The Edmonton Oilers are two months from the draft and have miles and miles of challenges. The goals this summer? Almost endless.
There are a lot of problems with this roster. Before we start looking at solutions, let’s make a list of real and present dangers.
- Nail Yakupov is one year away from the end of his entry level deal, and a few months removed from a very public display of frustration.
- Justin Schultz is over 120 games into his NHL career, and may not be a big league calibre defenseman.
- The Oilers remain one of the truly horrible possession teams in captivity.
Let’s start with that, or I’m going to change the title of this segment to “drink”!
Now, let’s talk about what the Oilers have in terms of positives:
- Taylor Hall.
- The Nuge should be healthy next season, and a year older.
- The skill wings (Hall, Perron, Eberle, Yakupov) are very talented, if somewhat (as a group) one dimensional.
- On defense, the cavalry—while young—is starting to arrive. Marincin and Klefbom are here, or close, and Darnell Nurse’s Army is on the way.
- The club has some actual assets—#3 overall, a plethora of young blue, others—that can be used to acquire immediate help.
- There’s two-thirds of a shutdown, severe zone-start line in Gordon and Hendricks.
- The goaltending looks stronger than a year ago.
- A two-way center who can be the defensive conscience on the Perron-Yakupov line and support the two wingers offensively.
- A veteran two-way defenseman who can cover for Schultz while he wheels and when he misses assignments.
- A two-way winger who can be that third man on the tough minutes line and slide up to the third line and offer support for what is (likely to be) a younger trio.
Next time, we’ll look at options for the three majors areas of need, and discuss assets that may be available to send away (including players, picks and free agent dollars).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers season ended April 12th, the Blues season may end Sunday, just two weeks later. It’s a tough damn league, and Craig MacTavish has a lot of work to do before September.
This Oiler team needs to improve up the middle, at center and on defense. Before September. Bold? I don’t see any other way.
(Nuge photo by Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved)