Edmonton Oilers with the Most to Prove as the 2013-14 NHL Season Winds Down
Once again, the Oilers find themselves as one of the worst teams in the NHL and will be receiving a high lottery pick in this year's NHL entry draft.
With only one game to play, it is hard to judge who has the most to prove, but it is safe to say that almost every Oiler will be auditioning for a position next season.
Things will have to change in the organization over the summer, but the effort in the last game of the season should give general manager Craig MacTavish an idea of who is committed to the cause and who plays with pride.
The final game should also see some younger players taking prominent roles as they make their case for a roster spot next season.
Here is a look at the Oilers players with the most to prove as the 2013-14 season comes to a close.
Oscar Klefbom has been viewed as a big piece of the Edmonton Oilers rebuild since he was selected 19th overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft.
While Klefbom has been hampered by injuries the past couple of seasons, the Swedish defender finally made his Oilers debut this season and has featured in 16 games so far.
Klefbom struggled at the beginning of the year with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons, but he demonstrated enough of a progression to warrant a call-up to the NHL club toward the end of the 2013-14 season.
Klefbom has only managed three points in his 16 games and a minus-seven rating but has not looked out of place playing in the NHL during his stint.
In order to avoid being sent back to the AHL next season, Klefbom will want to go out during the Oilers' last game and cement himself as part of the future of the team.
A strong game on April 12 against the Vancouver Canucks will go a long way in proving that he is ready to be an Oiler full time next season.
Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens
Only one goaltender can play in the last game of the season, but both Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens have a lot to prove if they are going to cement themselves as the goaltenders of the Oilers’ future.
Both Fasth and Scrivens have had good games since joining the Oilers, with Fasth posting an impressive 2.73 goals-against average in his seven appearances.
For their very good games, however, both goalies in the Oilers tandem have also struggled. While this cannot be blamed entirely on the pair of netminders, both men were brought in as upgrades to the previous goaltenders with the club.
Scrivens is most likely the player who will enter the 2014-15 season as the club’s No. 1 goalie, but Fasth will want to improve his performance to challenge for the position and make the decision harder for the Oilers management and coaching staff.
For teams missing out on the playoffs, the end of the season is often a time for younger players to assert themselves and make their case for roster spots.
Martin Marincin has been a pleasant surprise in his 43 games with the Oilers this year, and though it’s not official, it’s safe to say that Marincin has a strong chance of starting next season with the team.
The Oilers need major help on the blue line, but in Marincin, they appear to have a player who is more than capable of handling a regular shift in the NHL.
Though only registering three points, Marincin is a mere minus-three on a team that has struggled to keep the puck out of its own net.
Marincin may not have a ton to prove, but he will want to show MacTavish and Dallas Eakins that he is committed to improvement.
The Oilers lucked out when Justin Schultz decided that he wanted to come to Edmonton as a free agent last season, but he has struggled at times to assert himself at the NHL level.
Schultz dominated the AHL during the NHL lockout last season, but he fizzled down the stretch as the rigors of an NHL season took their toll on the player.
Schultz will be looking for a contract extension at the end of the year, and though one game will probably not sway the decision one way or the other, he will want to end the season on a positive note in the Oilers' last game.
Though not an Oilers player, Dallas Eakins is probably the person in the Oilers organization that has the most to prove with the season coming to a close.
2013-14 has been an unmitigated disaster for the first-year coach, and how the Oilers perform during the last game of the season will speak volumes as to how Eakins can get players to respond to him and his coaching staff.
The Oilers desperately need continuity behind the bench, but it is not a lock that Eakins will be back after the season is over, as Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal discusses.
Eakins needs to prove to management and to the fans that he is the right man for the job, his first year has been a struggle, but there were times when it appeared that the team was embracing his coaching tactics.
There will certainly be change in Edmonton once the season is over, and if the Oilers come out flat during their last game on April 12, he could very well be looking for work next season.