How they Finished: 29-44-9 67 points. (7th in Pacific Division)
D, Mark Fayne (FA)
F, Benoit Pouliot (FA)
D, Nikita Nikitin (traded for, then signed)
F, Teddy Purcell (trade, TB)
It was more of the same for the Oilers last season, as they skated to another last place finish. In what seems to be an eternal “wait until next year” situation, here we are, about to start “next year.” Have the Oil done nearly enough to get themselves out of the basement? Mark Fayne is a solid defenseman, but he’s not going to alter games with his presence. Benoit Pouliot has a knack for scoring big goals he will add scoring depth, but the price was a bit steep.
For Taylor Hall, his 80-point (27 g, 53a) season in 2013-14 was a welcomed sight. If he can hover right around there, or even approach the 100-point plateau, it’ll mean that this team is scoring. As for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, his 56 points (19g, 37a) was also a career best. Early reports out of camp suggest that these two are picking up where they left off last season and with every step forward that Hall and RNH take, so do the Oilers.
If everything breaks right: This team is led by the two aforementioned players. When they were both drafted, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins were thought of as players who could be leaders, now they have to show it. Though there’s not a lot of depth, they do boast some secondary scoring in guys like Jordan Eberle and David Perron. Eberle and Perron each notched 28 goals apiece last season, so similar production from them will be counted on. The defense has improved some and with a goaltending battle between Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens, one or both of them emerge as a viable option for the long-term. This is probably the best team that the Oilers have put together in the last few years. If they can score consistently and do enough out of the back end, they could at least keep themselves in the playoff talks for most of the season.
If it all goes downhill: It wouldn’t exactly be surprising, given the team’s track record over the past few seasons. They haven’t made the playoffs since their cup run year in 2005-06. Without any dominant forces on the blue line and two goalies that are somewhat unproven in terms of being a solid long-term answer in net, Edmonton will struggle to keep pucks out of the net. The lack of scoring depth will mean that players like Nail Yakupov STILL don’t live up to the kind of potential that many believed they had. This team may find out that they grossly overpaid for both Mark Fayne and Benoit Pouliot. If it all goes downhill, expect a season much like last year with a dismal finish in the cellar of the Pacific Division.
Realistic Expectation: This team is much deeper than the last few lackluster installments of the Edmonton Oilers. Getting Justin Schultz back on a one-year deal might benefit both sides, as he plays the entire season with a big contract on his mind. Though Fayne, Pouliot and Nikitin aren’t earth shattering free agent acquisitions, those are the kind of moves that this team needed to make at some point. They brought in winning players who will add some grit to the lineup. There’s no doubt that this team will score goals, but preventing them will be paramount to their success. Though making the playoff seems a bit lofty at this juncture, they should at least be improved.