The Edmonton Oilers began the 2013-14 season with two losses and looked absolutely lost as the team adapts to a new division and new direction under Dallas Eakins.
While the goal scoring has been there, the questions on defense and in net have remained as Devan Dubnyk has struggled out of the gate.
Though it is still early in the season, general manager Craig MacTavish will be relatively impatient if the Oilers do not begin to see results on the ice.
It will be important for MacTavish not to overreact but to allow his team to adapt to Eakins and figure out systems on the ice as everything begins to come together.
Things are sure to improve as the season goes along, as line combinations take shape and players begin to find their strides, but here are the biggest takeaways from the beginning of the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013-14 season.
David Perron has been a perfect fit in Edmonton.
There was lots of hope surrounding Magnus Paajarvi. He was a big winger with tremendous speed and the ability to finish around the net. Unfortunately, things never really materialized for Paajarvi in Edmonton, and he was traded to St. Louis in the offseason.
Enter David Perron.
While Perron may not be as young as Paajarvi, fans would have to wait for years for Paajarvi to develop the offensive acumen and skill that Perron possesses, if he even reaches that level at all.
Through four games, Perron has three points and was awarded player of the game honors by Dallas Eakins after the Oilers’ come-from-behind victory against the New Jersey Devils.
Though Perron is undersized, he has already demonstrated a willingness to play a chippy game and isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas on the ice in order to create scoring opportunities.
Once Sam Gagner returns, Perron, Gagner and Nail Yakupov could help to form one of the most dynamic second lines in the entire NHL.
Boyd Gordon has been one of the most consistent Oilers thus far.
Boyd Gordon has been exactly what the Oilers envisioned when they signed the former Phoenix Coyote in the summer.
Already this season Gordon has demonstrated that he is willing to do whatever it takes for the Oilers, be it winning timely faceoffs, killing penalties, blocking shots or helping to create offensive opportunities.
Gordon is one of the best faceoff men in the league, so perhaps his greatest contribution has yet to materialize for the team. If Gordon can help Ryan Nugent-Hopkins learn the art of winning faceoffs, he will have earned the three-year contract he signed in the summer and then some.
Gordon has been an excellent complementary piece to the talented offensive players around him, and though he may see his role slightly diminish once Gagner returns, his contributions should still remain as valuable.
Devan Dubnyk needs to assert himself in goal for the Oilers.
It is entirely too early to say that Dubnyk isn’t the answer in net for the Oilers, but if the veteran netminder doesn’t start to turn around his game sometime soon, he could find himself on the way out of Oil Country in no time.
The Oilers do not have time to allow Dubnyk to find himself, as the team cannot afford to fall behind in the standings, even so early in the season.
Dubnyk has looked pedestrian at best so far this season and has allowed a few shaky goals. He has yielded the net to backup Jason LaBarbera already twice this young season.
Dubnyk is an unrestricted free agent come season's end, but MacTavish may look to make a move should his incumbent No. 1 goaltender not take a step forward between the pipes.
Edmonton needs Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to elevate his game.
After undergoing major offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned to the Oilers' lineup and immediately proved that he is the catalyst that drives the offense.
Not only did his return to the lineup allow Taylor Hall to return to the left wing, but it allowed Eakins to reunite the top line of Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Jordan Eberle, which seemed to spark both Hall and Eberle.
The Oilers need Nugent-Hopkins to take the next step in his career, and if his shoulder is healed, this could be a breakout season for Nugent-Hopkins.
The Oilers are struggling out of the gate, with no answer in sight.
One would think that this far into a rebuilding process that the Edmonton Oilers would be much closer to their end goal—competing in the playoffs—than they currently are.
Sure Andrew Ference and Perron are nice additions to the club, but as the season has demonstrated so far, the Oilers are very much still a work in progress.
The Oilers shouldn’t ever have problems creating offensive opportunities with players like Hall, Yakupov, etc., but the defensive group still isn’t strong enough to shut down the opposition.