The Edmonton Oilers were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season and missed the playoffs for the ninth straight time, which caused some major changes.
The Oilers finished last season with the third worst record in the NHL. The team won 24 games and had 62 total points. The Oilers had trouble scoring (198 goals for) and keep the puck out of their own net (283 goals against). They had a goal differential of -85. It’s hard to score goals when a team is playing most of the game defending in its own zone.
Peter Charelli was name the new general manager after being fired by the Boston Bruins in the offseason. The Oilers had some luck on its side and got the number one draft pick in the lottery. Todd McLellan, fired from the San Jose Sharks, was named the third head coach in two seaons. Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson both coached the Oilers last season. The Oilers then drafted top prospect, Connor McDavid, with the number one overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
The Oilers were busy on the trade front acquiring Cam Talbot, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart and Lauri Korpikoski in four separate offseason trades. Mark Letestu and Andrej Sekera were signed during the free agency period. The Oilers lost Matt Fraser, Derek Roy and Victor Fasth among others in free agency.
Taylor Hall will be the Oilers key player this season. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to pile up the points in this offense. He will see the ice during even strength and most likely be part of one of the power play units. In just 53 games played last season, he had 14 goals, 24 assists and 38 points. Imagine what his point totals could be if he stayed fairly healthy this year.
The health of the young forwards is the Oilers x-factor. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins only missed a combined seven games between them last season. Hall missed 29 games and spent time on the injured reserve because of a knee injury. Does Hall bounce back this year and how does his knee hold up? These three forwards need to stay healthy and on the ice for the Oilers to have success. It is important to note that Eberle is now out for 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury sustained in a preseason game earlier this week against the Arizona Coyotes. Although frustrating for the team, don’t count Eberle out upon his return.
Nail Yakupov was signed to a two-year contract in the offseason. He can use those two years to prove that he can produce at the NHL level. He contributed 33 points last season, but he should have more points this season. Yakupov could have his breakout season and be the surprise player on this roster. He isn’t afraid to shoot the puck and has a decent shot. The forward is only 21 years old and is entering this fourth NHL season.
The Oilers should be able to score more than the 198 goals they scored last year. They have scored 21 goals in six games so far this preseason, but it is just preseason. The Oilers offense hasn’t been held below three goals in any of the preseason games played. The Oilers can roll out four lines and any one of them can contribute to the offense. There will be nights where the offense is going to have to outscore opponents.
The defense was improved by Charelli in the offseason with the signing of Sekera. The team has only allowed eight goals through six preseason games, but most teams aren’t playing their full regular season roster during these games. Gryba will add a stay-at-home defenseman to the mix. The defense is still going to allow goals, but they will also contribute on the offensive side of the puck. They have defenseman that can log minutes, but they don’t have that one shutdown defensemen. Oscar Klefbom has the potential to be that defenseman, but he is only entering his third NHL season.
The goaltending is going to be a big question heading into the season too. Ben Scrivens has the experience, but hasn’t had the best numbers (.898 save percentage and 3.12 goals against average) while with the Oilers. Cam Talbot has only played 57 games at the NHL level. Talbot did fill in nicely for the New York Rangers last season while Henrik Lunqvist was out, but he was also playing behind the Rangers defense. The Oilers improved the goaltending position with the upgrade of Talbot over former backup, Victor Fasth.
The Oilers ranked in the middle of the pack on the power play last season. They had 41 power play goals in 232 opportunities and gave up seven shorthanded goals. The additions of McDavid and Sekera should help the power play. Sekera, if on the power play, can move the puck up ice and is a good passer. The two power play units should both be able to produce. The penalty kill was ranked 28th overall last season. The additions of Letestu, Gryba and Korpikoski should help to improve the power play. Letestu won about 53 percent of the faceoffs that he took last season, and that will help with gaining possession and be able to clear the zone.
The Oilers should be a fun, goal-scoring team to watch this season. They will improve and won’t have a chance at the number one draft pick again. The streak continues and the team misses the playoffs again this season. The teams in the Western Conference are so good and teams did a lot to improve so it will be hard for the Oilers to crack the top eight, but they’ll be in the playoff race.