Hey man, the Edmonton Oilers have got to get it together eventually, right? They had number one picks coming out the wazoo, and added a lot of offensive talent, and what did they have to show for it last season? They finished with the third worst record in the NHL, and the third worst goal differential. Worse, they were far and away at the bottom of the Western Conference in both. If anything, they moved in the wrong direction. However, will that finally change?
Well, at the very least, some familiar faces are gone. Ryan Smyth, Captain Canada and Mr. Oiler himself, is retired. Sam Gagner is a Coyote. Ales Hemsky is in Dallas now. It’s time for the big three, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov, to take the reins. Granted, Hall is already there. He’s already one of the best players in the league already, and he scored 80 points in 75 games last season. No problems here.
The Nuge and Yakupov are different stories. RNH had 19 goals and 56 points last season. Yakupov only played 63 games, but he also only scored 11 goals and 24 points, and there was some nonsense about him not being ready or being enigmatic or whatever. Anyway, those guys got drafted first overall for a reason, and they have talent. I expect both to improve to some degree this year.
Jordan Eberle and David Perron are also around, and they added Teddy Purcell in the Gagner trade. They do have offensive talent. Defense is… more of a question. They have a lot of young guys, including Justin Schultz, and then guys like Andrew Ference. I don’t know about this group, but there is one area where clear improvements were made.
Last year, the Oilers let up more goals than any other team in the NHL. It was kind of an issue. Things got so bad they thought Ilya Bryzgalov was worth considering. However, then they added Ben Scrivens, and Viktor Fasth, and Scrivens ended up posting a .916 save percentage, which is solid. He still had over a 3.00 GAA, because this team let up a ton of shots, but at least he stopped more of them than, say, Devan Dubnyk.
So, this year, Scrivens and Fasth will patrol the net, and that can only be a move in the right direction. They are both good veterans. Scrivens has a career .917 SV%, and was at .922 altogether last year.
The Oilers have some good forwards and two good netminders. They also have a smart, well-thought of coach in Dallas Eakins, and the Oilers also are big into hockey analytics, which I very much have an appreciation for. Plus, right now, this gives them an advantage over teams still in the Stone Age. Of course, talent is still important, and this team may not have enough. Will they improve? Yes. Will they finish at the bottom of the West? I don’t think so. Will they make the playoffs? Probably not. The rebuild continues unabated.