Photo Credit: © Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

What is the Oilers’ biggest need?

The Edmonton Oilers have five games left and then the offseason begins. Roster moves don’t happen until June, but some coaches and general managers go, college free agents sign and the lottery balls are drawn to see who gets the first three picks in the draft. What is the Oilers’ biggest need going into the summer?

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Scoring wingers

Three seasons ago the Oilers had Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and David Perron on their roster. Now, well, they don’t have anyone close to that on the wings.

They’re on pace to have no full-time winger score 40 points this season. Part of that is because Leon Draisaitl has split time between centre and wing. Same with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as of late. Patrick Maroon likely hits 40 in Edmonton if he’s not moved at the deadline. Still, their lack of scoring wingers is alarming.

Maybe RNH plays mostly LW next season, but the right wing is still a huge concern, and no, counting on Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto is not what winning team’s do. The list of upcoming free agents doesn’t show much beyond John Tavares or Evander Kane. They’ll need a better cast of wingers to support their centres next season.

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Right-handed defence

The Oilers strength is at left defence. A combination of Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, and Andrej Sekera fills out a pretty good left side. A right side of Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, and Matt Benning, however, isn’t enough.

Larsson can play a top-four role, although his skill is limited towards the defensive side. Russell is a third-pairing defenceman that shouldn’t be playing as much as he has. They need a defenceman that can move the puck and play top-four minutes.

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Finding a right-handed defenceman that can play top-four minutes would be difficult, but necessary. The Oilers could use a winger, but defencemen play and impact the game more than wingers. Benning’s been the Oilers’ fifth defenceman this year and he’s averaged more minutes per game than every Oiler forward not named McDavid, Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins.

A backup goalie that can play 30 games

The Oilers need a backup that can play if needed. Al Montoya isn’t that. He’s had some good games, but they need someone who can push Talbot and provide cover in case of injury or poor play. Out of 69 goalies to play 50 games since 2013-14, Montoya is 51st in save percentage.

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This means not playing Talbot close to 70 games again and having a stronger option than Montoya or Laurent Brossoit.

A new general manager

No team should miss the playoffs with a centre scoring over 100 points. Peter Chiarelli hasn’t built a team good enough around McDavid. He’s lost a significant trade each offseason as Oilers general manager.

His focus on size and ‘heavy hockey’ is misguided in today’s league. The Oilers need a general manager that utilizes the skills of their best asset, Connor McDavid, and his speed and skill. He mismanaged the Oilers’ cap situation, leaving tonnes of space going into the season, as well as adding difficult long-term deals to free agents.

General managers usually get more than three seasons and at least one coaching change before getting fired. Having McDavid in his prime means an organization shouldn’t operate on normal terms.

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Feb 22, 2017; Sunrise, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) skates with the puck against Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) in the first period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

I see a right-handed defenceman that can play in the top four and move the puck well and a new general manager as their biggest needs. They need to improve their defence, win trades, and sign some value deals. Chiarelli has lost too much value as Oilers general manager.

McDavid will do his thing with just about anyone. Maybe RNH and Draisaitl form a solid line or RNH continues to play alongside McDavid. The Oilers have options with RNH and Draisaitl’s versatility. A couple good wingers shouldn’t be too difficult to acquire. Defence and management is where the Oilers should focus.

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    • camdog

      How about a coach that knows how to rotate the goalies in and out of the line up? In all my years I’ve never seen an Oiler coach have so much trouble trying to figure it out.

      • Spydyr

        Why do so many people here blame everyone and everything except for Talbot?

        Talbot had one good season , a career year.

        They make excuses like crazy. he just had kids, he played too much last season, it is the coaches fault it is the GM’s fault.

        No, it is Talbot’s fault the he is not a very good goalie.

        • btrain

          If you actually look at the stats you will find Talbot has had one bad season, this season. He is accountable to this season as Renne, Dubnyk, Price, Holtby, Murray, Lundquest, Smith, Bishop, Allen, Anderson, Elliot, Varmolov, Bobrovski, Schneider, etc are all accountable to their subpar season or seasons. It just comes with the territory as an NHL tender. Simply, it is rare for an established NHL starting goaltender to have a career free of any blemished season.

        • Rock11

          Nope just not true. More realistically you could say in the three years he has been here he has had 4 bad months. The first two months in his first year were not good and neither were the first two of this year. He was really good the last part of his first year and has recovered well this year. Some more consistency would be nice but he has been more good than bad.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Great points, cheers… I guess I’m trying to convey that replacing Talbot or bringing in someone in front of him would be a complete waste of assets. Let’s get the other issues fixed first. With better D & special teams our goaltending can look after the net.

        • crabman

          @Spydyr, Talbot has only had 1 bad season, this one. Before coming here he was an exceptional backup. He played 21 and 36 games for NY and was top 5 in save% and GA average in that time. During the 2nd season Lundquist went down for weeks and Talbot played extremely well as the starter. That’s why he was coveted in the off season. He had a bad start to his Oiler career and lost his starting spot for a month but December on he was a solid starter. Not exceptional but a real NHL starter. And then last year he played well. This is the only season I would say he has had that was a bad season. And he is over worked. The team has played awful team defence in front of him and the giveaways for grade A scoring chances against has been awful. All these are good excuses for the reason he has been poor and by fixing these problems he will be better.
          That said he still needs to play better too. The fault doesn’t all go on the players around him anymore than he should take all the blame either.
          Talbot will be back for another year and I hope it’s a bounce back year for him and the team in front of him.

          • crabman

            @Spydyr, He lost the starting job for a month in the 1st half of the season. He played 56 games. Tell me again how he wasn’t the starter.
            Don’t let the facts get in the way of what you make up.

          • LAKID

            That would be the GM’s decision and Chia didn’t have to give up any picks as Montoya was going on waivers anyway and there were better goalie tha Talbot on waivers during the year.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Really? Name one goalie that was available on waivers this year that had at least one Vezina nomination? I think Talbot had 4 nominations last year? McIllheny would have been a great pick-up when he was on waivers as a solid back-up for Talbot. I think that’s it on the Goalie front?

        • jultz=2cups!??

          Actually talbot has had 3 good seasons and only 1 not so good one. The year he filled in for the king, he was awesome. His 1st year as an oiler, he had nice numbers and can’t be blamed for missing the playoffs. Last year he was a vezina trophy candidate and was 1 win away from the wcf. Don’t let your personal bias get in the way of facts as usual.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Man, for the most part I see your point in your comments. But Jeez, you can’t judge any goalie behind the worst penalty kill in NHL history. Anyone watching this team knows full well that it wasn’t the goalie that made this stat. Fix the special teams, then assess your goaltending.
            While I’m at it. The Oiler’s biggest need? Special Teams. I guess that comes down to a coaching staff that’s partly to blame?

          • Glencontrolurstik

            In Fuhr’s day, yes. All offense & the goalie. Score more goals than your opponent.
            Hockey is a team sport & less individual play is rewarded. No goalie can do it all anymore.
            You know, I had a thought the other day. Take a fast team full of great prospects from todays game.
            And put them up against the 1984 Oilers. I’d bet you’d have a great game? I really don’t think it’d be a blowout as teams over the years have learned to defend against the style of offense the Oiler’s had. That was the point of difference. It’s not all about the goalie great though. One great goalie does not make a great team. Look at Price as an example. Or Holtby?

        • camdog

          You’ll never see another Oiler coach over play a middling goaltender ever again in Edmonton. Talbot was awful until January. Since then his bad games have generally been games where a decent NHL coach plays the back up. I looked at the schedule in November and new Talbot wouldn’t be able to play 5 games in 8 nights in March. I knew this months ago, you might not of but I did.

          • Spydyr

            Brodeur played almost every game in Jersey his time there. Fuhr played season where he played seventy some games. They both won multiple Cups.

            The Oilers had half of February off

            You argument about Talbot being tired effecting his performance holds no weight.

          • camdog

            Why are you comparing Talbot to Hall of Farmers? Talbot could lead league in games played this season (has 62, lead league is 63) and he was injured for a 9 game segment. No goalie has been run into the ground more than Talbot has this season. Defend the coaching staff all you want look at the numbers, look at last years numbers. Talbot is being played like an elite goalie, he’s not elite. He’s a good goalie being mismanaged by a bad coach.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            The goal tender’s job is not to clear the zone on a penalty kill.
            The success of a penalty kill is measured by the effectiveness of keeping the puck away from the net.
            The goalie is the last point of defense on a PK. So no, a teams most important penalty killer is not the goalie. It’s the team in front of the net & the systems they have been taught.
            Relying on a goalie to save you on a PK is why the Oiler’s have had a dismal season.
            You have to realize that a goalie is only as good as the team in front of him. Full Stop.

        • Hemmercules

          I honesty think the” having kids” thing holds a bit of merit. Having kids isn’t easy for everyone and it can put a strain on your marital relationship Millionaire or not. Home stress can carry into your everyday work life and money doesn’t solve every problem. I think its harder on some than others for sure. I’m not saying thats what happened to Talbot but I think its possibly part of it.

          That said, I would still like to see another goalie come in to push Talbot for the starting position. Challenges are healthy. Wth so many guys having down years its hard not to think at least a few of them will rebound with a nice season next year.

      • That's My Point

        coach who knows when to pull the goalie
        coach who knows when to call a time out
        coach who knows how to set up a powerplay & penalty kill
        coach who knows which players to put on the ice at the right times and with the right combinations (lines and d pairings)
        coach who at least tries to match lines to benefit his team
        a GM who can get the right right players to fit the teams needs