This is year two of the MacTavish-Eakins era and needless to say, there has to be progress following last season’s train wreck.
I think the new additions will be a massive boost to the club. Experience still counts in this league, so it’s refreshing to see guys like Pouliot and Purcell flanking a very young and developing core. Both are still in their primes, making serious money. But both should be counted on for secondary scoring.
The top six overall looks like a legit NHL group. But because of the weaknesses at centre, this club is one injury away from entering the McDavid sweepstakes. There is never a good reason to keep a player under 20 on your roster, unless he’s Crosby or Ovechkin. And again the Oilers will be relying on a young prospect to produce with Draisatl securing the second line centre position. Here’s hoping he can at least get the softer minutes (i.e., offensive zone face offs, power play time, against easier competition). With such a glaring hole at centre, I think most assumed the Oilers would’ve sought out a veteran player like Derek Roy or Derek Legwand.
This group is definitely an improvement from last season, with the addition of Fayne and Nikitin. But it is still far from being a top NHL caliber group. Guys like Schultz, Klefbom, Marincin and Nurse are still developing, but will likely be asked to play high end minutes. If this club can stay healthy, and the team is smart enough to keep Petry long-term, I think they can compete well in their division. My expectations when it comes to how they play as a unit is much higher with the addition of Craig Ramsay on the staff. It’ll be interesting to see if he can find a way to better utilize this group and find some success in 5-on-5 situations.
This is one area where I’m still unsure about. If the coaching staff can limit the ridiculous amount of clean zone entries and two-on-ones like last year, I think this tandem is good enough. But if those same defensive lapses and poor coverage emerge from last season, no goalie will stand a chance. Here’s hoping some stronger possession play through all three zones will help the goalies. From what I saw last year and the pre-season, I’m predicting Fasth comes out as the clear cut number one goalie by November.
Regardless of the glaring hole at centre and the question mark in net, I think there’s a lot of potential in this current roster. The wings have a lot of talent and experience, and stack up well against the top teams in the league. The defence has improved with new roster players and the addition of Ramsay. MacTavish has brought in proven possession players with experience, which should hopefully translate to less time scrambling and chasing the puck. An additional 10 wins from last season isn’t asking for much, so I’m predicting they make a jump up to 10th in the west this season.
14th in the West
10th in the West
Top Scorer: Taylor Hall
Best defenceman*: Jeff Petry
Likely to get dealt: David Perron
*Based on boxcars and advanced stats
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