In mid-June, we took a long look at what might happen this summer to the Oilers roster and prospect list. I made several predictions, thinking alongside Craig MacTavish after years of watching him expertly manage his NHL roster. With a keen eye and thinking along with him, I set down the summer in measured, rational terms. The result?
I could NOT have been more wrong! I could have TRIED but would not have been successful. It was truly a golden sombrero.
The predictions are here, let’s see how things went.
- Who will they take in the first round? My choice June 15: Sean Monahan My comments June 15: Oilers have three strong options. Deal up for Barkov, stay the course at 7 and select Monahan, Horvat or Nurse, or deal down in hopes Horvat is there (with Curtis Lazar as a possible backup plan). I think there are so many attractive options before Monahan that he slips to #7 and the Oilers grab him. Result: they selected Nurse, but it was very interesting to see and hear how close they were to taking Nichushkin.
- Who will help Dallas Eakins coach? June 15: The Oilers have to put together a coaching staff that can come together quickly, so my guess is that Eakins adds Derek King from his AHL staff and the Oilers keep Steve Smith from last year’s group. Mark Lamb completes the staff, with Kelly Buchberger moving to another role in the organization. Result: Oilers went with Keith Acton, an exceptional choice based o everything we read.
- How will they improve the defense? June 15: MacT has already added the Russian Belov and I believe the club will be active during the summer, too. We’ve already heard rumors about Paul Ranger, and I believe Edmonton will add Russian defenseman Fedor Tyutin in a blockbuster deal. He’ll help form a top 6D that might go Tyutin-Petry, Smid-J Schultz, N Schultz-Belov and Paul Ranger. Result: Not close. They did add another Russian (Grebeshkov) but the big blueline addition was Andrew Ference as a free agent.
- What’s the ‘wow’ trade? June 15: I think the Howson connection sees Edmonton acquire Tyutin, L RJ Umberger and C Ryan Johansen from the Blue Jackets in exchange for Sam Gagner, Martin Marincin and Ales Hemsky. Result: It was Paajarvi and a 2nd for David Perron. Not a blockbuster, but a definite upgrade.
- Will they move Hall to center? June 15: No. I think the club will use Nuge, Johansen and two free agent signings/trades up the middle. I do not think Monahan makes the team under any circumstances. Among the candidates I can see arriving in Edmonton to play center: Alexander Burmistrov, Boyd Gordon. Result: Got Boyd Gordon correct, he’s an Oiler now and a nice add. As for Hall moving to center, no word yet.
- Who will the Oilers sign to backup Devan Dubnyk? June 15: I think the Oilers will find a way to trade for a suitable backup, perhaps Eddie Lack from Vancouver. I do like Jason Labarbera, but will guess that Ben Scrivens arrives in Edmonton in a summer trade. Result: I named LaBarbera, but close only counts in horseshoes.
- What will the top 2 lines look like in the fall? June 15: Nuge-Hall-Eberle with Johansen-Paajarvi/Umberger-Yakupov. The club may also attempt to sign a winger with size, but those guys are at a premium. Result: The top 6 is pretty clear, I think this is an outstanding group for the top two lines.
- How many of their own rfa’s does Edmonton sign? June 15: Only Paajarvi. Result: He was the one they sent away.
- Surprise opening night roster player? June 15: Ben Eager. Result: It could happen, we wait.
- What current roster player on another team has the best chance of being an Oiler in 13-14? June 15: Viktor Stalberg. Result: Miss.
- Where does Horcoff land? June 15: Detroit or Florida or Edmonton.Result: Should have guessed Dallas.
- Why do they trade Gagner? June 15: Money. Tambellini not getting a long term deal done cost the Oilers. He blew it, and now MacTavish doesn’t have enough coin. Result: Gagner signed. And a nice deal, too.
- Why did they let Hartikainen go to the KHL? June 15: Three things: he didn’t get a lot done (read: anything!) at even strength in the NHL, his conditioning wasn’t where it needed to be and he is not a natural PF–he’s not a mean player by nature. Result: Well, they signed another Finn with a very similar resume.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It was fun playing along with MacT this summer, he certainly threw a few curves during the last 45 days. What’s more important, the new GM added much needed depth to the blueline, another quality scorer on the wing, and got Sam Gagner under contract.
There’s plenty left to do, but the Oilers are as always: a work in progress.