Heading into the 2013-14 season, there are a ton of questions surrounding the Edmonton Oilers. Entering the fourth year of a prolonged rebuilding process, the Oilers will once again be in a tough position to compete for a playoff position in the newly realigned divisions.
Edmonton is running out of time in this rebuild and cannot afford to struggle as they have in the previous three seasons.
Dallas Eakins has seemed like a solid choice as head coach so far and the culture of the Oilers dressing room has apparently shifted, but preseason and the regular season are different stories.
Hopefully for fans of the Oilers this is the year that the club starts to deliver on all of the potential and start to bring respectability back to Oil Country.
Here is a complete preview of the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers.
Andrew Ference will be an excellent addition to the Oilers this season
Arrivals: Andrew Ference, Anton Belov, Steve MacIntyre, David Perron, Jason LaBarbera
Departures: Shawn Horcoff, Magnus Paajarvi, Nikolai Khabibulin
New GM Craig MacTavish made an immediate statement on the beginning of a culture change for the Oilers when he dealt then captain Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas stars.
With the Oilers being so thin down the middle of the ice the move may come back to haunt the team, but it was apparent for everyone involved that it was time for Horcoff to move.
The biggest additions to the team are newly named captain Andrew Ference and David Perron who should have a breakout season playing in the faster-paced system demonstrated by Dallas Eakins’ Oilers thus far.
Ference will play a major role this season for Edmonton, helping solidify one of the poorest defensive groups in the NHL last season, and naming the Edmonton native captain will only help young stars like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in the long run.
With Sam Gagner out for 6 - 8 weeks, the Oilers depth chart will be challenged.
|Taylor Hall||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Jordan Eberle|
|David Perron||Sam Gagner||Nail Yakupov|
|Jesse Joensuu||Boyd Gordon||Ales Hemsky|
|Ryan Smyth||Will Acton||Steve MacIntyre|
The Oilers projected depth chart will be taking a significant hit due to the fact that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner will miss significant time due to injuries to begin the season.
Edmonton is already thin down the middle so losing these two stars will severely hinder the Oilers chances going forward.
The team could look to fill the holes internally with players like Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander likely stepping in to help patch together the lineup until Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins return.
|Andrew Ference||Justin Schultz|
|Ladislav Smid||Jeff Petry|
|Anton Belov||Nick Schultz|
The addition of captain Andrew Ference to the Oilers backend will help cover Justin Schultz as he continues to learn the NHL game and contribute offensively for the club.
Smid and Petry were a strong pairing last season and will look to continue to provide solid minutes for Dallas Eakins in 2013-14.
The health and performance of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will have the biggest impact in Edmonton this season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may turn out to be the most important piece of the Oilers young core once all of the dust settles, and if the Oilers are going to take the next step they need Nugent-Hopkins to assert himself as their No. 1 center this season.
Nugent-Hopkins will miss the first month of the season or so due to rehabilitation from shoulder surgery during the offseason, so it will be extremely paramount for the Oilers to get off to a solid start without him.
Nugent-Hopkins will need to come into the lineup and make an immediate impact, to not only prove that he can handle the rigors of the NHL but also that he deserves the substantial contract extension that he just received.
If Nugent-Hopkins’ shoulder is healed and he is able to consistently win faceoffs for the team, the points will come and the Oilers offense will really start to turn some heads in the NHL.
The best case scenario for the Oilers is the team finally makes the playoffs this season.
Best Case Scenario: The Oilers Make the Playoffs
The Oilers will be hard-pressed to accumulate wins during the beginning of the season due to the absence of their top two centers in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner.
However, if the Oilers are able to weather the storm and avoid long winless stretches they should be in a good position to compete for a playoff position going forward.
This is the year the Oilers should make the playoffs, whether or not the moves made by Craig MacTavish in the offseason were enough or not will be the difference maker for the club as the 2013-14 season unfolds.
Worst Case Scenario: The Oilers Miss the Playoffs
The Oilers and fans of the Oilers would gladly forego a lottery draft pick for a chance to compete in the playoffs this season.
If the team fails to make the playoffs again this year, the entire rebuild process must be called into question.
Craig MacTavish made some roster changes to help improve the team, but whether or not the team has drastically improved due to these additions has yet to be seen.
The Oilers need some continuity, so it is unlikely that Dallas Eakins loses his job if they fail to qualify for the postseason, but MacTavish will certainly be on the hot seat.
Unfortunately for the Oilers it doesn't appear that enough change has taken place to help propel the team forward.
As the team stands headed into the regular season, it does not appear that the Oilers are tough enough to compete for a playoff position this year.
The team has quite a few young assets that could be moved to help fill out the roster, but these assets will only be moved if the team struggles out of the gate.
The Oilers should take a big step this year, but anything less than qualifying for the playoffs will be considered a major disappointment.