Well we had a mishap of sorts over here. Mr. Robert Z. Cooke had his Season Primer all done up and we went to check it out today and it was gone. Erased from existence. Mr.Cooke is a busy man as you can imagine so we figured that I’d take a stab at it. So here we are…
Since this is primarily an Edmonton Oilers blog (meaning we’re all huge fans of the team and have been for some time) I thought it’d be prudent to do up a “quick” preview. Quick (not really) because what you need to know has more than likely already been written by writers and bloggers with infinite more talent than myself. So like the time Patrick Swayze took out Rob Lowe’s stitches in Youngblood, grab a sack of beer and sit tight because you don’t want stitches going into Thunder Bay…
Goalies: We’re heading into the 2015/16 with a completely new tandem. Cam Talbot and fresh signing Anders Nilsson will be tasked with guarding the nets. Viktor Fasth hit the road as soon as the buzzer sounded at the end of last season and Ben Scrivens was demoted to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors to the surprise of almost everyone…
Prognosis: I’m optimistic but skeptical. Talbot did not impress me one bit during the preseason unlike Nilsson who impressed me greatly. There’ll always be a bit of skepticism that comes with Cam Talbot given the great stats he put up with the Rangers but that’ll come with the caveat that the Rangers were a much better team. Do I think Talbot and Nilsson are better than Scrivens and Fasth? Yes, by a country mile but I’ve only got the visuals from preseason to go by and articles like this one from Paul Campbell.
Defence: This will be the Achilles Heel of the Oilers this season I’m sure. For one you can’t have Sekera and Fayne as your top pairing. I’m sorry but that is shite. Sekera, ok but get Fayne outta there. He is a no.6 dman on a mediocre team and his cap hit is a killer (A recurring theme with MacT’s and Howson’s signings eh?). I think it was Bob Stauffer ranting on this week about how Fayne’s a serviceable defender IF his partner is a puck mover… Enter Andrej Sekera. I don’t know but the pairing does not make me feel comfortable at all.
The second pairing I could see turning into the top pairing by Christmas. Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom are looking pristine this preseason, Schultz especially. He looks like a new man under the coaching of Todd McLellan. He’s been the target of a large portion of my Oilers ire over the past 3 or so years but I’m a man of 2nd chances and if he can reclaim the form of Oklahoma Schultzy I’ll be a supporter indefinitely.
The third pairing looks to be set with Griffin Reinhart and Eric Gryba. Be afraid… Be very afraid. Reinhart had a couple of good showings but nothing substantial. Enough that would make the average Oilers fan realize the potential he has. The thing with Reinhart is he looks mild mannered but he can be a mean SOB in the right circumstances. Gryba on the other hand reminded me of Keith Aulie minus the fighting. He was slow and constantly being burned on the outside. This is something that will have to be remedied as I’d much rather have Sir Gryba as the Oilers no.7 than soon to be ex-captain Andrew Ference or perhaps a prospect like Brandon Davidson? Surely he deserves a chance, no? Then there’s Darnell Nurse. How long until we see him?
Prognosis: I’m not optimistic here at all. Apart from Schultz, Klefbom and Sekera, the defence doesn’t instill confidence in me. Fayne, Gryba, and Ference will be disappointments and we’re set to see Griffin Reinhart go through the motions of a rookie NHL defenceman in the NHL. It’ll be tough to watch but let’s hope the group either surprises or some changes are made (which I bet there will be).
The Forwards: Now this is where the fun starts. Is there another team with as many dynamic hockey players as the Oilers? Can this team finally get their act together under the tutelage of Todd McLellan and his coaching staff? I’m going to say no… Not this year. Now don’t take this the wrong way, it is still going to be a very fun year to watch and there’s going to be some great games but I’m not sold that we’ll be seeing a huge breakout. Improvement, yes. Playoffs, no.
I’ve got a bone to pick off the bat here. Taylor Hall and Connor McDavid do not have any chemistry and they should end this little experiment. Nail Yakupov had more goals assisted on than Hall did in preseason and they were on completely separate lines. Hall can’t even keep up with McDavid on the ice. 97 is way ahead of him all the time but then again in Hall’s defence (which I’m rarely speaking in) he’s way ahead of everyone but the difference being Hall is supposed to be on the same wave length given the amount of time the coaching staff have had them together for.
But it’s not all that bad for this line, Anton Slepyshev has shown very well so far and I think we’ll continue to see dividends being paid from having the big Russian on this line in the short term. Long term I reckon Slepyshev will slow down as most rookies do. Maybe Eberle makes an appearance here at some point…
The Nuge is looking like he is set to take a big step this year no matter who his linemates are. I’m not sure I like him having Purcell on his wing. I just feel like he’s on a island by himself there with Pouliot and Teddy. But I do like calling 67 and 93 Baby Nuge and the Poo so that’s kinda fun in a childish sort of way. The good news is that in a month Jordan Eberle will be back and we can go back to feeling at home again.
How long until we see Hall reunited with Nuge and Ebs? I’d say sooner than later, especially if Hall doesn’t produce right away. Sorry I’m kind of all over the place here.
The third line will feature a very European flavor given. Lauri Korpikoski (FIN), Anton Lander (SWE), and Nail Yakupov (RUS) are going to cause some teams fits with their high pressure forechecking and ability to put the puck in the net. I know a lot of fans would like to see Yakupov up with McDavid but I think that Yakupov is really comfortable playing alongside Anton Lander. He’s not being pressured to go out there a score as he would be on a line with Nugent-Hopkins or McDavid. All he has to do is play a very simple game and capitalize on the chances he gets which should be many given that they should be seeing the other team’s 3rd pairing defenders on more occasions than not. I’m not sure if this means anything but Lander lead the league in goal scoring in the preseason…
Our 4th line got a little younger when Boyd Gordon was dealt back to the Coyotes and Mark Letestu was signed. I’m neither for nor against the move. I like having a line that’ll go out there and hit the tar out of the other team. Rob Klinkhammer and Matt Hendricks are my kinda guys but I’m a little bit old school anyhow. Letestu will settle the line down and offer some options on the PK. Nothing more nothing less.
Our extra forward will be Luke Gazdic. Now I was really surprised with how he played over the last week or so. He only scrapped it out when he was forced to and he played smart when he was out there. His skating looks to have improved a bit and so has his puckhandling. I’m pulling for this guy to make this team as a player but I love that he’s got a reputation around the league not to be messed with.
Prognosis: You’re going to see some very entertaining hockey this year. High octane Oilers hockey like we used to see but we’re also going to see some tough losses. The difference being you’ll be ok with the losses because you’ll be witnessing a team that gives a hoot this year. A team that knows it’s fortunes are changing. We’re all about to see the rise of a new NHL empire.
The lines are set to look like this for the start of the year. When Eberle returns that’ll probably push Purcell down to McDavid’s line and then things could get messy. Would Slepyshev be sent to the AHL? Would a veteran get tossed on waivers? Something to watch for sure.
Pouliot – Nuge – Purcell
Hall – McDavid – Slepyshev
Korpikoski – Lander – Yakupov
Klinkhammer – Letestu – Hendricks
Sekera – Fayne
Klefbom – Schultz
Reinhart – Gryba
IR: Jordan Eberle, Dillon Simpson (Can someone explain to me why Simpson is still with the NHL club?)
Extras: Luke Gazdic (LW), Andrew Ference (D), Brandon Davidson (D)
My hopes for the Edmonton Oilers this season is mad progression in the stats department. A Calder for McDavid and a 9th place finish in the West by the end of the regular season. I hope to see the likes of Purcell, Fayne, Ference and Klinkhammer playing elsewhere and hopefully some upgrades brought in to solidify this defence. I hope Talbot and Nilsson can pull us through this season and I hope Craig MacTavish and Scott Howson get opportunities elsewhere so the media can stop asking Peter Chiarelli those awkward questions about running his decisions by them…
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! Leave your thoughts on the upcoming season for the Edmonton Oilers in the comments below and if you’re feeling cold or just have an extra dollar or two kicking around, head over to the Beer League Heroes Merch Shop and pick up a 16-bit Superstars hoodie or tee! Click the link and take a peek. Every dollar you spend helps keep us afloat and with winter coming you might as well stay warm and look cool at the same time!