Archive for 2015-06-28

Edmonton is improved, but only slightly.


It's Independence Day, July 4th and three days removed from free agency. We're also about a week since the NHL draft and the Edmonton Oilers are an improved team - but only slightly.

No doubt Edmonton has added some key pieces. Sekera, Letestu, Gryba, Reinhart, Talbot, Korpikoski and Connor McDavid can all be seen as better than what the team employed last season in their respective positions.

Sekera is at least equal, if not better than Jeff Petry. Letestu is a younger and less expensive Boyd Gordon. Gryba and Reinhart bring more stability and nastiness to the 6 and 7 spot on the Oilers defense and McDavid... well he's Connor friggin' McDavid. But are the Edmonton Oilers a playoff team?

The Oilers will be one year better with prospects like Leon Draisatl and Darnell Nurse. However, if the Oilers are truly a contending team this season, neither is on the team unless they absolutely beat out spots reserved for NHL vets. It's entirely possible. I was one of about 3,000 fans who spent time at the open prospect camp and at the very least Darnell Nurse looks like he's not going to be denied. Nurse did everything at full speed and looks by all accounts, ready to take that next step.

Speaking of next step, the Oilers are also one year further along with Oscar Klefbom - who looks to be a horse on defense and took a big step forward at the end of last season. If he continues and with a new and experienced coaching staff, Edmonton is going to see improvements out of Klefbom and others, including some under-performers, namely Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Nikita Nikitin.

These are all good things.

While I like all the additions and I think some players will be improved, none are sure bets. Instead, this roster is full of wait, see and cross your fingers roster type players who may or may not make a difference. The only real for sure seems to be Sekera, who the Oilers paid a good chunk of money to on July 1st.

Even Connor McDavid, the most highly touted prospect in a decade is just that, a prospect. He projects to be an impact player immediately, good for 50-90 points. But in hockey, one man won't win you twenty more games. Not even a Connor McDavid.

With an Oilers team only slightly improved, it stands to reason that if all goes right, the Oilers could be ten to fifteen wins better. That puts them around ninety points and likely not enough to make the playoffs.

While fans would be elated with a ninety point season and for the Oilers to be contending right up to the end, in all this, I'm looking at the possible and not the likely. Could Edmonton make a jump similar to one the Avalanche made a few seasons ago when they went from a bottom-five team to a playoff group? Everything went right for Colorado. Varlomov was lights out, their prospects were amazing and things fell well for them in a weaker division.

Count me among the fans who can't wait for October to see what this team will do. I'm more excited now than ever to be an Oilers fan. But, like Peter Chiarelli, I'm tempering my expectations in the hopes that the Oilers will pleasantly surprise me, instead of the other way around.

I'm so used to disappointment, I'm ready to be wow'ed. I hope they do.