April 14 2014 10:50AM
The Oilers playoff drought is now eight seasons, tying them for the 2nd longest playoff drought in one city with Boston, 1960-1967, and Washington, 1975-1982. Florida fans hold the record for enduring the longest heartache after watching the Panthers miss for ten consecutive seasons.
Can the Oilers improve by 25 points and be in playoff contention next season?
The Oilers finished 24 points behind 8th place Dallas, so not only do they need to improve by 25 points, they also need to leap frog six teams in the process. It is possible -- Colorado did it this season -- but highly unlikely. General manager Craig MacTavish will need to change a good portion of his lineup, and the players who do return will need to play much smarter and more consistent.
There is no magic fix for the Oilers. It is unrealistic to expect MacTavish to acquire a top pairing D-man, a 2nd line centre, a big, skilled top-six winger and a veteran top-five defender. I'm sure he'll try, but I don't see how he can fill all the holes in one off-season.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should be better next season. He should be able to improve his strength and gain some weight over the summer. Last summer, due to shoulder surgery, he wasn't able to work out to the level necessary to compete against top line centres. He was physically worn down at times this season, and I expect a full summer of training will help him improve next year. He has to get stronger if the Oilers plan to play him against the top lines in the Pacific division.
- Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry need to be more consistent. I understand the argument they aren't top-pairing D-men yet, and might never be, but they need to be more consistent regardless of which pairing they play on. The Oilers don't have any other right-handed D-men who are ready to contribute, unless they draft Aaron Ekblad, but he'd be a rookie. You can't expect the coach to improve the players, they need to improve themselves. One of Schultz or Petry has to take a big step next season.
- It is fair to expect 80 points from Taylor Hall. He has scored 130 points in his previous 120 games over the past two seasons. Hall was the first Oiler to finish in the top-ten in scoring in consecutive seasons since Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky in 1987-1988. Hall is one of the best point producers in the league, and over the past 25 games he improved his neutral and defensive zone play. I highly doubt you see him with a 44% Corsi next year, mainly because I expect the blueline to be better, and if he continues to develop his two-way game Hall will be able to win 8-10 games himself.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
- Can MacTavish acquire a proven NHL D-man? Who are realistic trade options?
I don't see the Predators trading Shea Weber, but they need offence. Would they trade Roman Josi? He has an outstanding contract, six more years at $4 million, but if they are going to acquire some scoring they need to move one of Weber, Jones or Josi.
Would an Eberle or Yakupov for Josi deal happen? Sam Gagner is not enough to get Josi.
- Some other names that could be available. Dustin Byfuglien. Paul Maurice wants to play him as a winger, but big Buff prefers defence. If Maurice comes back and Byfuglien really wants to play D he would be available.
Paul Martin is 33. The Pens have Matt Niskanen, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta. Martin has a limited no-trade clause. He shoots left. You can't trade Eberle or Yakupov for a 33-year-old, so I'm not sure I see a deal that works for both sides.
Washington will likely have a new GM and that team needs a shake up. Mike Green played 70+ games for the 4th time in his career. The right shot D-man will shoot the puck on the PP, but he's not great defensively. Would Gagner for Green work? Green has one year left on his $6,083 mill deal. He does have a NMC, but he's from Alberta and might want a change. Neither player lived up to his contract, this past season, and the Caps need some secondary scoring....
- The Sabres have a new GM and handful of draft picks. They have Tyler Myers, Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov in their stable of D-men. They were the lowest scoring team in the last 15 years (157 goals), and they desperately need some offence. Would they move Tyler Myers for Eberle or Yakupov and something else? Myers could be like Erik Johnson, who finally became a bonafide #1 D-man in his 6th season. It likely would take Eberle for Buffalo to move him. Would MacTavish make that deal? Would you? I wouldn't move Eberle, but if you want to acquire a good young D-man is he likely the player the opposing team wants.
- The Habs won't let P.K Subban walk. I've seen much speculation about an offer sheet or a trade, but neither will happen. Subban and Therrien have had their battles, but the young, star player will always win out. The Habs won't lose him.
- MacTavish needs to find some secondary scoring. Ryan Smyth was 7th on the team in goals and 8th in points. You'd hope Tyler Pitlick or Anton Lander could score ten goals next season, but neither of those two have shown any offensive consistency at the NHL level just yet. They also lose Smyth on the PK and he knows how to compete every night.
- One thing I don't understand is why people want to replace Gagner with Mark Arcobello? I believe Gagner does get moved, but replacing him with an unproven, smaller centre is a massive risk. I'd rather risk Arcobello as a 3rd line centre, but if he is the 2nd line guy to start the season the Oilers are taking a huge gamble.
- Today it looks unlikely the Oilers can make that big of a jump next season, but MacTavish has six months to revamp his lineup and make them more competitive. It will be another interesting off-season in Edmonton, and one that needs to be more productive than the previous seven have been.
- MacTavish will speak to the media tomorrow, and the draft lottery goes tomorrow night. The Oilers have a 14.2% of winning. They have won in the #1 and #2 slot and will try to win out the #3 hole.
- Barry Trotz is out in Nashville. He won't be out of work long if he decides he wants to be back in the NHL, and I expect we see him to go a team that is close to competing. I doubt he'd want to go to another rebuilding team. I could see the Predators promoting their AHL coach, Dean Evason. He has experience and would have a slightly different approach.
- How awesome was Saturday night? It was great to see Smyth and the fans get to say goodbye. That doesn't happen very often, and it was great to see his teammates send him off with a victory. Good luck in retirement Ryan.
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