THE 2015-16 OILERSNATION SEASON PREVIEW ROUNDTABLE

Roundtable

The 2015-16 NHL season is almost here and that means it’s time to sit the writers down, get some thoughts for the upcoming year, and figure out exactly where there Oilers are at as an organization. Fortunately for you, we have all the answers to the questions you’ve been thinking about despite the Oilers not asking for advice.

In this roundtable we have predictions on where the Oilers will finish within the division, which prospect is set to make a splash, the challenges Todd McLellan will face, and everything you need to know going into the season. This is a huge year for the Oilers and we will see if their play matches the excitement around the city. 

Now, let the arguments begin!

10years

1) Do the Edmonton Oilers make the playoffs or will they set an NHL record for the longest playoff drought?

Jeanshorts:

They’re not doing it this year. The blue line is still a huge question mark and they play in a really tough division. I think they’ll be in the mix but end up falling eight to 10 points short of the last playoff spot.

Robin Brownlee:

No, they don’t make the playoffs. It’ll be 10 straight years on the outside.

Matt Henderson:

If I’m putting money on it I’d say they miss the playoffs. I don’t think I can bet on this team turning it all around with the defense they have. I’ll say this: if they get elite level goaltending they have the forward group that can score goals in bunches.  It’s not impossible for them to make the playoffs.

Lowetide:

Edmonton misses the playoffs, but has a nice run after a slow start and enter the deadline period with a tough decision on buying or selling. They sell.

Jonathan Willis:

No, I do not believe they will make the playoffs. I do not think it is reasonable to look at the changes made year-over-year and conclude that it is probable they will participate in the postseason. The most likely outcome is that they will not, and the drought will continue.

Jason Gregor:

They will TIE the record for longest playoff drought. Florida Panthers also missed ten years in a row.

Wanye:

I would propose that the Oilers finish first within the division and set an NHL record for wins, points and hearts filled with excitement. 

Baggedmilk:

As much as I want to say that the Oilers are going to make the playoffs this year I don’t think it will happen. They are too bad and the West is too good for the Oilers to be able to make that kind of jump. They’ll be much better, but we’ll be waiting another year for the playoffs.

PacificDivision

 

2) Where do the Oilers finish in the division and with how many points?

Jeanshorts:

Fifth in the Pacific, ahead of Arizona and Vancouver, with 90 points.

Robin Brownlee:

I see the Oilers finishing fifth in the Pacific Division and 12th in the Western Conference — ahead of San Jose and Arizona. Before the injury to Jordan Eberle I would have said the Oilers absolute upper end for improvement would have been 25 points for a total of 87. I think the loss of Eberle (during a tough October schedule) brings them down to the 80-82 range.

Matt Henderson:

I say they finish fifth with 90 points. I hope for more but that is already a massive increase.

Lowetide:

I believe they’ll finish No. 5 in the division with 93 points.

Jonathan Willis:

They should certainly stay in front of Arizona. San Jose may be catchable; Vancouver or Calgary may be catchable. I’m skeptical that they pass more than one of those three teams, though. I’ll say fifth in the division with 85 points.

Jason Gregor:

I see the Oilers finishing fifth in the Pacific with 86 points.

Wanye:

That record seems suspect to me. I will have to look into that to make sure your facts are correct.

Baggedmilk:

I think they’ll finish fifth in the division ahead of Vancouver and Arizona with 82 points. That would be a a 20 point improvement over last year, and that’s no small feat. 

Excited

3) What about the 2015-16 edition of the Oilers makes you excited?

Jeanshorts:

CONNOR MCDAVID! And Todd McLellan. And Darnell Nurse. And Cam Talbot. Basically everything!

Robin Brownlee:

The addition of Connor McDavid is the obvious on-ice element worth getting excited about. For me, the biggest factor in what I see as an upward trend in the long term is that the team will have an experienced GM in Peter Chiarelli AND and experienced coach in Todd McLellan calling the shots. Inexperience at one or both of the positions in recent seasons has dug the hole the team is trying to climb out of now.

Matt Henderson:

It might sound boring but it’s seeing McDavid every night. He is incredible.

Lowetide:

McDavid and the young defensemen showing progress. I would love to see Edmonton get the first Calder Trophy in franchise history.

Jonathan Willis:

Connor McDavid is a unique talent, and watching him grow as a player each and every night should be fascinating. If there’s something to be excited about in this coming year, that’s it.

Jason Gregor:

It looks they will finally have continuity within the organization. They won’t be changing GM and coach every year moving forward. Experienced continuity will give them a chance to be more successful on the ice.

Wanye:

Connor McDavid. The rest of the team’s ability to rally around Connor McDavid or alternately get out of the way of said Connor McDavid.

Baggedmilk:

I’m happy to finally see the organization making moves that are best for the team. If MacT and Eakins were still running the show there’s no way that Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl would have been sent down to the AHL for seasoning. I’m happy to finally have an experienced coach and an experienced GM running the show around here. Oh and Connor McDavid, of course.

ShakingMyHead

4) What about the 2015-16 edition of the Oilers has you shaking your head?

Jeanshorts:

As of today they’re still carrying both Klinkhammer and Gazdic on the NHL roster. I don’t think you need both of those guys taking up a roster spot. I have more time for Gazdic than I did for someone like Darcy Hordichuk but I think Klinkhammer has slightly more skill and is a better fit as the 13th forward.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see a lot that’s flat-out facepalm material, but I’ll have to see that this defensive group and the goaltending is good enough before I believe it. Big questions in Griffin Reinhart and Justin Schultz. Is Cam Talbot ready for primetime? The answer for all three might be “yes,” but we don’t know.

Matt Henderson:

I’m still not sure about the defense. I’m concerned about puck movement. Klefbom’s upper level, Schultz’ apparent upswing, and Sekera’s impact are all unknowns for me.

Lowetide:

Nothing really. I’m impatient for the defense to improve but the contracts that finish up next summer should turn into substantial improvement.

Jonathan Willis:

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly shaking my head at anything; most of the moves I’m not in favour of came at the margins. This wasn’t a good team and gradual progress is the only way forward. Defence and goaltending remain either weak or questionable, but I’m not sure there was a way around that.

Jason Gregor:

Nothing is a head shaker for me, but I’m concerned about the overall foot speed of the blue line.

Wanye:

What will I wear to the Stanley Cup parade? Will it be raining in June? What will the styles of the summer of 2016 be like. How can I dress to impress? I just can’t know this early on in the year. *smh*

Baggedmilk:

I’m still worried about the state of the defense. I think there is still a truck load of inexperience back there and I think that once again this will be an issue for the Oilers. I really hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I will be. The Oilers have some solid players back there, but not a lot of games played. That being said, I’d be surprised if Chiarelli didn’t make adds to the D before the trade deadline. 

Surprise

5) With the roster set for opening night what surprised you the most?

Jeanshorts:

That Chiarelli finally excised the roster of Nikita Nikitin! It was an incredibly obvious move, but I’m so used to the old regime that an actual logical move like that, rather than keeping him on the roster because of how much money he’s making and/or because Scott Howson literally begged you, is still somewhat of a shock to me.

Robin Brownlee:

You could argue Leon Draisaitl played well enough to earn a roster spot on merit. That said, I don’t see a negative in having him spend some time in Bakersfield.

Matt Henderson:

Draisaitl sent to the AHL surprised me most. I don’t think the Oilers are better because of it and I don’t know he needed to go to the AHL to get better. Plus he had the best chemistry with McDavid and is incredibly versatile.

Lowetide:

Anton Slepyshev. Big winger with speed and skill. The fact he played well in the KHL likely prepared him for TC. Terrific surprise.

Jonathan Willis:

Without question it was the demotion of Leon Draisaitl. He’s good enough to help the team immediately.

Jason Gregor:

That they have both Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl starting in the minors. It is a good move, but not something I’m used to seeing.

Wanye:

The fact #97 is an Oiler. This must be a parallel universe or something where all my wishes are granted. It will take me some time to get my head wrapped around this I’m afraid.

Baggedmilk:

Who had Anton Slepyshev making the opening night roster? You did? You’re a liar! I love that this kid came in and stole a job without speaking a lick of English. That’s awesome! I was also surprised to see both Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse sent down to the minors. In the days of the previous regime that would have never happened and I think we’re all adjusting to seeing this happen.

Firestarter

6) Will Cam Talbot be the starter all season long?

Jeanshorts:

Yes, absolutely. Nilsson looked great in the preseason, and I do sincerely hope that Ben Scrivens has a bounce back year, but all signs point to Talbot being the number one, and not letting go of the reigns. Barring some kind of catastrophic injury, anyway *knocks on all the wood*.

Robin Brownlee:

He’ll certainly start as the No. 1 guy and get the bulk of the starts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be a 60-game guy. Could see something like a 55-27 split with Nilsson.

Matt Henderson:

Yes. I think so. I believe he can be the guy and that’s all the coaching staff wants.

Lowetide:

Yes. I think he’ll be above average and the biggest difference in the team’s fortunes this year.

Jonathan Willis:

That’s really up to him. Talbot enters the year with impressive credentials, but he could go one way or the other and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised by either turn of events. I don’t think he’s the slam dunk that others do, though I acknowledge that as a possible outcome. At this point there’s simply no way of knowing with certainty. If I’m forced to predict, I’ll say that he plays well enough to hold on to the No. 1 position, but I say that knowing there’s a decent chance it doesn’t happen.

Jason Gregor:

I see him playing 50 games.

Wanye:

Irrelevant. Connor McDavid.

Baggedmilk:

Oh Gord I hope so. That would be a huge win for the Oilers if Talbot can be the starter they’ve been looking for to add some stability back there. It would be really nice to have our goalie steal us a few games for once as opposed to costing us games. PLEASE LET TALBOT BE THE ONE!

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.41.28 PM

7) Which player that’s currently on the farm team do you think will make the biggest impact on the 2015-16 roster?

Jeanshorts:

Darnell Nurse. I think he’ll start to really find his way in the AHL, then after 25 to 30 games Chiarelli will have no choice but to call him up and he’ll immediately make a positive impact.

Robin Brownlee:

It’ll be Draisaitl. Somebody in that top-nine — Teddy Purcell? — is keeping a seat warm for him. I won’t be surprised if Leon plays more games in Edmonton than he does in Bakersfield.

Matt Henderson:

Darnell Nurse will have the biggest impact. He’s a stud. He brings every quality this team lacks.

Lowetide:

Darnell Nurse. I think he’s better than at least two of the men in Edmonton right now.

Jonathan Willis:

Draisaitl. I strongly believe he’s ready to help immediately and expect that when he gets his chance (which he will) it will come on a scoring line and he’ll stick in that role the rest of the year.

Jason Gregor:

Darnell Nurse.

Wanye:

Perhaps Darnell Nurse?

Baggedmilk:

I think it will be Leon Draisaitl. He was showing during camp that he’s almost ready to be an NHL player, and I think some finishing time in the AHL will only improve that. Peter Chiarelli said that when Leon gets called up they want him up for good, and I think Draisaitl has the skills to make that happen. He’s a big body, has great hands, and I see him putting up points when the Oilers need him. 

ReportCard

8) How would you rate Peter Chiarelli’s work in his first offseason as the Oilers general manager?

Jeanshorts:

I’d give him a solid A. Flushed out a lot of non-NHL bodies who were previously taking up NHL spots, brought in players that should make an immediate impact on the roster, and didn’t mortgage the future! I mean, the fact that Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse are both starting the season in the AHL speaks to the fact the Oilers actually have depth for once and they can afford to let young players actually develop, rather than throwing them in the deep end and hoping they learn to swim.

Robin Brownlee:

Pro-active, but I can’t grade it until we see how the changes and moves he’s made pan out. I will say I’m optimistic he’s made some positive additions. Now, let’s see how McLellan pieces the parts together and how the players perform.

Matt Henderson:

I’d say his job so far has been very good — B+. I like Sekera and Talbot. I still don’t care for Korpikoski and the Marincin trade. There’s only so much you can do in one summer.

Lowetide:

Solid to good. Todd McLellan’s addition, Cam Talbot and Andrej Sekera are big damn improvements. He doesn’t get any extra credit for McDavid imo, and the jury is out on Korpikoski, Letestu, Reinhart and Gryba.

Jonathan Willis:

I think he’s done fairly well. He swung for the fences to improve the defence (the Dougie Hamilton trade talks) and regrettably it didn’t work out; that was a big blow and not something that I think was under his control. He did well to land Andrej Sekera and well in trading for Cam Talbot. This wasn’t an A+ offseason by any measure, probably more in the B/B- range.

Jason Gregor:

Too early to evaluate. I need to see how the team fares on the ice, but I’d say it was a solid yet patient summer.

Wanye:

So far I’m quite impressed but we need to be ready to trade one of the big four to get a 1D and I think Chiarelli is the man who will get that done.

Baggedmilk:

I think Chiarelli made more bold moves than MacTavish ever did, I’ll tell you that. It was also interesting to see him cleaning up the garbage that his predecessor left behind for him. I would never have expected him to put both Nikitin AND Scrivens on waivers, yet there they were. Having an experienced GM is paying off with the moves he’s made, and probably the moves he hasn’t made yet either.

Problem

9) What is the biggest challenge Todd McLellan will face in his first year in Edmonton?

Jeanshorts:

Teaching this team to play with consistency.

Robin Brownlee:

I think the big challenge is getting through October without being being buried with double-digits in the loss column. Pre-season or not, there will still be an adjustment period with a new coach. Add to that a difficult schedule and a questionable level of confidence if things go sideways after so much past failure for players who’ve been here awhile, and the first dozen games stand out to me setting a tone for the season.

Matt Henderson:

Biggest challenge is going to be getting this team to play a competitive brand of hockey and believe they can win every game, even after years of experience saying something else. Number two challenge is getting Justin to stop Jultzing.

Lowetide:

What to say after the fifth loss in a row.

Jonathan Willis:

Own-zone breakouts would be my guess. Andrej Sekera can make a pass, Oscar Klefbom can make a pass and Justin Schultz is showing promising signs in that regard after a difficult 2014-15 campaign, but that’s pretty much it. Two, maybe three legitimate puck-movers in the top-eight on defence. Griffin Reinhart’s probably the best of the rest and with him it comes and goes. I suspect there are going to be a lot of nights where the Oilers end up hemmed in their own zone because they aren’t capable of making good first passes.

Jason Gregor:

Getting the team to be bring a competitive work ethic in all areas of the ice most nights. Regardless of talent that has been the biggest weakness of the team the past six seasons.

Wanye:

Maintaining his icy cool demeanour on the bench when Connor scores his 11th goal in a period during an upcoming match.

Baggedmilk:

I think it will take him some time to get used to the fact that he’s not in Kansas anymore. This isn’t a team littered with the corpses of former captains like the one he came from in San Jose. I think the Oilers will test his patience and they’ll test his teaching abilities in a way that he may not have seen before.

Progress

10) What is an acceptable level of progress for this season?

Jeanshorts:

If they’re still in the hunt for the playoffs in January I think that will be the mark of a smashing success of a season! OH GOD THAT’S SO SAD!

Robin Brownlee:

I think an improvement of 20 points, putting the Oilers at 82, is acceptable. That won’t move them many notches in the standings, but that’s a pretty good chunk of points.

Matt Henderson:

If they aren’t competing for a playoff spot in March then it’s another wasted season. Except this time they wasted a year of McDavid’s ELC.

Lowetide:

35+ wins. I think that should be the lowest bar.

Jonathan Willis:

Acceptable is a difficult word to use in this context, because the truth is it depends on vantage point. For me, I’m going to be writing about the team regardless of how bad they are, so there’s no truly “unacceptable” level of performance for me; here’s just a point at which the volume rises and the negativity increases. For the management of the team, my guess is that they expect the team to claw it’s way past one of San Jose, Calgary or Vancouver. If Edmonton can finish fifth in the division, a march to the playoffs in 2016-17 should be possible.

Jason Gregor:

They have to improve by 20 points. Anything else would be a disappointment in my eyes.

Wanye:

Meaningful hockey after the season opener. Having some teams to look down on and laugh at in the Western Conference Standings would be nice.

Baggedmilk:

I’m not sure if there’s an official stat for this but the Oilers HAVE TO be playing meaningful games in November. There is absolutely nothing worse than being an Oilers fan and being out of the playoff hunt before the season ever really got going. That has to change. HAS TO. I don’t think my liver could take it otherwise. 

THE KENTWOOD FORD HOCKEY DRAFT

Screenshot 2015-10-06 14.02.07 

Today is the VERY LAST DAY to sign up for the Kentwood Ford Hockey Draft. This draft is FREE to play and you could win some amazing prizes including a two-year lease on a 2016 Ford Escape. Enter your team today at www.kentwoodhockey.com.

  • I’m generally in agreement that Chia deserves a good mark for his work so far, but he gets a fair number of points off in my books for his handling of Nikitin. He had multiple opportunities to either buy him out or trade him for a case of popcorn bags and didn’t take them. Now we have a guy making big cash in the minors that we could have paid to land Cody Franson or one of the other servicable D-men for a couple years to help us transition to the Nurse era. Now maybe there were some politics to deal with internally that prevented him from doing those things, but that is also troubling.

    Otherwise, McJesus I can’t wait until tomrrow night!