The Edmonton Oilers are a young team and could be "quick out of the gate" if the NHL and NHLPA agree to a new CBA and a shortened season. A young group of kids in their entry level deals are game ready and (a few bumps and bruises aside) miles ahead of the NHL veterans. Could this be a major benefit for the Oilers? Or, will their traditional weaknesses in goal and on the blue be even bigger problems in a short season?
Back in the summer I wrote that Taylor Hall was going to have a big season, and I still think it’s so. If he was pushing the river with a bum shoulder a year ago, lord knows what a healthy Hall can do in the NHL. Also, the young guns will be a year older, Ales Hemsky is healthy and the club did add another teenage sniper in Nail Yakupov over the summer.
If we make up an "expected" list of forwards for the new season, it might look like this:
- Gagner-Hall-Hemsky (tough assignments)
- Nuge-Hartikainen-Eberle (soft parade)
- Horcoff-Smyth-Yakupov (mentor line for the latest phenom)
- Belanger-Eager-Jones (experienced 4line)
- Petrell-Hordichuk (extras)
One imagines the first callups would be Chris VandeVelde and Magnus Paajarvi, and of course you could make a case that at least Paajarvi would be at Oilers camp (should there be one in the next week or so). This isn’t the 1984 Oilers, but there’s a lot of rattle and him under 22 and I submit Hall, Hemsky, the Nuge, Eberle, Gagner and Nail Yakupov is an amazing future.
With Andy Sutton apparently done for the season, the Oilers won’t have to make a decision about which defenseman to expose to waivers in order to get Justin Schultz on the team. A quick guess:
- Whitney-J Schultz
- N Schultz-Potter
We’ve discussed this a lot, but Colten Teubert would be an obvious choice for callup in the event of injury. Taylor Fedun may have worked his way into the conversation, and if they need a depth defender on an emergency basis David Musil is now an Oil King.
Interesting depth chart, the top pairing is underrated and if Whitney can mentor the kid Schultz and the third pairing avoids another saloon doors winter, maybe the Oilers can help their goalie.
Yann Danis might end up being a very important player for the 12-13 short-season Oilers. With Nikolai Khabibulin’s health an ongoing concern, and Devan Dubnyk not an established 60+ starter as of yet, there’s a great opportunity for Danis to revive his NHL career.
Danis began slowly in OKC by his by month save percentage suggests he is returning to his outstanding play of one year ago:
- October: 4gp, 3.27 .887
- November: 11gp, 2.37 .926
I think there’s a chance the Oilers go with Dubnyk-Danis to start the season, or possibly use include all three goaltenders on the roster (and go with one less forward) until Khabibulin is healthy enough to be counted on.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Sooner or later, this road block that is the lockout will end, and the Oilers will have the holes on defense and in goal they had in the summer (and before). The difference is that the injuries didn’t wait to find their way to the surface. Assuming the Nuge and Taylor Hall are ready for the opening bell, the club still has to figure out a way to overcome the loss of Andy Sutton and the ongoing Nikolai Khabibulin health/ineffectiveness riddle.
Could Ryan Whitney make the blueline problems go away? I believe he could, if healthy. If not, expect Edmonton to be on the lookout for immediate help.
And I do believe Yann Danis is going to get an enormous opportunity if and when the lockout ends.