- By Alex ThomasWell yesterday we talked about three forwards that would make quality trade targets for the Oilers this summer. Today, we will take a look at three
- By Alex ThomasIt’s May 18th, we’re about seven weeks from the start of the draft, free agency, and the 2013 summer transaction period. With a lowered salary cap
- By Kyle PalazziIn the late morning of July 24, 2013, upon the announcement of the acquisition of star winger Rick Nash, Rangers fans salivated at the possibilities.
- By Alex ThomasI know yesterday in my article I told you I would be back here talking about trade targets for the Oilers. We still have almost seven
- By Alex ThomasToday concludes our look at possible free agent targets for the Oilers this off-season. We’ve taken a look at top six forwards, bottom six forwards, top
The 2013 Edmonton Oilers Season Preview
It’s here folks, the 2013 Edmonton Oilers season preview. What should have been up in October waited till January, but it could all be well worth the wait depending on the results from the Oil this year.
We’ll take a look at a number of different things. We’ll look at the forwards, take a little gander at the blue line and in between the pipes, and of course make predictions and list some players to watch. So let’s go….
Forwards: The Oilers might just have one of the best young cores in the game, and it starts up front with their top line. Years of poor finishes have allowed Edmonton to truly build a power-house up front.
The top line of Taylor Hall-RNH-Jordan Eberle is the best young line in the game. Hall brings the drive the team has lacked for years. He drives the net, brings heart, has point-per-game ability and has 30 goal scorer written all over him. He’s simply put, a stud.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the second best play maker in the division, behind only Henrik Sedin. Nuge is the Oilers best center since Doug Weight, and as shown by his rookie season, is a truly dominant player in the making. Jordan Eberle is clutch, and honestly the best of the bunch. He can finish and he can set-up, evident by his 30+ goal 42 assist season last year. Eberle is another star forward on the top line.
Line two is pretty solid too in Edmonton this season. Sam Gagner has been playing in Europe during the lockout, and is healthy as well. Gagner is poised for a breakout season in the 48 game sprint, and will have the cast to do so. Gagner will be a solid set up man on the line too.
Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky will man the wings. Hemsky will be the primary set up man on the line, with the chance to set up Gagner or Yakupov. Yakupov will be the trigger man on the line. It is hoped that the rookie will be able to develop a chemistry with Hemsky that Peter Sykora had during the 2006-07 season. Yakupov has the ability to be a dominate game-changer in Edmonton.
If this very talented line can click, the Oilers have two legit scoring lines, and should be able to cure their secondary scoring issues.
The third line will see veterans Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff no doubt as two main pieces. Horcoff provides the Oilers a great face-off man and PK’er. Horc is still a leader too, and can produce points while playing productive hockey. He’ll be a key this season.
Smyth, in limited minutes, was great for the Oilers last year. Expect the mullet man to once again play a factor for the Oilers. He’ll see some PP and PK time for the team, and could very well be more of an offensive factor with his minutes reduced, as he’ll stay fresh.
The right side will see Teemu Hartikainen, which I think is a great decision. Harti is the future of the third line, and is a young Tomas Holmstrom. Harti is a bigger body with a net front presence, and showed towards the end of last season he belongs in the NHL.
Line four will see tough guy Ben Eager, face off and PK specialist Eric Belanger, and solid role player Lennart Petrell. Belanger and Eager had down years last season, but I expect Ralph Krueger to use them correctly this coming season. Petrell proved he can play a role on the 4th line last season too, so I have faith in him as a PK’er and depth guy.
As for the extra forwards, Darcy Hordichuk brings a toughness element and was at his best last year when Krueger was at the helm. Expect him to be let off of the leash this season. Magnus Paajarvi will start the year as an extra forward, and I see him as a solid future 3rd liner. He has speed, PK ability and some offensive ability. Once he adjusts to the North American game, he’ll be a permanent.
Ryan Jones is expected to miss a few weeks, but expect him to see 4th line ice time once he returns to get himself back up to speed.
Overall, the Oilers top six forwards are the best they have been in a while. They have great scoring ability in their top six, some solid veteran role players on line three, and the fourth line has some specialty guys with a lot to prove. The forwards aren’t an issue in Edmonton, and I expect them to carry this team in the shortened season.
Defenders: I won’t go into great detail, because I did that last night, check it out here http://www.insiderrumors.com/2013/edmonton-oilers/on-the-defence/
I will say this however. the Oilers defense depends on the play of Justin Schultz and Ryan Whitney. Both players have game changer ability. If Whitney stays healthy, the Oilers are an instantly better hockey team. Plus, if Schultz can show he belongs in a top four role, the Oil finally have a legit NHL top four.
New defender Mark Fistric should help the third pairing out, while veterans Ladislav Smid and Nick Schultz will be counted on to play a strong shut-down game. Both have proven before they can handle that role.
Puck-mover Jeff Petry will need to prove he can keep up his upward trend towards a top four defender. He showed last year he can handle 20+ minute games, and will need that kind of performance again this season.
The Oilers defense certainly isn’t their strength, but it isn’t the weakness that it has been in the last few seasons. It’s not a dominate group, but one with ability to be flashy moving the puck, and be a solid, steady unit. Good enough for a playoff trip…
Goaltending: The Oilers will carry three goalies into the start of the NHL season. One, an unproven starter, one an okay at best backup, and one and AHL star.
Devan Dubnyk will be counted on as the Oilers starter this season. DD played well for some parts of the 2010-11 season, and played really well in the second half of the 2011-12 season. DD also played real well in the Spengler Cup in Europe during the NHL’s lockout, and appears ready to go.
Dubnyk has shown that he has the ability to be a starter, but just hasn’t done it over a full season. Is this the year? This will be the most important question for Edmonton this season.
While Dubnyk, who I think can be the starter, will be in the spotlight, Nik Khabibulin will be the backup this season. Khabibulin has been simply terrible in an Oilers uniform, and could be in the last season of his NHL career. Expect Khabi to play around ten games this season, and just pray he is fresh enough to put in solid efforts.
Sadly, I have no real faith in Khabibulin, and I’m not sure if Oilers management does either. Plus, Khabi is currently banged up.
Yann Danis was recalled due to Khabibulin’s injury, and might back up on opening night. Danis was unreal last season in the AHL, and has played well so far this season. He’s a backup at best, and don’t expect any impact here…
Players To Watch: Keep an eye on Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk. If DD can take the starters role and run with it, the Oilers will be in the playoff chase all season long. Dubnyk is young, and has the potential. The starters job really is his to lose.
Ryan Whitney is in a contract year, and eager to turn it around after two injury filled seasons. Expect Whitney to return to his top four form, and if he can return to his top two form, then the Oil are in business. He’ll be a key on the blue line, and health truly is the only thing holding him back.
Sam Gagner is a guy that could very well be a difference maker up front. We know the top line will be there, and it’s expected that Yakupov will do fine in a top six role. Gagner could cement himself as the Oilers’ second line center moving forward with a solid season, and he could give the Oilers the scoring depth they so badly need. Gagner is the offense’s X-factor this season.
Prediction Time: The Oilers have not made the playoffs since 2006, a streak they must desperately try and end this season.
The Oil are loaded up front, and have a scary top six. If the veterans in the bottom six fill their role, the Oilers forward group will be one of the best in the NHL.
The defense is improved with a healthy Whitney and the additions of J. Schultz and Mark Fistric, add in a more mature Jeff Petry too. Devan Dubnyk, if he stays healthy, should be a solid starter in Edmonton too this season, and will help the team stay in the race.
The Oilers have for the most part been playing elsewhere during the lockout, and will be fresh and ready to go. Plus, their youth will really help with the condensed schedule. A quick start could do wonders for this team.
So, with all that in mind, I’m taking the Oilers to pull it off and slide into the west playoffs. The Oilers will finish 15th overall in the NHL and will place 8th in the western conference, setting up a date with the southwest division champs (Find out who tomorrow).
Quick Transaction: The Oilers assigned defenders Taylor Fedun and Colten Teubert, along with forward Chris Vande Velde to the OKC Barons. No shock there.
The team also recalled goalie Yann Danis, as Nikolai Khabibulin may not be cleared to play. He is currently suffering from an injury sustained during the off-season. Tyler Bunz was assigned to the AHL from the ECHL.
Tomorrow I’ll have a quick article on my East and West predictions, then it’s all systems go. Follow me on twitter @BigcatThomas14