Predicting the Strength and Weakness of Each Edmonton Oilers Line in 2013-14
The Edmonton Oilers will once again lean heavily upon a young core of players as the team tries to solidify their position in the newly realigned Pacific Division.
The Oilers have seen some significant changes take place during the offseason, welcoming in a new GM in Craig MacTavish and new head coach in the highly coveted Dallas Eakins.
MacTavish was able to add some veterans to complement the existing young stars on the club as well as fill some much-needed holes, but some questions remain as to if the team has what it takes to actually compete for a playoff spot this season.
With Eakins placing such an emphasis on fitness, it is safe to assume the Oilers’ competition level will be second to none.
The Oilers have an abundance of talent but may not have quite enough to really compete for a playoff position in the new divisions.
Here is a prediction of the strength and weaknesses of each Edmonton Oilers line in 2013-14.
Unfortunately for Oilers fans, Ryan Smyth is perhaps the weak link on the team.
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The Edmonton Oilers are by no means a physical team while on the ice but if any line is going to contribute physically for Edmonton this season, it will be the fourth line.
Jesse Joensuu is an interesting addition to the line, who at 6'4" and 209 pounds is by far the largest player the Oilers have in their forward ranks.
Complimenting Joensuu will be Ryan Smyth whose tenacity and willingness to sacrifice his body in the tough areas of the ice should be able to chip in a few goals this season.
Weakness: Ryan Smyth
Unfortunately for Ryan Smyth and Oilers fans alike, Smyth's best years are behind him, and though he has performed admirably the decline in his game over the past couple of seasons has been quite apparent.
Though Smyth has effort in spades, his foot speed has become a problem for the Oilers, as has his propensity for turnovers.
Boyd Gordon was a great addition to the team and should help provide some stability to the third line.
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Strengths: Skill and secondary scoring
The Oilers may feature one of the best third lines in the NHL entering the 2013-14 season with Boyd Gordon, Ryan Jones and Ales Hemsky more than likely making up the line.
Boyd Gordon is a legitimate NHL center who is one of the best faceoff men in the league, which should open up more offensive opportunities for the line.
If Ryan Jones can rebound from a down season in 2012-13 and provide the line with some energy, the third line could be a balance between skill and energy.
Ales Hemsky is the wild card on the line. After the turmoil in the offseason, Hemsky has a lot to prove this season.
Hemsky may end up getting moved sometime during the season, but if he can regain his form and avoid injury, he should be able to provide excellent secondary scoring for the Oilers.
Weaknesses: Size, toughness
The Oilers’ third line will have a lot of skill, but one thing that it will lack is size and toughness. Having a skilled forward like Hemsky and the undersized pest in Jones will provide a more balanced attack for the club but may not be the ideal third line going forward.
The Oilers' third line will be more of a secondary offensive line rather than a shutdown line due to the fact that the team lacks larger, physical forwards.
Sam Gagner will have to start winning more faceoffs for the Oilers to cement himself as the No. 2 center on the team.
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Strength: Scoring diversity
With the addition of David Perron to a line that should feature Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov, the Oilers' second line has the potential to be a dynamic and versatile scoring unit.
With the playmaking abilities of Gagner and the explosive first shot of Yakupov, Perron should slot in nicely and use his size and ability to generate scoring opportunities.
Weakness: Faceoff consistency
Sam Gagner has grown into a leader on the Oilers roster and has asserted himself as a legitimate part of the future of the club; however, his biggest flaw is the lack of faceoff consistency.
Gagner finished last season at 43.0 percent in the faceoff circle, a figure that is simply not good enough for a No. 2 center on an NHL club.
Gagner makes up for this deficiency with strong work in his own defensive zone, but the Oilers will lose out on offensive opportunities unless he can develop some consistency with faceoffs.
If Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins can stay healthy, the Oilers No. 1 should dominate opponents this season.
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Strength: Overall skill
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins form one of the most formidable top scoring lines in the NHL.
Hall provides a unique blend of skill, size and speed, making him one of the more dynamic wingers in the league.
Combined with the on-ice vision and playmaking abilities of Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers' first line has an abundance of overall hockey skill.
Weakness: Injury risk
Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins have all missed time due to fairly significant injuries. Perhaps due to the fact that all three are relatively undersized, but with much of the Oilers' fortunes tied to the health of these three stars, the biggest weakness or flaw has to be the risk associated with the trio.
With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins currently rehabilitating from offseason shoulder surgery, the Oilers can ill afford another serious injury from one of their top stars if they are going to compete for a playoff spot this season.