Edmonton Oilers' 5 Biggest Questions in the Final Month of the 2013-14 Season
The Oilers made some strides in improving their goaltending situation with the addition of Viktor Fasth, but only time will tell if he or Ben Scrivens will be capable of shouldering the load of a No. 1 netminder in the NHL.
With only one month until the end of the season, there will be plenty of young players from the Oilers system who will be vying for a permanent roster spot for next season. Here is a look at the Edmonton Oilers’ five biggest questions in the final month of the 2013-14 season.
What Do the Oilers Have in Viktor Fasth?
Viktor Fasth made quite the impressive start to his NHL career last season with the Anaheim Ducks when he posted eight wins in his first 10 games.
Unfortunately for the talented Swedish netminder, injuries have limited his ice time this season, but at the expense of a third-round pick in 2015 and a fifth-round pick in 2014, the Oilers didn’t have to pay too steep of a price for a solid upgrade in net.
Fasth also has one year remaining on his contract after this season, so Dallas Eakins will likely want to play Fasth in tandem with Ben Scrivens to see who can emerge as the answer in net for the club.
How Is Klefbom Progressing?
Dealing Nick Schultz at the trade deadline means Edmonton has a roster spot available on the blue line for prospect Oscar Klefbom.
Klefbom, who made his debut in a winning effort against the Minnesota Wild on March 11, also registered his first NHL point in the debut.
Klefbom has had some injury problems over the past two seasons, but he still remains one of the better prospects in Edmonton's system.
It will be important for Klefbom to get some games under his belt this season if he is to legitimately challenge for a full-time roster spot next season.
The remainder of the season is an excellent opportunity to see if Klefbom can hold his own at the NHL level and to determine how far his development in the AHL has come.
To 'Tank' or Not to 'Tank'?
The Oilers need help on defense, as they have throughout most of the rebuilding process. With Aaron Ekblad, the highly rated defensive prospect, available at this year's draft, the Oilers will have to decide if playing winning hockey is in their best interest down the stretch.
Edmonton does not seem to have a winning culture in the locker room, and while every team will want to compete and play with pride, it may be in the best interest of the team if it can secure another high draft position.
Ekblad will almost certainly be one of the top two picks, so if the Oilers continue their winning ways, the potential franchise defender may slip through their grasp.
One-and-Done for Eakins?
The Oilers need consistency behind the bench. With that being said, there will no doubt be questions raised as to whether Dallas Eakins will be brought back to coach the team next year.
Eakins was Craig MacTavish’s choice, and that in itself should give Eakins more time to try and shape the Oilers, but things haven’t worked out quite as planned thus far.
Depending on the attitude the Oilers have for the rest of the season—and whether or not they pack it in and give up—will go a long way in deciding Eakins’ future in Edmonton.
Is This the Last Time the Kids Will All Be Together?
The Edmonton Oilers need to make significant changes, and in order to achieve the type of changes necessary to right the ship in Edmonton, one of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Eberle will almost certainly have to be dealt.
Nail Yakupov could also be included in this list, though the former first overall pick has struggled this year and would not command the same return as a player such as Eberle or Hall.
There is little chance the Oilers move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Hall has emerged as the offensive force out of the trio, leaving Eberle as the most likely to be traded.
That being said, if a player with Eberle’s talent and potential is being traded out of Edmonton, the return would be quite significant and could help change the fortunes of the Oilers.