5 Questions Facing the Edmonton Oilers in the 2nd Half of the NHL Season
With so much optimism surrounding the young squad, the Oilers had a hard time stringing together wins and once again find themselves near the bottom of the NHL standings.
While the playoffs may not quite be out of reach yet, the team has a lot of questions that will require answers.
Here are the top five questions facing the Edmonton Oilers in the second half of the 2013 season.
Who Stays and Who Goes?
With the NHL trade deadline three weeks away the Edmonton Oilers will need to decide who stays and remains part of the team and ultimately who gets traded.
Ryan Whitney seems like an obvious trade candidate, as the veteran blueliner has seen more than his fair share of the press box this season, being a healthy scratch on numerous occasions.
Whitney has turned his play around as of late and could be a nice addition to a contending team looking for some added offensive punch from the defense.
Ales Hemsky is also perennial trade fodder, and this season is no different. It is becoming obvious that the Oilers need some size in their top-six forwards, and Hemsky seems like he could finally be the odd man out.
Does the Team Re-Sign Sam Gagner?
Sam Gagner seems to have finally put the pieces together in his game, and has been the Oilers' most consistent forward this season.
Not only has his offensive game been superb, Gagner has stepped up his defensive zone play and has provided some protection for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has struggled this season.
While Edmonton had the opportunity to extend Gagner to a long-term contract last season, they declined, and because of that fact may have to overpay thanks to his performance this season.
Gagner is only 23 and already has six years of experience under his belt. He has found chemistry with the new group of Oilers forwards, but will likely command upwards of $4.5 million per season to stay in Edmonton.
The question then becomes, how much is Sam Gagner worth to the club?
Is Devan Dubnyk the Answer in Goal?
Devan Dubnyk has been up and down during the first half of the 2013 season, but the Oilers have stayed committed to him and will now use the second half of the season to see if he is truly capable of being "the guy" in net for the team.
Though veteran Nikolai Khabibulin is coming back from the injured reserve list, Dubnyk will get the majority of the ice time from here on out in an attempt to stake his claim for next season (and possibly beyond).
The Oilers will need more consistency out of Dubnyk if they are going to claw back to respectability in the Western Conference.
Is the Team Tough Enough to Compete Every Night?
The Oilers boast a pretty large group of highly skilled forwards who on any given night are capable of putting the team on their back and delivering a win.
However, the Oilers seem to lack what pundits like call "character guys," or the guys willing to get the less-pretty goals.
Ryan Smyth used to be one of these players, but it has become obvious this season that the wear and tear of his physical game has taken its toll on his body and his offensive production has drastically declined.
The Oilers would love to acquire a big-bodied forward at the trade deadline, but if they don't, the second half of the season will go a long way to address whether or not the Oilers have the mettle to compete hard every night.
Is It Time to Part Ways with Steve Tambellini?
The Edmonton Oilers have recently added former Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson to their organization as a part-time scout.
While this move may simply be to bolster scouting efforts, it can not be ignored that Howson served as the Oilers' assistant GM from 2002-2007, and perhaps was brought back as a way to provide Tambellini with some competition for his job.
Whether or not Tambellini has made the best moves in order to ice a competitive team in Edmonton is a question, and after three years at the bottom of the standings (bordering on a fourth in 2013), the time may be up for Tambellini.