Edmonton Oilers' 5 Keys to a Fast Start After the Olympic Break
With only three Edmonton Oilers participating in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Oilers should be a rested club once NHL play resumes for the matchup against the Minnesota Wild on February 27.
The Oilers are currently 29th in the NHL with only 47 points. While improving in the standings may not be the best course of action for the team in terms of draft positioning, the club will want to demonstrate to the Oilers fanbase that it hasn’t given up on the season entirely.
Here is a look at five keys to an Edmonton Oilers fast start after the Olympic break.
Get Through the Trade Deadline
The Oilers have a few key players that could be moved on or before the NHL trade deadline scheduled for Wednesday, March 5.
Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky are the two most likely candidates to be dealt at the deadline, and with both currently playing significant roles for the team, it will be interesting to see who is acquired in return and who can step up in the absence of the two forwards should they indeed be dealt.
Anton Lander is the likely candidate to see a promotion to the NHL club in order to fill a hole at center ice should Gagner move, but the Oilers may want to audition other prospects in order to see who has the best opportunity to help the club next season.
Once the trade deadline passes, it will be much easier to assess the needs of the club and the dynamics of the lineup going forward.
Get Yak Rolling
In what can only be described as a disappointing sophomore season thus far, the Oilers will need Nail Yakupov to find his scoring touch from last season to help the team get off to a fast start after the Olympic break.
It appeared as if Yakupov was beginning to find his stride before the Olympic break, registering six points in 10 games before the break. The Oilers will need the talented winger to continue to find this consistency and help produce some secondary scoring for a club desperate to get the former No. 1 overall pick going.
Move Up Marincin
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the Oilers during the Olympic break was the play of rookie defenseman Martin Marincin for his home country of Slovakia.
Though he did not register a single point in four games played, Marincin averaged 17:04 minutes of ice time for the Slovaks and was a strong presence on the blue line.
Spending time with Zdeno Chara should prove invaluable for the young blueliner, and the Oilers will want to continue his development by seeing if he can handle the rigors of shutting down top opposition at the NHL level.
The Kids Must Continue to Shine
If the Oilers are to have any success throughout the rest of the NHL season, the team will need to be led by the trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
The three young forwards have carried the offensive torch for the Oilers all season and will be relied upon heavily if the Oilers’ fortunes are to improve at all after the Olympic break.
The trio has accounted for 144 points this season with Hall leading the way in point production with 56 points, followed by Eberle with 45 and Nugent-Hopkins with 43. No other player, with the exception of David Perron with 42 points, has more than 24 points on the season.
If fortunes are to improve at all for Edmonton, the top line will have to continue to be responsible for the bulk of the point production.
Scrivens Will Have to Be the Man
The post-Olympic break will be extremely important in determining the future of the Edmonton Oilers goaltending situation.
Ben Scrivens is set to become a free agent in the offseason but should see the majority of games throughout the rest of the schedule as general manager Craig MacTavish and head coach Dallas Eakins assess what it is they have in Scrivens.
Though Scrivens has only played in six games for the Oilers and a total of 25 games between Edmonton and Los Angeles, his numbers have been phenomenal.
Scrivens is first in the NHL in save percentage, third in goals-against average and second in shutouts, and while the bulk of his time was spent playing under a strong defensive system in Los Angeles, he has still managed impressive numbers while backstopping the free-wheeling Oilers.
Edmonton will have to rely on Scrivens if it is going to get out of the gate strong after the Olympic break, and his play down the stretch should determine whether or not he is offered a contract extension in Edmonton.