5 Headlines That Will Be Written During Edmonton Oilers' 2013-14 Season
The Edmonton Oilers seem to be a team constantly in flux. After three dismal seasons and what could be viewed at this point as a failed rebuilding process, the franchise will hope that the 2013–14 season will finally be the turning point for the club.
Armed with a new GM in Craig MacTavish and a new head coach in Dallas Eakins, the culture in the Edmonton Oilers locker room is almost certain to change as the team attempts to establish themselves as a competitive team in the newly formed Pacific Division.
Here are five headlines that will be written during the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013–14 season.
Dallas Eakins: Pass or Fail?
It will take a couple of months of actual NHL action for fans and the Oilers franchise to formulate their opinion on new head coach Dallas Eakins.
Eakins was a coveted choice, and the Oilers believe the man responsible for the success of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ farm team, the Toronto Marlies, will be able to have the same level of success with the young core on the Edmonton Oilers.
Eakins has stressed the importance of physical fitness, and while this shouldn’t be a problem for such a young group in Edmonton, the Oilers have had more than their fair share of struggles over the past few seasons resulting in four different coaching changes.
With tough contract decisions to be made at the end of the year, the 2013-14 season is almost a ‘win now’ situation for Eakins and the new coach will have to see immediate results in order to secure his tenure in Edmonton.
Patience Running Thin for MacT
While Craig MacTavish may not have delivered bold moves during the offseason, he did make some decent moves in order to help the Oilers become a more competitive team in 2013.
The additions of veterans like Boyd Gordon and Andrew Ference help fill some much needed holes in the roster, but if the team underperforms, MacTavish’s patience will certainly be called into question.
The Oilers have quite a cache of assets that if moved could help bolster the lineup and should the Oilers falter early on in the season it wouldn’t be a surprise to see MacTavish pull the trigger on a significant deal.
Who Will Emerge as the Leader?
With incumbent captain Shawn Horcoff traded to Dallas in the offseason, the table is set for someone on the Oilers team to step up and assume the leadership role.
New Oiler Andrew Ference has the experience and pedigree to become the new captain but the Oilers could allow for one of their young stars to step into the role and become the face of the franchise and the main voice in the locker room.
Taylor Hall took a significant step forward last season both on and off the ice, and it is his competitive drive and desire to win that could help the feisty winger be the front runner for the captaincy should Dallas Eakins look to name a younger captain.
Whether or not Hall ends up being the captain, it will still be extremely important for the young forwards in Edmonton to emerge and help the Oilers take the next step.
Schultz or Not to Schultz?
At times Justin Schultz showed signs of the high-end offensive skill that made him a coveted free-agent signing during the offseason last year, but the young defenseman also showed that he needed seasoning in the NHL in order to firmly cement himself as a legitimate defenseman in the league.
The major headline surrounding Schultz this season will be whether or not the Oilers should lock him up to a long-term contract before his current deal expires at year end.
It would be unfair to truly gauge the rookie after the lockout shortened season, and with a full training camp under his belt in 2013–14, Schultz should become more accustomed to the rigors of NHL life.
The Oilers should have an idea on the future plans for Schultz by the time the Olympic break rolls around and will either then push hard to sign him to a long contract extension or seek possible trade partners.
Devan Dubnyk has not gotten enough respect for the quality of goaltending that he has provided for the Oilers during his limited stint as the No.1 man in Edmonton, and 2013–14 will be no different.
There was a lot of talk about the Oilers pursuing Cory Schneider before he was eventually dealt to the New Jersey Devils—proposing the thought that Edmonton was still not quite sold on Dubnyk as the guy going forward for the Oilers.
Edmonton did bring in a veteran netminder to spell Dubnyk at times, but make no mistake, this will be Dubnyk’s team this season and the team will sink or swim depending on the quality of play they receive from the former Kamloops Blazer.