The Edmonton Oilers have had a very respectable preseason showing under new head coach Dallas Eakins.
The team has seemingly embraced his high-tempo hockey with an emphasis on skating ability and conditioning, and though it is the preseason, the Oilers have to be pleased with their performance to date.
The real test will begin October 1 against Winnipeg as the Oilers try and navigate their way through the newly realigned Pacific Division.
With significant injuries to their top two centers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, the Oilers will be in a tough spot for the first month or so of the season as they try and piece together a competitive lineup.
That being said, if the Oilers manage to avoid winless stretches, they should be in a good position to compete for a playoff position in 2013-14.
Here are five bold predictions for the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013-14 season.
Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle should emerge and carry the Oilers this season.
This could finally be the year when guys like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and, to a lesser extent, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov take the next step in their respective careers and ascend into superstardom.
With the balance of leadership shifting in Edmonton, the Oilers will rely heavily upon Hall and Eberle for leadership both on and off the ice, and due to this increase in responsibility, the point production may significantly rise as well.
Eberle has been close to the 80-point mark, but coming off a down year during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the gifted winger may have something to prove to himself and to his critics.
Hall is the most likely out of the young core of players to put up the most points, and barring injury, he should be a lock to lead the Oilers in scoring this season.
Though unlikely, the Oilers could look to part with a young star like Nail Yakupov to improve their defense this season.
The Edmonton Oilers fanbase has been relatively patient during the team’s prolonged rebuilding process, but patience is running thin and results are beginning to be expected.
If the Oilers begin to falter early on in the season, it wouldn’t be too surprising if new general manager Craig MacTavish made a big splash in the trade market and traded one of his young forwards.
The Oilers need defense, and though the team has done a great job over the past couple of years of increasing the depth on the blue line, the Oilers still lack a legitimate No. 1 shutdown defender.
Andrew Ference was a nice addition, but if the Oilers are to part with a name like Eberle or Yakupov, they would command a true star defender in return.
This kind of move may be exactly what the team needs to get over the hump in the Western Conference.
Sooner or later Taylor Hall will be the Oilers next captain.
This may not seem like it due to the fact that Taylor Hall is arguably the best player on this Oilers team, but with a new coach and a proven leader in Andrew Ference now on the team, Hall being selected as team captain would be a pretty bold move.
Hall is the go-to guy on the ice and is always ready to give an honest assessment of his and the team’s performance to the media. He would be a great choice to grow into the role of the captain going forward for the Oilers.
Ference may be the logical transitional captain, to groom Hall for a couple of years, but Hall will be captain sooner or later, so it might as well be now.
Devan Dubnyk could excel this season and get a nod as an all-star this season.
This is perhaps the boldest prediction, but Devan Dubnyk has the potential to be an All-Star goaltender in the NHL.
Considering that he had one of the worst defenses in the league playing in front of him last year, Dubnyk still posted strong numbers with a 2.57 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
Dubnyk’s problem has always been the fact that he has the propensity for giving up bad goals. A bad goal here or there isn’t out of the norm, but Dubnyk seemed to let more than his share in.
With an improved defensive group in front of him (exactly how better is up for debate), Dubnyk should be able to elevate his performance this year.
In doing so, he should cement himself as the Oilers' No. 1 option in net going forward past this season and could see his efforts result in an All-Star game nomination.
The Oilers should be primed to make the playoffs this season, but it will be a long shot.
This is the boldest prediction of all, and though it should be expected that the Oilers make the playoffs this season, from the outset, it doesn’t seem all that realistic.
Significant injuries coupled with tough scheduling thanks to the new divisions puts Edmonton in a tougher place than they have been in previous seasons.
It would be a significant deal if Dallas Eakins can navigate this team through the early part of the season, and should the Oilers find some success early, the momentum could go a very long way.
Edmonton may be one or two pieces away from actually being a playoff team, and if those potential trades or acquisitions come during the season, this should be the season Edmonton finally makes the playoffs for the first time in seven years.