It’s an exciting time for fans of the Edmonton Oilers. Another thrilling draft (‘we’re number one’) means the club will add an outstanding young player to their already bursting roster of exceptional under 23’s. On the other hand, the list of "things to do" at the NHL level before September is once again enormous.
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER
Last summer, the Oilers entered draft week with several needs, and some of the solutions were solid to very good.
- Need: A veteran winger to help with the PK/PP and guide the kids at evens. Solution: Ryan Smyth. Although he faded during the season, Smyth’s overall season certainly covered the bet and gave the Oilers a badly needed veteran hand up front. Smyth’s work ethic was an inspiration and his return to Edmonton a wonderful bonus for fans. GRADE A.
- Need: Truculence. Solution: Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk. Hordichuk played well in his role, giving the club a solid enforcer who could also play a little. Eager was less successful, although his scoring met expectations. Eager’s defining moment in year one in Edmonton probably came on a shift when the Nuge was being shoved around and Eager was on the ice at the same time. Eager didn’t notice and did not enforce. It could cost him. GRADES: D FOR EAGER, C FOR HORDICHUK.
- Need: A veteran NHL defenseman. Solution: Cam Barker and Andy Sutton. Sutton actually delivered well in the 5-6 role, so well he earned another contract from the Oilers. Barker’s season was derailed by injury and questionable coverage, something many had predicted after the signing. GRADES: F FOR BARKER, B FOR SUTTON.
- Need: A faceoff man to help with the PK and to balance the C position. Solution: Eric Belanger. I loved this signing so won’t go on and on about Belanger’s poor performance. It was a tough job, playing 4line minutes with massive own zone starts and rookies everywhere. Still, it was astonishing. GRADE: F.
- Need: A legit option for the moment when goaltending becomes the option. Solution: Yann Danis. He was more than good enough based on minor league numbers but the Oilers didn’t use him despite a clear and obvious need. GRADE: INCOMPLETE FOR PLAYER AND AN F FOR THE ORGANIZATION.
Passing grades on three items, and failing grades on another three.
OH MY GOD WHAT?
Once again this summer, the needs list is much too long. Filling all of the holes is one thing, doing this many things well is another.
- A top pairing defenseman capable of delivering big minutes at evens and at least one of PK and PP. 20+ overall.
- A better Renney.
- Justin Schultz or similar.
- A reasonable goaltending option for the Khabibulin free fall.
- An established 2-way winger to mentor the young players who will compete for bottom 6 roles (Lander, Hartikainen, Pitlick, etc)
- Ryan Smyth or similar.
The Oilers have a lot of needs and they are late to the gate with the naming of their head coach.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The entry draft is one of the major moments in the NHL season, and there is extreme pressure to get better. Will they compete for a playoff spot or is this another winter of frustration for Taylor Hall and company?
The waiting is almost over. Does Steve Tambellini have the imagination to make the moves required to make this team go?