5 Edmonton Oilers Storylines That Won't Go Away During the 2013-14 Season
It is safe to say that the 2013-14 season has been a major disappointment for all parties involved with the Edmonton Oilers.
There was a ton of optimism surrounding the team heading into the 2013-14 season, armed with a new head coach in Dallas Eakins and a new general manager in Craig MacTavish, it appeared that the seemingly perennially rebuilding process in Edmonton was going to yield positive results.
Unfortunately this was not to be, as a rash of injuries to key players and subpar goaltending from incumbent starter Devan Dubnyk have resulted in the Oilers once again being one of the worst teams in the NHL.
There have been more questions than answers surrounding the Oilers this season and some storylines that just won’t seem to disappear.
Here is a look at five Edmonton Oilers storylines that won’t go away during the 2013-14 season.
Coming off an impressive rookie campaign that saw the former No. 1 overall pick register 31 points in 48 games, Nail Yakupov looked primed to break out during the 2013-14 season.
Unfortunately for Yakupov and for the Oilers, Yakupov has been nothing short of a major disappointment thus far in 2013-14.
Yakupov has failed to establish himself in new head coach Dallas Eakins' system, and as a result of his suspect defensive zone play, he has already found himself a healthy scratch twice this season.
While Yakupov has shown flashes of brilliance at times and a sheer desire to score goals, he is a team- and league-worst minus-24 on the year and has been a complete defensive liability.
Not all of the blame can fall on Yakupov’s shoulders as at times this season he has found himself playing on the third and fourth lines in Edmonton, which begs the question as to whether or not Eakins is properly utilizing the gifted Russian.
Yakupov is still only 20 years old, so it would be a huge risk and major disappointment if the team were to trade him at this point. His stock is at an all-time low, but it is appearing that Yakupov isn’t going to be one of the core group of players going forward for the Oilers.
Goaltending, Goaltending, Goaltending
Devan Dubnyk has been absolutely abysmal for the Edmonton Oilers this season, and while some of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of a mediocre defensive core, Dubnyk will still have to shoulder a lion's share of the blame.
With a 3.39 goals against average and a .891 save percentage, Dubnyk’s numbers have him ranked as one of the worst goalies in the entire NHL.
Enter the circus that is Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Oilers goaltending situation couldn’t have been any worse, thus the reason the team decided to sign beleaguered NHL veteran, the controversial Ilya Bryzgalov.
At around $2 million, the Oilers aren’t overpaying for his services, and in his limited time in an Oilers uniform, he has proved to be a significant upgrade over Dubnyk.
The questions surrounding the Oilers goaltending situation will continue throughout the rest of the season, and should only intensify around the trade deadline when the Oilers will have to decide whether or not to attempt to lock up Bryzgalov to a long-term contract or trade him and attempt to recoup some assets.
Is Eakins Job on the Line?
The Edmonton Oilers franchise is in desperate need of stability from the management level on down.
Due in large part to the fact that the team has had five coaches in the past five seasons, consistency has been a struggle in Edmonton.
Dallas Eakins was new GM Craig MacTavish’s choice, but it doesn’t appear that Eakins has been much (if any) of an improvement over Ralph Krueger, who was fired after only 48 games behind the Oilers bench.
To this point in the season, it appears as if the team as a whole has struggled to adapt to Eakins’ systems and defensive zone schemes, and as a result, they have allowed the most goals in the entire NHL.
The Oilers need to shed the culture of losing and it has yet to be established if Eakins in the man to help them do this.
If the team’s futility continues, MacTavish may once again have to consider bringing in a new voice if Eakins has in fact started to lose control of the club.
What Does the Future Hold for Ales Hemsky?
Ales Hemsky has been a good soldier for the Edmonton Oilers since the team selected him in the first round some 11 years ago.
The talented winger has developed into a gifted playmaker, but for one reason or another has found his name in the headlines as a potential trade candidate numerous times.
It was almost certain that Hemsky would depart the team when Craig MacTavish took control and subsequently moved then-captain Shawn Horcoff.
Due to a lack of trade partners, MacTavish pulled Hemsky off of the trade market and Hemsky has performed admirably after rather awkward circumstances.
With the Oilers out of the playoff picture already and Hemsky’s impending free agency, it appears that this may indeed be the year that Hemsky is dealt from the Oilers.
Edmonton will not be able to recoup a player of similar talent, and they may not even get a first-round pick for Hemsky, so the question needs to be asked if the team would be better served trying to re-sign him to a manageable contract.
Oh so Lowe
Not many hockey markets would make a general manager step down, only to promote him to President of Hockey Operations, but such is the questionable logic of the Edmonton Oilers.
Since assuming a senior managerial role, the Oilers have floundered under Lowe as the revolving door of coaches and sustained futility has marred this once-proud franchise.
Lowe finally fired Steve Tambellini only to hire an individual that he had previously released in Craig MacTavish.
Other than the addition of David Perron, MacTavish has failed to deliver anything of substance to the team, and now may be the time that Lowe starts to shoulder the blame.
Edmonton has been far too generous with former players, offering the likes of Kelly Buchburger, MacTavish, Steve Smith etc. coaching positions within the team.
Oiler nepotism may be the organizations biggest downfall, and owner Daryl Katz may need to step in and completely change the culture.
The 2013-14 season is shaping up to be the lowest of the Lowe.