The 2013-14 offseason has been an interesting one for the Edmonton Oilers as the organization has seen major changes in both on and off ice personnel.
New GM Craig MacTavish was able to recuperate some assets for Shawn Horcoff’s large contract, as well as add a gritty third line center capable of winning faceoffs against stockpiled defensemen.
For all the changes, however, the Oilers still have some major questions that will need to be addressed if the club looks to make it into the postseason this year.
Here is a look at five burning questions surrounding the Edmonton Oilers 2013-14 season.
Andrew Ference is a great addition to the Oilers, but the question remains is if he is enough to help out the backend.
The Edmonton Oilers had one of the worst groups of defensemen last season, and though Craig MacTavish has made acquisitions to bolster the ranks, it still remains to be seen if he's done enough to make the team a contender.
The addition of Andrew Ference, formally of the Boston Bruins, is the biggest move for the Oilers back end.
Ference brings veteran leadership to a very young team and should ultimately end up being on a top defensive pairing for the Oilers this year.
KHL standout Anton Belov is an unproven commodity at the NHL level, and while he should compete for a roster spot, it is unclear as to how his game will transfer over in North America.
Are Denis Grebeshkov and Philip Larsen actually upgrades? While only time will tell, the Oilers seemingly still need to find a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman to anchor the blue line.
Sam Gagner will miss significant time due to a broken jaw, and the Oilers are already thin down the middle.
With No. 1 center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins already slated to miss the opening of the season, the Edmonton Oilers are extremely thin at the center ice position.
Now the team has lost Sam Gagner to a broken jaw, leaving recently converted center Taylor Hall the de-facto go-to-guy, with Boyd Gordon likely bumping up to the second line until Gagner returns.
After Gordon the situation becomes very unclear. The Oilers have some players in the organization, such as Mark Arcobello, Will Acton and Anton Lander, who can slot in and play center but have yet to really contribute at an NHL level.
The Oilers can ill afford to rack up losses early in the season due to man games lost via injury, and as it stands it doesn’t appear that the team is deep enough to stay afloat until injured stars return to action.
If Devan Dubnyk can repeat his performance from last year he can solidify his position in Edmonton.
Considering that the Edmonton Oilers had one of the worst groups of defensemen last season, Devan Dubnyk performed quite admirably and had decent numbers to show for his efforts.
Entering into the last season of his contract extension, Dubnyk will need to get off to a fast start and help steal some games for the Oilers early.
A major knock on Dubnyk has been his propensity for bad goals and momentum killing goals.
If he can limit these mistakes, he may cement himself as the answer in net for the Oilers going forward.
Taylor Hall is slowly growing into a solid leader for the Oilers.
One of the more interesting questions surrounding the Oilers this season will be who new coach Dallas Eakins will name as the new team captain.
If Eakins was to choose one of the Oilers’ young stars as a captain, the most likely choice would be Taylor Hall, whose performance on the ice has demonstrated his maturity and growth as a player.
Hall has all of the skill and passion to be a great captain in the league, but may need a little more time and seasoning before being bestowed the honor.
If that is the case, Andrew Ference would make an excellent transitional captain. Ference is a proven winner and a guy whose voice should go a long way in such a young locker room.
While Eakins appears to be in no rush, the Oilers will likely name a new captain before the beginning of the season.
It will be interesting to see if Dallas Eakins' tough guy act gets old in Edmonton.
This far into his tenure behind the bench, one thing has become increasingly apparent about Dallas Eakins: He is one tough coach.
From eliminating donuts at team press conferences to making the club bag-skate on the first practice of training camp, Eakins will demand maximum effort and fitness from his club, and if players don’t buy in they may find themselves on their way out of town.
The real question will be whether or not this intense and stern approach will wear thin with such a young group of players?
Eakins has proven that he can get the most out of players, but he may have to reevaluate his approach with a team like Edmonton, where the youth movement is in full effect.