How has the Edmonton Oilers’ roster changed from last year?

While Craig MacTavish may have failed to make all the bold moves he wanted to get done, he has been very active in his first summer as the Oilers’ general manager. How does the roster he’s assembled compare with the one Steve Tambellini put together for the start of last season?


Players in grey represent players in Edmonton to start the 2013 season; rather than going off the opening night lineup I’ve ranked them according to their ice-time over the year. This has resulted in the odd positional liberty – Magnus Paajarvi as the third line right wing stands out – but for the most part these players should be more or less in the role they played on balance over the course of last season.

Players in white are this year’s group. Players in red are ones I perceive as clear upgrades over their equivalent from the year before.

The top line is young, and certainly it would be unsurprising if a 21-year old Taylor Hall found another gear. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who just turned 20 in April, is so early in his career that he seems likely to be improved, particularly with surgery taking care of the shoulder problems he had last season.

On the second line, an established David Perron seems a clear upgrade over last season’s version of Nail Yakupov. Some might argue that Yakupov in 2013-14 is likely to be better than Hemsky was last year; that’s certainly possible but I don’t think it’s completely certain.

The third line is a different group, but expectations should be similar. The wild card is Hemsky; I expect he’ll offer more than Paajarvi did last year.

Beyond that group, I see Smyth as a better player than Lennart Petrell, who seemed totally lost when not killing penalties; beyond that I don’t see a whole lot to choose between the Tambellini group and the MacTavish group.

Defence & Goal

On defence, three of the presumed top-four are holdovers from those roles last season. Justin Schultz, off a whirlwind rookie campaign, should be better while Andrew Ference is coming off a stint as a top-four defender with one of the best teams in the league and can in my view be reasonably seen as an improvement on Nick Schultz.

The third pairing, likely comprised of Denis Grebeshkov and Nick Schultz, seems obviously better than Ryan Whitney and Corey Potter. Whitney was a disaster for the Oilers last season and if Grebeshkov’s anywhere near the form he left the NHL in he’ll be an upgrade. While I have time for Corey Potter, Nick Schultz is a bona fide NHL defender and Potter’s a ‘tweener.

On the third pair, I prefer Anton Belov and Philip Larsen to Mark Fistric and Theo Peckham overall, but they’re obviously different layer-types. Fistric did solid work in the number seven role and might be better or worse than Belov, a top KHL defenceman who at this point has serious potential but is also a significant question mark. Peckham and Larsen are both flawed in different ways.

In net, Devan Dubnyk returns as starter. I like Jason LaBarbera the player over Nikolai Khabibulin by a significant amount, but Khabibulin’s coming off a superb season as backup so I don’t see this as a big upgrade over what was accomplished last season.

Recently around the Nation Network

At Jets Nation, Kevin McCartney breaks down Zach Bogosian’s seven-year, $36 million extension:

Again – Bogosian has all the tools to be a top-pairing defenceman within a few short years. Right now, he helps the Jets win and that can’t be denied. Nevertheless, he’s being paid to be a Top-4 (though not elite) level defenceman after a very short audition in that role, and without the kind of success to show he can do it for the next 7 years. At best, we can hope that he lives up to his cap hit.

Click the link above to read more. Otherwise, feel free to read some of my recent pieces:

  • JDog17

    I think the changes made so far are the kind this team needs. We don’t need massive contracts or game-changing stars-we have those already. What this team needs is a decent supporting cast to put behind the kids. I like Jones, Smyth, and Gordon where they are, but until the team proves that they can play together and for each other this team will continue to flounder. We need to make MUCH better use of the team we have got rather than keep looking for a solution elsewhere.

  • Vaclav

    sorry for the re post from previous blog.
    Why has Yak been gifted the 2nd line RW spot over Hemsky? Has he earned it? Is there no chance in this world #83 can win that position? Is it because we are afraid that Yak will sulk and defecate to the khl? Is there a spot on the top 6 for 83 if RNH is a late starter or are we going to waste his talent (and value) playing him on the 3rd line?

    • Hair bag

      I don’t think anything is a given but based on how inconsistent Hemsky is and how Yak finished last season as well as his raw talent combined with sheer desire – it isn’t unreasonable to place Yak ahead of Hemsky in the depth chart. Yak is like a race horse who can’t wait for the gate to open, with Hemsky you never know if he will even come out of the stall…

    • I wouldn’t say there’s no chance, but keep in mind that third line job requires a lot of defensive zone work; at this point Hemsky’s a better fit for that assignment than Yakupov.

      More than that, even if the Oilers started Yakupov on the third line I wouldn’t expect him to stay there.

    • LinkfromHyrule

      because yak playing with our wonderful third line does not equal production. Hemsky is a soloist, he will likely be able to produce regardless of his linemates (sometimes it seems like he forgets they are there). Other than some defensive shortcomings I have zero issue with yak playing second line. He will be, and to some extent already is, better than Hemsky

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Move Hemsky out of the picture, bring in Steckle, Clifford and Boyes, and call it an offseason. That’s plenty of change for one season. Until they show they’re capable, Jones, Joensuu, Smyth and Eager don’t need to be everyday players.

    The plan for the blueline is rather simple it appears. Grow your own 1 and 2 from within. If Klefbom, J.Shultz, and Belov are better than expected this coming season, this could be a playoff team.

    • Benny Botts

      I am a fan of this comment. I am still perplexed at why the oilers haven’t signed steckle (maybe they have tried). But I think him and Gordon would be a great 3 & 4 centre combo.

      I also would love to see clifford and boyes here as well. That would be a huge overhaul and upgrade on our bottom 6.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    If MacT isn’t done then we are 8 yrs out as mentioned above….I heard Franson is looking for more cash than TO is willing to dole out….he would be perfect here…get him Craig!!

    Get Clifford from LA and now we have a slim chance…..otherwise I don’t like our chances.

    • DSF

      Man I would love to get Franson but I’m not sure we can.

      Franson made $1.2MM last year, so say you can get him at just over double that ($2.5MM, though that seems unlikely for a 6’5 D-man who was 6th in the NHL in points last year…) on an offer sheet. That doesn’t work as the comp is a 2nd round pick and we do not have ours due to the Perron deal. If he’s more than $3.3MM it turns into a first and a third, which seems like too much (both in picks and dollars). So, offer sheet out.

      On the trade side, there are also no clear answers. T.O. has no need for Hemsky and most of our D options are too expensive for them. Petry works salary-wise, but is that a move up for us, or sideways? Could keep some salary for NSchultz maybe. We have 1.3MM of room, if we add 2MM by trading Nick but keeping $1.5 of his salary that gives us $3.3MM to sign Franson, and gives the Leaves a top-6er for $2MM. Maybe they do it but that only leaves them $2.9 to sign Kadri, which wouldn’t appear to be enough. They could bury Ranger’s million in the AHL and maybe get there though.

      In any case, I love that the Leaves have screwed themselves royally here. There is no clear way they can sign both these kids. If they don’t sign one though, does he at some point become a UFA?

  • LinkfromHyrule

    This roster is clearly not complete, but it is vastly improved; especially on D. I think macT is playing the waiting game now. I’m sure there are teams out there in need of D prospects, we have lots of them…

    Plus, Omark! lol

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Feel Belov will be higher in the grading and you left of Klefbom who still may make the team even though a couple of months in OKL won’t hurt. Think you change Jones & Joensuu as that 3rd line may need a banger & crasher.Remember he ain’t done yet . Still waiver wire or potential trade to come.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ^Khabby, Whitney and Horc were good deletions from this team, and their replacements, LaBarbara, Ference and Gordon were done well. i’m pleased with these moves!

  • Spydyr

    So far the bottom six has not approved near enough. They have no center depth . They still need two top four defencemen. Not sold on the two goalies much either. Otherwise all is good.

    If they go into the season like they are now it will be year eight outside the playoffs.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    FIST!! i’ve said it before, i think the Oilers have only made marginal improvements….hopefully the kids will show more development this coming year and help us move up the standings.

    • O.C.

      So what you’re saying is, the Oilers lineup has improved though.

      I think most would agree. MacT should get some credit, he’s improved the team and the Oil haven’t played one game under his watch as GM.