Edmonton Oilers: The Weakest Link at Each Position
The Oilers have since parted ways with former captain Shawn Horcoff as well as Magnus Paajarvi but are hopeful that the additions of players like Andrew Ference and David Perron will help the team finally make the playoffs after seven long years.
Edmonton is fortunate to have such a talented young core of players with the likes of Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but some questions still remain as far as depth.
Here is a look at the weakest link at each position for the Edmonton Oilers.
Goaltender: Richard Bachman
Richard Bachman is one of the newest additions to the Edmonton Oilers roster, and with goaltender depth a problem in Edmonton, Bachman fills a positional need but is unfortunately the weakest link in net for the team.
With Jason Labarbera already signed to a deal on the first day of free agency, Bachman fills an organizational need and will likely be an insurance policy for their minor league affiliate in Oklahoma City.
Bachman had his share of struggles last season in limited appearances for the Dallas Stars, posting a pedestrian .885 save percentage and a 3.25 goals-against average.
Hopefully Bachman can bring stability to the Barons and if needed on emergency recall can step his game up, but the jury is still out on Bachman and his true value to the Oilers.
Defense: Philip Larsen
The fact that Craig MacTavish got rid of Shawn Horcoff's albatross of a contract without having to absorb any money should have been enough, but the Oilers got defenseman Philip Larsen in the deal, and so the young blueliner assumes the role of weakest link as an unproven talent.
While Larsen may not crack the roster out of training camp with Anton Belov, one of the KHL's best defenders last season, also competing for a spot, he has also failed to make an impact in sporadic appearances with the Stars over the past four seasons.
With nearly 100 NHL games under his belt, Larsen has only managed to register a total of 19 points, meaning the Oilers won't be able rely on the Danish defender to contribute to the offense. And at 6'0" and 190 pounds, he doesn't give the Oilers the physical presence on the blue line that they covet, either.
Right Wing: Mike Brown
Mike Brown brings some energy and toughness to the Edmonton Oilers, but due to his erratic play and propensity for bad penalties, he's a risk on the ice for the team rather than a reward.
Brown is physical but is not a shutdown forward, and after only registering two points in total of 39 games split between the Maple Leafs and the Oilers last season, Brown will not be a factor for the team as far as offensive contributions go.
Mike Brown is the one of the only players on the team that is likely to drop the gloves and play the role of the enforcer, but the undersized Brown will likely see his minutes continue to decrease as his role with the team diminishes.
Left Wing: Ryan Smyth
Unfortunately for Ryan Smyth, all of the battles he has waged for the Oilers have finally caught up to the heart-and-soul player, as he is now a shell of his former self.
Smyth will still go to the front of the net and contribute some ugly goals for the Oilers, but his lack of foot speed now results in odd-man rushes for the opponents, and unfortunately for the Oilers, it makes him a liability on the ice at times.
The gritty winger will still go to the hard places on the ice and battle for dirty goals, providing some supplementary goal scoring, but Smyth is no longer the dependable veteran the team can truly rely on.
With so many young, talented wingers on the team, Smyth will have to embrace his role as mentor and try to ignore the fact that he is perhaps the weak link on the left side for the Oilers.
Center: Anton Lander
Anton Lander is the weakest link down the middle for the Oilers‚ mainly because he is an unproven commodity at the NHL level.
While in Oklahoma City, Lander has proven that he is capable of winning draws and playing a shutdown role against top lines, but it will be up to the young Swede to embrace this role at the NHL level if he is to cement his place on the roster.
With Boyd Gordon recently signed, Lander will slot into the fourth line and will not see many minutes until he proves that he can be reliable in his own end as well as contribute timely faceoff wins for a team that has struggled winning draws over the past few seasons.