There is an enormous amount of talk on the Twittersphere right now about the Oilers attempting to negotiate a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks to land defensive stalwart Brent Seabrook. All that talk got me to thinking about what is realistic for the Oilers moving forward. I agree that adding Seabrook would be a tremendous boost and would make the team a playoff contender next season. But with that being said, I still don’t see Seabrook being moved. Although I can honestly say I didn’t think that Saad would be moved either. He would be a tremendous add to the team but that would be a best case scenario. While I would love to see him play in the blue and orange I just don’t see it as being realistic at this point.
That is my topic for the day, what is realistic going forward? I read a blog this morning from Richard Cloutier over at PrettySkateMachine and it got me to thinking about what fans should expect this coming season. If you want to read the post it is here. Now before I begin to discuss the post I need to make it perfectly clear that I DO NOT dislike Richard in any way. I respect his opinion and someday hope to be as widely followed as him. Truth be told, Richard is a big reason that I got into blogging in the first place. So if you hate my writing or whatever please direct all complaints to him. But in all seriousness, Richard and I don’t have any animosity between us and even though we rarely agree, we respect each others opinions and enjoy discussing the team. I read the post mentioned above and I agreed with virtually everything that he wrote in the piece with the exception being that the Oilers will be a playoff team in 2015-16.
I do think that the team will take an astronomical step forward this season but there are still far too many variables that need to break right in order for this team to see the second season. The Oilers were 35 points out of playoffs last season. Yes you read that right, 35 points! That is a huge number of points to make up in one season. While the Oilers got better this summer, dramatically better in fact, so did a lot of teams in the Western conference. To assume that the additions we made is enough is putting the cart before the horse in my opinion. Of course if the Oilers get the puck luck that the Flames had last season it is entirely possible but not probable. So what needs to happen for this much maligned franchise to see the post-season for the first time in a decade? A whole lot actually.
Cam Talbot has to be the bona fide starter that the team expects him to be, we cannot afford to have another goaltender issue like we have in the past couple of seasons. Talbot has to be able to steal games for this team and keep them in the games that they have no business being in. On top of that he is going to need to be able to handle the 60 plus game workload normally associated with being a true starting goalie. That is a ton of pressure to put on a guy that has played less than a hundred games in the NHL. Is he ready for it? I guess we will know in the coming months.
What else needs to happen? Well we need Andrej Sekera to play huge minutes for us on the top pairing and this season and do it well. Is he capable of it? Possibly but he is definitely better suited to be the number three defender on the . The unfortunate thing here is that the Oilers are again going to be forced to play the defense above their heads as we don’t have the real top pairing guys, a la Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith and we won’t see one coming this year either. That was a large part of the issue last season. All the defencemen were playing over their ability level and that is something that the good teams never do.
To me those are the two biggest factors moving forward this season. The goaltending needs to be much much better and the defense needs to be less chaotic and more efficient at moving the puck out of our zone. If both of those items break in the Oilers favor we could see hockey in late April again.
Now that I have framed the issue at hand lets look at what we know so far. We know that our star players will be our stars again. Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle are all a year older and capable of handling the tougher competition. Benoit Pouliot, Nail Yakupov, Teddy Purcell, and Lauri Korpikoski will fill out the top nine wingers positions adequately if not spectacularly. Lander looks extremely capable of handling the third line center spot and chip in offensively on a consistent basis. The fourth line players like Mark Letestu, Matt Hendricks, and Rob Klinkhammer will be counted on to be sound defensively and little else. We also know that Oscar Klefbom is capable of playing top four minutes this year without quite as easy zone starts, depending on his partner. Dragging Schultz around again this year will virtually guarantee massive offensive zone starts if for no other reason than Schultz is a train wreck in the defensive zone. At this point barring other players joining the roster before training camp in September that is about all we can count on being true.
Of course I am leaving out the phenom and future league superstar Connor McDavid. The reason I am leaving him out for now is we don’t know just how well he will do this season. I fully expect him to be a finalist for the Calder trophy, but since the league seems to hate awarding trophies to Edmonton Oilers players, he will be runner-up to Jack Eichel from Buffalo. McDavid’s numbers will depend a lot on Todd McLellan and how much he decides to play the youngster. Richard states in his article that he feels that Connor could challenge for the Art Ross this season and depending on his minutes and zone starts it isn’t outside the realm of possibility. That would obviously be the best case scenario but it isn’t entirely unrealistic.
We know what we have so far and who can be counted on to be effective and consistent players moving forward. I am not going to get into exactly where I see the players finishing point wise as that would take away from future posts that I plan to write this summer. What I do want to look at is where I predict the Oilers will finish in the standings this season. Unlike Richard I don’t see Edmonton being quite there yet. To get into the playoffs last season in the west you needed a minimum of 97 points and that was just the wildcard berths. To be looked at as an actual contender would require 100 plus points and I am sorry Oilers but that just isn’t going to happen. Especially with the Oilers atrocious record against the west last season. Edmonton finished the season 20 games below .500 and to me that is just too much ground to make up in one off-season. If we are being realistic and even a little optimistic, I know that is hard for us Oilers fans, I could see maybe 15 more wins next season. That adds 30 points to our total from last year and while it is a massive increase it still isn’t enough to take us to the promised land. I see Edmonton finishing ninth or tenth next season which while not appeasing the franchises need for playoff it does mean meaningful games into March and I for one would be completely okay with that!
What do you think? Has Chiarelli done enough of a transformation to this team to make the playoffs? Where do you see the boys finishing this year? Hit me up in the comments section or on twitter, @cooke_rob, with your thoughts on this or any other hockey related topic. I am always up for a good discussion. Thanks for reading Beer Leaguers and please spread the word about our fantastic little site here!