(The 2014-15 NHL season is nearly upon us, and attempting to handicap the winners and losers can sometimes leave us speechless. So we decided to break down all 30 teams with the next best thing to words: Emojis!)
Last Season In Emojis
Last Season, In Summary
For a moment, the Oilers were a preseason darling, with some predicting that Edmonton’s young core would finally earn a playoff spot.
Instead, the defense sucked to the tune of 270 goals against, the team’s depth was shallow and Nail Yakupov generated more headlines about a potential trade than anything he did on the ice.
But hey, at least they earned yet another high draft choice!
Last Season’s Definitive Highlight
The end of an era for Ryan Smyth, again.
The Oilers shook up their depth at forward and their defense in the offseason.
They traded Sam Gagner to the Lightning for Teddy Purcell, who can play in the top or bottom six effectively. They inked Benoit Pouliot to a 5-year, $20-million deal.
On the back end, they signed Mark Fayne (4 years, $14.5 million) from the Devils; Nikita Nikitin (2 year, $9 million) from the Blue Jackets; and Keith Aulie.
Arguably, two off-ice additions made as many waves as these transactions: Former Hockey Canada director Bob Nicholson becoming vice chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group, and Tyler Dellow, a blogger that had been a harsh critic of the Oilers in the past, becoming part of the team’s management team as a hockey analytics consultant.
Taylor Hall continued to blossom into a star with an 80-point campaign, his second straight season at a point-per game pace. Primary linemates Jordan Eberle (65 points) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (56 points) also had their moments, although the Nuge averaging more shots per game (2.23) than he had in his previous two seasons.
David Perron was third on the Oilers in scoring last season with 57 points in 78 games, as Edmonton scored an emphatic win in that trade with the Blues. One assumes Perron and Nail Yakupov will occupy a second line for the Oil, as the Yak comes off a challenging 24-point, minus-33 season.
Who centers them? Rookie Leon Draisaitl will be given a chance to win this job, as the Oilers’ 2014 first-rounder brings size and skill to the middle. Mark Arcobello, last year’s rookie standout, could get the call if he fails.
The bottom six received a boost with additions of Corsi darling Benoit Pouliot from the Rangers and the versatile Teddy Purcell from the Lightning. Holdover Boyd Gordon is a strong defensive center, while another former Capital, Matt Hendricks, turned around some critic with his energetic (if offensively inefficient) play. Jesse Joensuu, Anton Lander, Luke Gazdic and 6-5 rookie Bogdan Yakimov will also be in the mix.
Check out this goals projection post for more on the Oilers offense. Interesting stuff.
Can this revamped unit finally give the Oilers at least an average defense? Nikitin and Fayne bring size and in Fayne’s case a little offensive pop and strong puck movement.
Justin Schultz has a new contract, which brings with it new expectations for him to build on his offensive numbers. Veteran Andrew Ference brought some leadership, but not much else with a 43-percent Corsi rating.
Martin Marincin and Jeff Petry formed an underrated duo last season; in Petry’s case, he plays better than his numbers otherwise indicate.
Keith Aulie will be in the mix, but all eyes will be on Darnell Nurse in camp, as the snarly defenseman attempts to crack the lineup.
Ben Scrivens was one of the best things to happen to Edmonton last season, as The Professor sported a .916 save percentage in 21 games. His battery mate Viktor Fasth should offer solid support and competition.
There’s an outside chance that goaltending won’t be a complete liability for the Oilers.
Probable Text Conversation Within Organization
The Oilers were a disappointing 21st in the NHL on the power play at 17 percent on 271 chances.
Edmonton was 15th in the NHL on the penalty kill at 82.1 percent on 280 times shorthanded.
GM and Coach
Dallas Eakins had a dramatic rookie season behind the bench, from taking away the media’s junk food to hand-holding Yakupov. He left many impressed with his approach, intelligence and forward-thinking (especially with hockey analytics); the question was whether this roster can win.
GM Craig MacTavish promised dramatic changes if the Oilers didn’t turn things around, but has yet to touch the team’s young core. He spent significant dollars to upgrade the defense, and revamped the goaltending. Is this finally the right mix for the Oil?
And Now, A Blooper
The Potential Best Thing About This Team
Hall. He’s a leader and a player whose offensive skills continue to improve each season. Right there with Jamie Benn and Ovechkin for the top left wing in the NHL, now that Ovechkin is apparently a left wing again.
The Potential Worst Thing About This Team
Nugent-Hopkins. It’s Year 4, and we’re still waiting for the Nuge to become the complete center he’s projected to become. The faceoff percentage remains too low, he’s undersized and he’s yet to reach the point-per-game pace Hall has.
Single Emoji Prediction
The Hourglass In-Progress. The Oilers are at a point where this young core needs to start making the postseason – hell, even challenging for a spot – or else it might be time to flip one of them to fill several needs on the team. And by that we obviously mean Schultz and Eberle for Shea Weber, of course …
To make the playoffs, someone from last year's top eight needs to fall out and the Oilers have to improve by about 25 points. Both of these things probably won't happen, but the goaltending should be good enough to get them close and keep them in the hunt through at least March.