Edmonton Oilers: Analyzing the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the 2014 Season
With the 2013-14 NHL season just around the corner the anticipation in Edmonton is at an all-time high.
Armed with a new GM, a new head coach and a few key new roster additions, the Oilers could very well be primed to take the next step in their rebuilding process and compete for a playoff season.
While the Oilers have a lot of good young pieces to the puzzle, there will also be some bad and some ugly points along the way as the group looks to cement themselves as a legitimate playoff contender.
With so much anticipation, here is a look at the possible good, bad and ugly aspects of the Edmonton Oilers in 2014.
The Good: New Identity
With MacTavish and Eakins on board, the Oilers will experience a culture change in 2014.
Dallas Eakins was brought in to be the new head coach for the Edmonton Oilers primarily for the work that he was able to accomplish with the Toronto Marlies, and also for his ability to groom young players.
The work Eakins put in with Nazem Kadri helped rescue a player who was treading on possible bust status. Though Kadri has only had one productive season, the change in attitude and work ethic was apparent.
Along with Eakins, naming Craig MacTavish as the new GM in Edmonton signaled a change in identity for the Oilers.
MacTavish’s mark was immediate as he was able to trade the embattled Shawn Horcoff to Dallas and was able to bring in some key veteran players to fill holes in the lineup.
Even drafting Darnell Nurse was a shift in attitude for the team. There were some talented forwards available at the seventh overall selection, but the Oilers decided to draft a defenseman who has raw talent and may one day blossom into one of the top two blueliners for the club.
The Oilers have quietly stocked up on size with defensive prospects who will go a long way to help change the culture in Edmonton and provide some strength to a smaller Oilers team.
Eakins and MacTavish will demand total commitment from the Oilers players, and those who do not buy into the new phase in Edmonton could find themselves a part of a bold move or significant trade
The Good: From Boys to Men
Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle have emerged as leaders on the young Oilers team.
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The core of the Edmonton Oilers is still one of the youngest in the league, but with players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle both entering their fourth seasons in the NHL, they will now be looked upon as leaders on the team.
With Shawn Horcoff no longer on the team, players such as Hall and Eberle will receive strong considerations for the vacant captaincy. Though Dallas Eakins may award it to a veteran player, both Hall and Eberle would make excellent choices as they continue to establish themselves as true leaders.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should also take a step forward assuming that his surgically-repaired shoulder holds up, while Nail Yakupov will look to cement himself as another lethal weapon for the Oilers' already potent attack.
The Bad: The Salary Cap Situation
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will need a new contract at the end of the season, and the Oilers are right up against the current cap.
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With the NHL salary cap going down into the 2014 season, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves with very little room to maneuver after their summer additions of Andrew Ference, Boyd Gord and Jason LaBarbera.
The contract extension to Sam Gagner further squeezed the team, who are still looking to add pieces to the squad.
Moving a forward like Ales Hemsky would alleviate some of the salary cap issues, but it will be hard for Oilers fans and Oilers owner Daryl Katz to see a team at the cap possibly missing out on the playoffs once again.
Edmonton will have some major contracts to award this season, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz entering free agency.
Though the cap should probably go up next season, the Oilers may still need to get creative in order to secure all of their current assets.
The Ugly: The Ales Hemsky Situation
Hemsky has seen his role with the Oilers change, but is still a loyal soldier.
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Craig MacTavish let it be known that he believed it was time for players like Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky to seek new opportunities.
Horcoff has since been traded to Dallas, but Hemsky still remains with the Oilers; the situation has started to get a bit awkward even though MacTavish says he is comfortable having the winger on the roster.
For whatever reason, be it lack of interest or lack of tangible trade offers, Hemsky will enter the 2013-14 season as a member of the Oilers.
This is not a bad thing for the club considering that Hemsky still possess top-end talent and will provide another offensive threat to the club.
But the fact that Hemsky has been so loyal to the Oilers over the years it is a bit of an ugly situation between him and the club, however.
Hemsky has always found his name attached to trade rumors, but this was the first year that it appeared the Oilers wanted him gone as well; and yet nothing ever materialized.
The situation will only get worse if Hemsky’s on ice production decreases and his attitude is called into question.