I’ve been an Oilers fan for a long-time. It started when I was a baby (so my dad says), but it wasn’t really until 2005 when I dove into things.
At 10 years old, he finally let me stay up to watch the late Oilers games, which at the time were norm. Edmonton had made a pretty huge trade the offseason prior acquiring Chris Pronger.
My dad told me he was really good.
So that season is when an already nightly fixture in the Laing household had a new face in front of the screen every night: me.
From there on out, I was hooked. And after that season, boy was it rough. We know all too well what happened for the next decade after.
I stuck through thick and thin, however, and my fandom never wavered. Along the way, the Oilers endured some tough seasons and even more head-scratching offseasons.
Like in 2014, when the Oilers inexplicably traded a fourth-round pick for the negotiating rights to Nikita Nikitin before inking him to a two-year, $9-million deal. That, of course, despite the fact that he was not a good defenceman, but was coming off a PDO heater.
How could anybody forget the whole Dany Heatley debacle?
And don’t get me started on the Milan Lucic signing.
Long story short, the Oilers have had some god awful offseasons. While there were big, head-scratching moves nearly every offseason, there were few years where Oilers fans could step away saying “the Oilers really made their organization better this offseason through the draft and free agency.”
That is, of course, until this year.
For the first time I can remember as someone who has followed the Oilers, Edmonton has made a plethora of offseason moves that will actually benefit the organization top to bottom.
In the draft, the Oilers drafted only forwards for the first time in their history. Dylan Holloway projects to be a top-nine NHL’er down the road, and while the remainder of the draft picks should be considered nothing but projects at this point, they all have great upside in their offensive game.
Carter Savoie was considered to be one of the best pure goal scorers in this years draft. Tyler Tullio dropped fairly significantly at 126 and is considered to be a strong two-way player who brings loads of offensive upside, too. The other players taken in rounds five through seven, Maxim Berezkin, Filip Engaras and Jeremias Lindewall, all bring offensive upside too.
Arguably most importantly, I think we may have seen a significant shift in draft mentality this year. The Oilers have gone away from drafting for need, or players who bring intangibles you can’t count on the score sheet. Instead, Edmonton drafted players who all bring massive offensive upside as one of, if not the most noticeable part of their respective games.
Ken Holland has addressed some serious weap spots in the lineup. He’s brought in an established NHL’er in Kyle Turris to be the clubs third-line center. A legitimate player who has scored half a point per game everywhere he’s gone while trying to reinvent himself as a player.
He brought back Tyler Ennis, another established NHL’er, who will provide depth on the Oilers left-side and can bounce up and down the lineup.
Holland signed a star defenceman in Tyson Barrie on a very reasonable, team friendly contract. He’s a puck-moving, high-scoring defenceman who should have no problem putting up 60 points this season. It can’t be forgotten that Barrie had left significant money and term on the board in order to sign with the Oilers.
While the signing of Mike Smith is the only real blemish on what has been a good week, it may pay off if the Oilers choose to play Smith significantly less. In 16 games between January and February last year, he posted a 11-1-4 record with a .918 save percentage. Beyond that, he went 8-11-2 with an .889 save percentage. Let’s hope less games bring him closer to a .918 than a .889.
The signings of Anton Forsberg, Seth Griffith and Alan Quine will all help the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors and could be callups in a pinch.
Oh yeah, and he brought Jesse Puljujarvi back to Edmonton.
While it’s still early and we really won’t know how any of these moves will pay off until the Oilers are on the ice, this has been, on paper one of the best offseasons in a very long time.
On Twitter: @zjlaing