The Biggest 'What Ifs' from the Edmonton Oilers' 2013-14 Season
Armed with a new general manager and a new head coach, the 2013-14 season was going to be a new chapter for the Edmonton Oilers.
Unfortunately, the club struggled out of the gate and was essentially eliminated from playoff contention within the first month of the season.
It was another season of "what ifs" for the Edmonton Oilers and their fans, as early goaltending struggles, inconsistent play and a lack of secondary scoring hampered the team all year.
Here is a look at the biggest what ifs from the Edmonton Oilers' 2013-14 season.
What If the Devan Dubnyk Had Performed Up to Expectations?
2013-14 was supposed to be the season that Devan Dubnyk proved to the Edmonton Oilers that he was capable of shouldering the load of a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.
However, due to below-average performances and more than a few questionable goals, Dubnyk quickly proved that he was not the answer the Oilers were looking for.
In the 32 games Dubnyk played with the Oilers, he struggled to a 11-17 record with 94 goals against and a save percentage of .894, numbers nowhere near enough to be a starting goaltender in the NHL, let alone on a young Oilers team.
If Dubnyk had showed some of the potential that the previous management regime saw in him when it signed him to a two-year contract extension in 2102-13, the Oilers almost certainly would have been more competitive.
Playoffs may have always been a long shot, but the team’s struggles were compounded by Dubnyk’s poor performance.
What If Nail Yakupov Didn’t Suffer the 'Sophomore Slump'?
Nail Yakupov had a strong rookie campaign in 2012-13, which saw the Russian forward register 31 points in 48 games.
However, his second season, and first full NHL campaign, didn’t go quite as smoothly.
Yakupov struggled to adapt to Dallas Eakins’ systems that preached added emphasis on defensive-zone play and ended up being a healthy scratch on several occasions as a result.
The winger never looked comfortable on the ice, and his electric speed and tremendous shot were underutilized on the power play.
If Yakupov could have built upon his rookie season and continued his progression, the Oilers may have been a bit more competitive, or at the very least it, would have elevated Yakupov’s trade value as an asset in the Oilers organization.
Something is going to have to give in Edmonton, and due to the poor performance in 2013-14, Yakupov won't net nearly the return that a former first overall pick should be able to yield if the Oilers decide to move him.
What If Ralph Krueger Wasn’t Fired?
It’s safe to say that Ralph Krueger didn’t really get a fair shot at being the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.
Thanks to the 2012-13 lockout, Krueger, a rookie head coach in the NHL, wasn’t afforded the luxury of a full training camp and was rushed into a condensed NHL season.
Considering the circumstances, Krueger performed pretty admirably, and the Oilers actually improved under his guidance.
Though they were still in the bottom tier of the NHL standings, the team was competitive and had many positives going.
While it may be too early to say that Dallas Eakins was a bad hire, at least Eakins was given a full NHL season to demonstrate his capabilities as a head coach.
Kruger knew how to get the most of Nail Yakupov, and as demonstrated by his inclusion in the 2014 men’s Canadian Olympic hockey team coaching staff, people who understand the game value his hockey knowledge.
Perhaps the Oilers would have taken another step forward had Krueger been given another chance at the helm.
What If Craig MacTavish Executed a Bold Move?
When Craig MacTavish was hired as the new general manager in Edmonton, it signaled a change in direction.
MacTavish then executed a shrewd trade in offloading the underperforming Magnus Paajarvi for David Perron (who turned out to be one of the best Oilers in 2013-14).
However, MacTavish failed to make any bold moves to improve the roster.
There are plenty of assets in Edmonton that could net a healthy return. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are only a few that MacTavish could have considered trading in order to fill some immediate needs on the team.
Nothing materialized, and the areas of weakness, namely defense and forwards with size, were exposed repeatedly over the course of the year.
If MacTavish would have traded a player such as Eberle for a legitimate No. 1 defender who could match up against top opponents, the Oilers may not have been much better, but they would have been in a better place going forward.
Essentially, the team is in the exact same position as it was last year, with MacTavish facing tough decisions this offseason.