Next Season
The 2013 season didn't work out quite as planned for the Edmonton Oilers.
A season that started with so much promise, with the high-profile additions of players like Justin Schultz and No. 1 draft pick Nail Yakupov, ultimately yielded the same results, as Edmonton failed to qualify for the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Despite the poor results in the standings, there were positives to be taken away from the 2013 season, as guys like Schultz and Yakupov had respectable rookie campaigns and Taylor Hall started to emerge as a leader for the club.
Here are five lessons the Edmonton Oilers must learn from the 2013 season to improve in 2014.
Honorable Mention: It's Time for Ryan Smyth to Go
Perhaps the hardest lesson that the Edmonton Oilers must learn from the 2013 season is that it is time for Ryan Smyth to either hang it up or play elsewhere.
While Smyth may be the heart of the team, it became obvious this season that all of the hard minutes he has logged in an Oilers uniform have taken their toll.
Smyth finished the season with a meager two goals and 11 assists, and though his points may have suffered due to the fact that he played center for quite a few games, Smyth just isn't helping the Oilers be a better team.
It will be a hard pill to swallow for such a proud Oiler, and for the franchise who made the move to bring him back to Edmonton, but it will be best for the team if No. 94 calls it a career.
5. Patience Is Key
To improve for next season, the Oilers must realize that patience is key.
This can be mainly demonstrated in the overall progression in the game of Magnus Paajarvi, who finally seems to have taken the next step in his career and is developing into a valuable part of the team.
The lesson extends beyond one player, however, as the club must realize that patience will yield the necessary results going forward.
The patience must extend to the young players looking to crack the Oilers roster next season and those currently competing for positions within the club.
While a player like Oscar Klefbom may have the potential to help the much-needed rebuild of the Oilers blue line, the Oilers will be better off if they exhibit patience with him and give him time (if needed) to develop in the AHL.
Patience will be a hard lesson to stomach for Oilers fans, as the current rebuild is now extending into its fourth season, but if Edmonton can make the necessary moves in the offseason, 2014 could finally be the year the Oilers take the next step.
4. Nail Yakupov Needs to Play on One of the Top 2 Lines
It is understandable that Oilers coach Ralph Krueger would want to ease Nail Yakupov into the NHL by playing him on the third line, but Yakupov is too good to not be playing on one of the top two lines for the Oilers.
Considering the condensed schedule, Yakupov finished the season tied with Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau for the lead in rookie scoring with 31 points.
Toward the second half of the season, Krueger decided to play Yakupov with Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi, and the explosive winger never really looked back.
Yakupov could very well turn out to be the best out of all the Oilers' young stars as long as he continues to progress, and this will only happen if he continues to play with quality linemates.
3. It Is Hard to Win Games When You Allow so Many Shots
Considering the poor play by the Edmonton Oilers defense during the 2013 season, Devan Dubnyk emerged as one of the lone bright spots for the team.
Dubnyk was handed a two-year contract entering the 2013 season and given the opportunity to be the Oilers' No. 1 goaltender. He rewarded the organization's faith in him with rock-solid performances in net this season.
Dubnyk finished the season with a record of 14 wins and 16 losses but posted an impressive 2.57 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
Considering that Edmonton had the second-worst shots-against average in the NHL with 33.5, Dubnyk performed quite admirably, and barring a trade in the offseason, he will once again be the Oilers' starting goaltender heading into the 2014 season.
2. The Team Needs to Play with More Heart
As soon as the Edmonton Oilers were eliminated from playoff contention, it seemed as if the team completely shut down and coasted to the finish line.
With a roster comprised of such young players, it is important for the Oilers to establish a culture of accountability and work ethic.
It would be much different if the Oilers' young players were competing for a roster spot, but the fact of the matter is that these players are all already up-and-coming stars with roster spots secured.
2013 will be considered another failure, but the Oilers must learn that it is always necessary to continue to play with heart and professionalism, because at the end of the day, everyone must be accountable to each other in that locker room.
1. You Can't Win with All of the Same Player
The Edmonton Oilers are in a very lucky place to have four of the most dynamic young players in the NHL in Nail Yakupov, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But after another year of subpar results, the team is now realizing that it is extremely hard to win with all of the same style of player.
Along with Sam Gagner, the Oilers are loaded with smaller forwards who, while gifted, aren't overly physical and don't play the game with much of an edge.
2013 showed the emergence of Taylor Hall as a true leader for the team, and he was one of the players who at times demonstrated a willingness to play a game with more tenacity.
The Oilers need to round out the roster with players who bring a different dynamic to their offensive attack.
Power forwards are hard to acquire, but the Oilers have enough trade assets to make a legitimate offer for a player who can contribute offensively while bringing size and strength as a top-six forward.