WILL NEXT YEAR BE BETTER?

ill-do-better-next-year

The Oilers playoff drought is now eight seasons, tying them for the 2nd longest playoff drought in one city with Boston, 1960-1967, and Washington, 1975-1982. Florida fans hold the record for enduring the longest heartache after watching the Panthers miss for ten consecutive seasons.

Can the Oilers improve by 25 points and be in playoff contention next season?

The Oilers finished 24 points behind 8th place Dallas, so not only do they need to improve by 25 points, they also need to leap frog six teams in the process. It is possible — Colorado did it this season — but highly unlikely. General manager Craig MacTavish will need to change a good portion of his lineup, and the players who do return will need to play much smarter and more consistent.

There is no magic fix for the Oilers. It is unrealistic to expect MacTavish to acquire a top pairing D-man, a 2nd line centre, a big, skilled top-six winger and a veteran top-five defender. I’m sure he’ll try, but I don’t see how he can fill all the holes in one off-season.

INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should be better next season. He should be able to improve his strength and gain some weight over the summer. Last summer, due to shoulder surgery, he wasn’t able to work out to the level necessary to compete against top line centres. He was physically worn down at times this season, and I expect a full summer of training will help him improve next year. He has to get stronger if the Oilers plan to play him against the top lines in the Pacific division.
  • Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry need to be more consistent. I understand the argument they aren’t top-pairing D-men yet, and might never be, but they need to be more consistent regardless of which pairing they play on. The Oilers don’t have any other right-handed D-men who are ready to contribute, unless they draft Aaron Ekblad, but he’d be a rookie. You can’t expect the coach to improve the players, they need to improve themselves. One of Schultz or Petry has to take a big step next season.
  • It is fair to expect 80 points from Taylor Hall. He has scored 130 points in his previous 120 games over the past two seasons. Hall was the first Oiler to finish in the top-ten in scoring in consecutive seasons since Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky in 1987-1988. Hall is one of the best point producers in the league, and over the past 25 games he improved his neutral and defensive zone play. I highly doubt you see him with a 44% Corsi next year, mainly because I expect the blueline to be better, and if he continues to develop his two-way game Hall will be able to win 8-10 games himself.

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERSwhowhat

  • Can MacTavish acquire a proven NHL D-man? Who are realistic trade options?

    I don’t see the Predators trading Shea Weber, but they need offence. Would they trade Roman Josi? He has an outstanding contract, six more years at $4 million, but if they are going to acquire some scoring they need to move one of Weber, Jones or Josi.

    Would an Eberle or Yakupov for Josi deal happen? Sam Gagner is not enough to get Josi.

  • Some other names that could be available. Dustin Byfuglien. Paul Maurice wants to play him as a winger, but big Buff prefers defence. If Maurice comes back and Byfuglien really wants to play D he would be available.

    Paul Martin is 33. The Pens have Matt Niskanen, Kris Letang and Olli Maatta. Martin has a limited no-trade clause. He shoots left. You can’t trade Eberle or Yakupov for a 33-year-old, so I’m not sure I see a deal that works for both sides.

    Washington will likely have a new GM and that team needs a shake up. Mike Green played 70+ games for the 4th time in his career. The right shot D-man will shoot the puck on the PP, but he’s not great defensively. Would Gagner for Green work? Green has one year left on his $6,083 mill deal. He does have a NMC, but he’s from Alberta and might want a change. Neither player lived up to his contract, this past season, and the Caps need some secondary scoring….

  • The Sabres have a new GM and handful of draft picks. They have Tyler Myers, Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov in their stable of D-men. They were the lowest scoring team in the last 15 years (157 goals), and they desperately need some offence. Would they move Tyler Myers for Eberle or Yakupov and something else? Myers could be like Erik Johnson, who finally became a bonafide #1 D-man in his 6th season. It likely would take Eberle for Buffalo to move him. Would MacTavish make that deal? Would you? I wouldn’t move Eberle, but if you want to acquire a good young D-man is he likely the player the opposing team wants.

PARTING SHOTS…

face palm

  • The Habs won’t let P.K Subban walk. I’ve seen much speculation about an offer sheet or a trade, but neither will happen. Subban and Therrien have had their battles, but the young, star player will always win out. The Habs won’t lose him.
  • MacTavish needs to find some secondary scoring. Ryan Smyth was 7th on the team in goals and 8th in points. You’d hope Tyler Pitlick or Anton Lander could score ten goals next season, but neither of those two have shown any offensive consistency at the NHL level just yet. They also lose Smyth on the PK and he knows how to compete every night.
  • One thing I don’t understand is why people want to replace Gagner with Mark Arcobello? I believe Gagner does get moved, but replacing him with an unproven, smaller centre is a massive risk. I’d rather risk Arcobello as a 3rd line centre, but if he is the 2nd line guy to start the season the Oilers are taking a huge gamble.
  • Today it looks unlikely the Oilers can make that big of a jump next season, but MacTavish has six months to revamp his lineup and make them more competitive. It will be another interesting off-season in Edmonton, and one that needs to be more productive than the previous seven have been.
  • MacTavish will speak to the media tomorrow, and the draft lottery goes tomorrow night. The Oilers have a 14.2% of winning. They have won in the #1 and #2 slot and will try to win out the #3 hole.
  • Barry Trotz  is out in Nashville. He won’t be out of work long if he decides he wants to be back in the NHL, and I expect we see him to go a team that is close to competing. I doubt he’d want to go to another rebuilding team. I could see the Predators promoting their AHL coach, Dean Evason. He has experience and would have a slightly different approach. 
  • How awesome was Saturday night? It was great to see Smyth and the fans get to say goodbye. That doesn’t happen very often, and it was great to see his teammates send him off with a victory. Good luck in retirement Ryan.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Guy Lafleur

    If you are going to trade Ebs or Yak you need to know exactly what you are getting in return.. no projects, no ifs, no maybes.. no more “he could be …”. we gotta get the goods if we are trading the goods…

    And as for the kids no going to the WC.. im fine with it. REST, TRAIN and get READY.. its go time next season.. prolly the most important season for the franchise.. If a huge step forward isnt taken next season.. this team could be doomed and we could start seeing players wanting out….

    Good Luck no presure.. none at all!!

    OILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Guy Lafleur

    I think that a trade that might work would be Eberle to the Jets for Kane. Kane is a bit of a head case, but he would bring size,grit and skill to the top line. And people have to remember that in order to get a decent player that you have to give up fair value. I also think that Stewart could be gotten from Buffalo. Those two would bring the size, grit and scoring to the top two lines.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilers will win the Draft Lottery tomorrow. Then move Yakupov and Gagner to the Islanders for that 4th selection and Travis Hamonic.

    Take Ekblad with the 1st, and Draisaitle with that Islanders pick.

    Boom……all of our wildest dreams come true next season. It’s just that easy.

  • This team can be better next year, but that is entirely dependant on the players, not what managment does.

    We’ve all seen how they are capable of playing, when they actually show up. They’ve lit up some of the best teams in the league.

    Comittment from the players is the #1 issue with this team, and without some consistancy night in and night out, it won’t matter who they bring in for next year.

    I’m 100% fine if we went into next season with the same line-up, provided Eakins starts crackin’ skulls when players make lazy plays.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Jason, do you think there’s anything to Ferraros “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” statement?

    Is it at all possible he has knowledge of one or two players wanting to separate themselves from this Edmonton situation?

    • Jason Gregor

      I’m not sure how it can get worse. I expect the Oilers to improve next year, how much is the million dollar question.

      None of their best players want out. If some mid tier guy does, then I’d ship him out quickly. None of their mid-tier guys are good enough to have to pander to them. IMO.

      • Jason Gregor

        Jason, if there is ONE thing the Oilers have seemed to excel at this decade it is lowering the bar and getting worse. You’re not sure how it can get worse? Honestly? Because I can think of a handful of ways right off the hop.

        • Jason Gregor

          Is missing playoffs next year worse? I expect them to miss based on what I see today. But I’d bet they don’t finish 28th.

          It will be extremely hard to be worse than 4-15-2 out of the game. That start ruined the season. Hope was gone in November, very little chance that happens next season.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Agreed on the playoff assessment. it is hard to believe how they could possibly make the playoffs next year. They were grossly outplayed in every game especially against the west. Not only does MacT need to change at least nine players but he has to make the correct decisions on every one of them starting at the draft. I don’t see the goaltending putting us down so far to begin the 2014 season. Maybe we end up playing 500 hockey for the first 20 games or so.

          • The Last Big Bear

            MacT and the Oilers can find a way. MacT talking about a defence that includes Schultz, Marincin, and Klefbom is a good start.

            two unproven goalies is also helpful when trying to crater.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    this is a pink slip dependant question. today they still suck. after some turfing, maybe better.

    players aside, if Katz/MacTavish do nothing to this management structure the they will failed the fans of this city.

    • Guy Lafleur

      They dont like Sooby cuz he enjoys playing the game and shows it .You have to be dour and brooding to play in Montreal .I also think they saboutaged him this year to keep his numbers down to try and low ball him again .

  • Imagine if they didn’t have great goaltending lately . This team has no idea how to play hockey. They make so many mistakes. Not 1 200ft player on the team. Sorry but they really are a Junior hockey team. Who cares who they draft, most of us know they will ruin the player by playing Oiler hockey.

    You would think young players would get better but not with the Oilers.

  • Kr55

    Really hope paying fans finally wake up and the sellout streak dies. I can’t imagine how the Oilers can convince people there will be a huge improvement as soon as next year. Time to wake this organization up doing the only thing they actually care about, not buying tickets. Then they can replace Lowe with someone that knows how to manage a team. Not just someone that hires his friends and lets everyone measure themselves by his own standard of terribleness.

      • Kr55

        I think that was just a typo that was later corrected. The Oilers streak is still going strong (lol). 5th longest active streak in the NHL and I believe it is currently the 16th longest sellout streak on NA sports history.

    • Positive Ray of Sunshine

      The ‘sell out’ streak died a long ass time ago. It’s nothing more than a marketing ploy now. Not one game has gone buy without 50 guys selling tickets in front of the building. Not to mention most of the lower bowl in Rexall is all season tickets.

      As for the team: Big skilled top six winger (Heatley, not a popular choice but would come cheap and tick off all those boxes. Could have a nice resurgence on a line with Perron) 2nd line C (with any luck, one of Brad Richards, Legwand, Stasny, or I’m hearing Spezza. But if not there’s a bunch of Derek Roy’s and Oili Jokiniens out there.)

      If you can cover those positions through free agency, then hopefully you have enough chips to trade for that illusive D man. I’d grab Orpik to play on the third line with Marincin, and trade the river to try and get Yandle out of Phoenix to play with Petry. Or barring that, dump a truck of money at Markov’s door in hopes he comes on a 2 year stop gap deal while we wait for one of Nurse, Klefbomb, Marincin, or god willing Ekblad to become our number one franchise D.

      • You know those “50 guys selling tickets in front of the building” already BOUGHT those tickets’ right? And at last count the waiting list for season’s tickets was something like 2,000.

        Like it or not the Oilers are the only big ticket game in town. Unless we get an NBA team they will be sold out in a hot economy like ours.

        • Doctor Smashy

          Yes, I understand they have bought the tickets already. But a sell out crowd to me is not when all the tickets have ben sold. It’s when all the seats are taken. If the Oilers want to define their sell out streak in technical terms, well good for them. But everyone who’s been to a game this year knows the barn is not packed.

          Moreover, anyone who goes to a game now and then is baffled as to why they continue to parade the charade of a sell out streak. It’s just sad. I mean, it’s actually a bit insulting. It’s like saying welcome to another over priced and terrible two hours of your wasted life, thanks again for selling out this crappy building while we continue to ice an inferior product.

          • Kr55

            The Oilers only care about the tickets being sold in the first place. They only care if they are resold for more than the face value after that if they aren’t getting a cut.

            I was just talking about how the only way to get the Oilers attention is to actually have tickets left that they never got any money for. They will start to care when the revenue number starts to fall and we can finally see some real changes in the organization.

            I agree 100% that the actual attendance has been bad for a long time now, and we’ve even seen people trying to resell tickets for under 10 bucks this year. Personally, you would actually have to pay me to take tickets. It would be payment for my inconvenience of going to and from the game and to deal with the uncomfortable seats.

          • Doctor Smashy

            Ha, we were only able to get 40 bucks for a pair of lower bowl seats. I managed a hundred for a pair of second bowl seats with some buds. It was a fun night, but not because of the Oilers. I think it was actually the fifth time I watched the Oilers get shut out. I worked out that I paid around 1200 bucks for 4 games, 2 of which were shut outs, all of which were losses.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I don’t understand why fans take a micro view of the Oilers. 8 years of no progress makes you wonder.

    Statistics show that roughly 70% of all lottery winners are broke within a few years of receiving their jackpot. Oilers management has no skill in building a team it is in their nature.

    Oilers philosophy has been wrong and management has been wrong. They have no clue how to build a team. If they did this team would be progressing.

    Their MO has been change a coach change a GM and you get to restart the rebuild. I guess fans fall for this. This team is toxic and Kevin Lowe is a cancer.

    Every year next we will be better, who should we trade who should we draft, lets lose a game to get better draft pick. Look at the record it does not lie.

  • Spydyr

    There are many items that need to be addressed on this team. Way more then a team eight years out of the playoffs should have.That is on “the braintrust” 100%

    The team regressed last year under Eakins.What has changed to make one think it won’t happen again next year?

    I really don’t trust “the braintrust” to make a “bold” move, They may very well make things worse.

  • Doctor Smashy

    Gregor…you asked the question about us getting 25 more points next season. I know this is going to sound like I am high on Oiler fan Kool-Aid but if one believes we could have had 10 more points (5 wins) this season if we had even Tier 1 Midget-level goaltending at the start of the season and maybe 10 more (another 5 wins) just off the strength of being a year older, having the same coach, and having Marincin/Hendricks all year – doesn’t that put us close? I don’t think that is terribly unrealistic…do you?

    Who knows if MacT makes any bold moves this summer but even some almost-bold moves might get us a couple more wins and at least get Oiler fans to take the paper bags off and keep their jerseys on. Do you think that’s reasonable?

    • Guy Lafleur

      Doc i agree , how many games in the first 10 did we have sure wins stolen from us with brutal goaltending .I can think of that one game in Toronto we lost like 7-6 we should have won . This team is young and fragile , once the ball started to roll its hard to stop it .Now i am not saying if they had Scrivens and Fasth from day 1 that they are a Cup favorite but i believe they would of been in a fight for a playoff spot at least .