QUESTIONS FOR 12-13 (UPDATE)

In April, I asked 10 questions about the Edmonton Oilers. Three months later, we have our answers.

 

  1. Who will they take #1 overall? April 15 answer: Nail Yakupov. Actual answer: Nail Yakupov. The lottery gifted Edmonton with the number one overall pick and the club added another elite forward prospect in Yakupov. He’s signed, sealed and delivered as an Oiler, and after the prospect camp has already won the hearts of Oiler fans. Best possible result for the Oilers.
  2. Who will coach? April 15 answer:Tom Renney. Actual answer: Ralph Krueger.The summer did not develop as we expected it to in regard to coaching. In April, Brent Sutter was the name (apparently) in play, with Krueger’s name being mentioned as a secondary item (as in "the other coaches have to know about their futures, too"). As it turned out, Krueger was a major portion of the story and won the day with his articulate delivery of his vision for the team and inspiring way. I’ve followed the Oilers since their inception, and don’t recall a coaching decision as unlikely while still appearing to be painfully obvious when talking to all of the main players in the transaction. Clearly Ralph Krueger can hold sway in a room and that gift might be a key item to this team’s future success.
  3. How will they improve the defense? April 15 answer: Justin Schultz. Since Bob McKenzie mentioned Edmonton as a possible landing spot for soon to be UFA Justin Schultz Oiler fans have been talking about him. Actual Answer: Justin Schultz. I have tried to put into words what this signing represents, but it is difficult to convey the importance. During the glory years of the Oilers, they were able to acquire outstanding additions to the team via the trade route but it always involved giving up picks or players. When Oiler players approached free agency, they were traded for various parts and picks. That is the world we lived in. After the lockout, Edmonton did acquire free agents, but it involved paying a lot of money (Souray, Khabibulin) for gents who had injury issues and the erosion of age. Justin Schultz isn’t any of those things. He is a young "perfect fit" for the gifted cluster of forwards and the Oilers won his signature with a lot of other very good clubs vying for it. As much as winning the #1 overall selection was a Godsend, the Schultz signing represents what might be a brand new day and is perhaps the first major sign that the hockey world is taking notice of the build happening in the land of the ice and snow.
  4. If they trade to upgrade D, who will they trade? April 15 answer: Sam Gagner. Actual answer: Incomplete. The Oilers did add Schultz but are not yet done (we hope) in the addition department. It is extremely likely that the team would have to trade a roster defender as part of an improvement, as the team is currently at 8 NHL contracts (Smid-Petry, N Schultz-J Schultz, Whitney-Sutton, Peckham-Potter). We heard rumors of Marc Methot and Mark Streit early in the summer, so there is some evidence of a push to improve.
  5. Will they move Hall to center? April 15 answer: Yes. Actual answer: nothing so far. Jason Gregor and Dennis King both mentioned it in the spring and there is some logic to the plan. However, with Hall’s rehab this might not be the season to try it.
  6. Do the Oilers continue the DD-NK tandem or look to improve it? April 15 answer: no. Actual answer: nothing so far. Edmonton’s GM Steve Tambellini has stood by Khabibulin all down the line and it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of action in this area. I do think signing Yann Danis was a wise decision, he posted a strong SP in OKC and should be considered a worthy callup option in case of injury/ineffectiveness.
  7. Will they make a big splash this summer? April 15 answer: No. Actual answer: No, beyond the Schultz signing. The Oilers always have a way of creating excitement around the draft and did it again this season. Signing Schultz was a huge item, but we haven’t seen him play yet so it’s an idea more than a fact for the fanbase. Ryan Smyth was the big free agent signing, but he’s a known quantity and perhaps not the big splash at this point in his career. 
  8. What will the top 2 lines look like in the fall? April 15 answer: RNH, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, Hemsky and Ryan Smyth. Actual answer: Same, except Sam Gagner is still here so Ryan Smyth is likely 3line. I’m not absolutely certain the Oilers are done here so we may have to do another edition of this ‘questions 12-13’ in early September. However, as it stands I think we can assume that–based on Krueger’s verbal–the club will pair Nuge-Ebs and Gags-Hemmer together and move Hall/Yakupov around to get matchups.
  9. How many of their own unrestricted free agents do the Oilers sign this summer? April 15 answer: Two. Smyth, Petrell.Actual answer: three: Smyth, Petrell, Hordichuk. Edmonton surprised by returning three of their wingers from the group that struggled so badly a year ago. The 4line was a disaster, so we wait for the plan. Hordichuk was a signing that allows the team to have a physical option as needed, but he can also sit. He knows the role.
  10. Which current NHL player on another roster has the best chance of being an Oiler in the fall? April 15 answer: Jason Garrison. Actual answer: nothing so far. Incredibly, the Oilers have a very similar roster now to the one that ended the season. We know Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov will be here all year, and that the young guns will be a year older. I  think it is reasonable to assume business isn’t done.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

 

We’re not there yet. That’s my belief. However, I also believe that the long, warm days of summer (plus the monsoon season) have obscured the good works done before noon July 1. Yakupov, Justin Schultz and Ryan Smyth should help and I expect we’ll eventually see that top 4 defender.

The Nuge will be a year older, Hemsky will be healthy, the defense seemed to rally around the Smid-Petry pairing as the season wore on in 11-12. I’m not suggesting any kind of run with the current roster, but the young hockey players on this team are going to be better. 

That’s going to be the story of the 12-13 Edmonton Oilers no matter who they bring in.

  • vetinari

    How can people be saying we are a playoff team is beyond me?! We have essentially the same team that finished 29th last year and added Yakupov and Shultz. 2 Rookies and some expected improvement from the young players pushes us from 29th up into a playoff spot?! Thats just crazy.
    1) For as much as you can say young players are gonna be better we can also say old guys are slowing down… which they are. I’d say treading water in this area mmmmaybe a slight uptick.
    2) Our defence last season was borderline horrendous… how does 1 rookie change that? Can he make it better sure but this defence is still lower half of the league bad.
    3) Goaltending Khabby(horrendous) that is all.
    4) Probably the biggest problem in the entire “we are gonna make the playoffs with this lineup” theory is INJURIES. I could see that if we had absolutely zero inj’s to our top 2 forward and defensive lines that we could get in around a 9-10th place finish in the West. But since when are there “no” injuries? What happens if Smid goes down? The defence is paper thin with no depth and thats where inj’s are almost guaranteed to happen. But how bout the Nuge goin down? Inj’s happen. And this team isnt built to weather that storm. Playoffs? Nonsense. At least with what Tambi’s done so far.

      • DieHard

        Well i can certainly appreciate that and I’m very excited to watch this team this season also. I expect them to be exciting if nothing else..I just think when it comes to playoffs I think we just need 1 more top 4 D to help weather the INJ storm and account for the fact that absolutely everything is not gonna go right this year. But I do expect great improvement for sure somewhere in the 10-15pts range with a 10th-12th finish in the Conference. Despite what some might think that would be a huge improvement especially considering all thats changed is adding 2 Rook’s to the lineup.

  • vetinari

    Agree that the kids will be better, and Kreuger will be a big part of that. I hope he will have the green light from management to focus on player development as a priority(long term goal) vs playoffs, much as we’d all like to see better results in the standings. I’m old enough to remember many long and painful nights watching Messier, Coffey, Lowe and others making tons of mistakes as young players, but developing in the process.

    That means young players being allowed a certain amount of latitude to learn from their mistakes, while holding vets to a higher standard.

    Renney talked about ice-time as “currency” last year, but I don’t think he delivered on the accountability.

  • Tim in Kelowna

    There is no excuse for not adding another NHL defensemen before training camp. I will reserve judgement until September, but we NEED another dman that can play 18-20 minutes a night.

    I’d love to see the Oil take a run at M. Staal. NYR are stacked on D, perhaps they could use a forward…

  • Tim in Kelowna

    There is no excuse for not adding another NHL defensemen before training camp. I will reserve judgement until September, but we NEED another dman that can play 18-20 minutes a night.

    I’d love to see the Oil take a run at M. Staal. NYR are stacked on D, perhaps they could use a forward…

  • I think the biggest improvement should come from management’s desire to start winning (for real, not a Tamby “we’re aiming for the playoffs” smokescreen for a lottery pick tank job).

    We all saw countless questionable bench calls last year. I firmly believe Renney took the pipe for the team’s acquiring Yakupov. What might have transpired if he had a clear mandate to win?

    If Krueger has the green light from the first whistle this year we’ll see a whole new way of doing business. Not saying we’ll make the playoffs because I still think we’re massively overestimating the immediate impact of both Yakupov and Schultz and Hall won’t be 100% for a good part of the season (see: Hemsky, Ales) but we’ll be in the hunt. That’s all you can ask for.

  • nuge2drai

    NewAgeSys states:

    “you can rest assured of one thing,it will be a bigger explosion than we saw in the 80s because there is way more gunpowder in the room now.records will fall,and Names will be Made–new legends have to be born somewhere and what better place than a Hall of Fame incubator like Edmonton.”

    Wow! This is really stretching expectations. By adding two rookies (Yakupov and the younger Schultz), albeit we expect them to make the team, and Ralph Krueger as coach, you expect last season’s 29th place team to explode? Names will be Made? New legends will be born?

    We can hope for improved performances from Eberle, Hall, Nuge and Petry, but the veterans will be older, slower and are already injury-prone, and there is some question in goal. To make the playoffs, the Oilers have to move from last in the conference to 8th or better (up minimum of 7 positions). But miracles do happen, but not so much with ST in charge.

  • nuge2drai

    The kids will be better and Yakupov and Schultz will help.

    But until the defense is improved beyond a few retreads and an entry level player and we’re still skating out the same failed 3rd and 4th line players to try and stop the other team’s best players, we’re not a playoff caliber team.

    Things may come together with limited setbacks to push us into the 10th-12th spot, but playoffs don’t seem possible without some roster moves.

  • Lowetide

    Pouzar: At this point I think it is fairly safe to say the Oilers won’t see all of these kids play in the NHL for them.

    Especially on defense. At the top of their prospect list is Justin Schultz, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat.

    Beyond that, they have Musil, Simpson, Bigos, Davidson.

    AND you have Peckham, Plante and Potter who are NHL or close to NHL level.

    If a team has a top 4D available and EDM offers 2013 1st, Peckham and David Musil? That’s a lot of value.

  • nuge2drai

    Picking up a legit second or third pairing D man via trade would help the Oilers this season, no question, but what would we have to give up? Would it make sense to give up a young players such as MP, SG or Teemu H when Klefbom is a year away and others are getting close? No.

    Who does that leave that anyone might want? Hemsky, Jones, Peckham, secondary prospects, draft picks. Hrad to justify, especially with Hemsky’s value at an all-time low, which could change is he stays healthy and plays well.

    Long term the Oilers need to get bigger and more physical, and unlike at D they do not have as many blue chip prospects on the way, apart from Hartikainen. Pitlick and Hamilton may be able to fulfill this roll someday in the bottom six, plus maybe Moroz, but a deal that could snag a genuine top six power forward is the only I can see justifying moving Gagner and-or MP, and it would have to be for a center if SG is involved. A long shot probably but you can bet the ditherer is exploring the territory. The price might be too high but if the Oilers get Bobby Ryan, for example, they might be willing to pay it.

    All in all I think the odds are nothing major will happen. You can’t force these things. After 2 and a half years I sense the rebuild is entering phase 2, where there is a greater emphasis on success now, despite a continuing reluctance to sacrifice future potential for immediate improvement. Long-term cap management is also a major priority to hold onto the top assesets we have acquired. With the acquisition of J Schultz, defence is no longer a long-term issue. At forward the problem is size and physicality, not skill, and improving there should be the priority. In goal, this should be the year where we find out if Dubnyk is a genuine Number 1, a 50-50 guy, or even just a backup, which will determine what kind of replacement for Khabi is needed. We will definitely be better but to make the playoffs Dubnyk will have to step up big time and we cannot afford a worse than average season in terms of injuries.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    I dare to suggest we are a playoff team as well.

    This team will have no problems scoring goals. Eberle, Hall, Hopkins will all take a step forward. Yakupov will provide the secondary scoring we have been missing. Hemskys health will be a key for our success this year- if he returns to 70 point form we are set up front.

    The defence is not as bad as everyone makes it seem. J Schultz will be a solid #3/#4. N Shultz is highly underated. Petry is primed for a breakout season. Smid has embraced the shut-down role and I think his positioning will be better this year. The key is Ryan Whitneys health, if he is healthy we have a solid defence going into the season.

    Dubnyk will be more consistant with a better defence. Whitney|Hemsky stay healthy(maybe im asking for way too much with that statement) but if they do I dare to say we are a playoff team.

    I like the idea of adding a Roszival type dman as long as it DOES NOT COST US HEMSKY or GAGNER. We need the depth up front in case of injuries.

  • Tim in Kelowna

    I am very happy about #10. Garrison was massively overpaid for one “good” (33 pts) offensive season with Florida. He’s a capable defensive defenseman, but scored 8 of his 16 goals in the first 21 games for Florida last year, and he’s not really an upgrade over Nick Schultz or Ladislav Smid, but would have cost a hell of a lot more to bring in. Basically like taking one of those two guys and adding a Kurtis Foster-like slapshot onto them, which isn’t worth it to me.

    I’d love to see the Oilers sign a guy like Spacek or Scott Hannan for depth, or figure out how much a guy like Rozsival would cost.

  • Lowetide

    eastcoast: Krueger has suggested Yakupov will get a look LW, and Hemsky has played it before at a high level. So I think there’s some room to move around among the top 6F.

    I like the D, to be honest. Smid-Petry had a nice finish; Nick Schultz was better than I thought he’d be (calm feet) and Justin Schultz is a quality addition based on what we know.

    Ryan Whitney is the best of the bunch when healthy, and I wonder if the Oilers have been getting good updates on his progress. Jason Gregor has talked about Whitney being able to train this summer making a big difference so that’s a factor too.

    If they could add an NHL defenseman to this group without subtracting Smid, Petry, the Schultz’s and Whitney that would be a very positive outcome.

    I think DD gets 55-60 starts and believe he’ll hold the job. He’s earned the right to get the #1 job going into camp.

  • eastcoastoil

    I still don’t see the answer for the left side, Yak likes playing right. LT do you think a healthy Whitney and Nick/Justin will be enough of a addition to the d? Is Klefblom a serious consideration?

    Looking at the stats DD is listed as playing in 47 games but only starting 42. Guessing that those additional 5 games were already out of hand. If he is going to get 55-60 starts, with a 500 record last year is that enough?

    LT, what would be enough? a playoff push or a run?

  • Maddog

    I suggest we are already a playoff team personell wise,and this year will be our official re-entry into the perennial playoff team department after a VERY LONG ABSENCE.

    I like your analysis,it is clear and concise.

    I think it is a good idea to solidify the forward pairings as Krueger has unofficially done–i dont see it changeing top 6 wise for five or six years,and who in the world wouldnt want to rotate hall and yakupov ,WOW.

    If we stick with this approach we are gauranteed a chance to provide a full season of consistant 60 min efforts System wise,players respond to the consistancy of their opportunity,and takeing away as much unneeded pressure as possible is the goal,good call so far.

    A good question for this year is how many present oiler team and individual records will fall or be equalled before the post season is over.I say ten one answer for each question asked.

    we didnt have this kind of talent back in the 80s,no way,no one knows what is going to happen with our group this year,but you can rest assured of one thing,it will be a bigger explosion than we saw in the 80s because there is way more gunpowder in the room now.records will fall,and Names will be Made–new legends have to be born somewhere and what better place than a Hall of Fame incubator like Edmonton..

    • French Toast Mafia

      Did you just suggest that a team that finished 30, 30, and 29 in the league has more talent upfront then the 1980s oilers which could arguably be the best team of all time?