Edmonton Oilers: Puck Daddy's 2015-16 NHL Season Preview

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(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!) 

Last Season 

24-44-14, for 62 points. Sixth in the Pacific Division. 

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2014-15 Season, In One Tweet

Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same? 

Better.

There’s a freshness to the organization following its No. 1 overall draft selection of Canadian wunderkind Connor McDavid in June. The Oilers have had top picks before (three in a row from 2010-12), but this was different. McDavid is considered the best player to come out of Major Junior since Sidney Crosby 10 years ago. 

He’s NHL ready and should put up the same type of numbers as Crosby in his rookie season. Crosby notched 102 points his first year in the league. Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said McDavid is already a better player than the Bolts’ center.

While McDavid should give the organization a shot in the arm this year, the Oilers still have their issues. Edmonton is poor on D. Signing Andrej Sekera (six years at $5.5 million) was a nice addition, but not a game-changer on the blueline. 

Can rookie defenseman Darnell Nurse finally make an impact?

Justin Schultz has so far proven he’s not a top-four blueliner and was a minus-17 last season. He came to Edmonton with a lot of fanfare in 2012-13 and has so far not hit on his potential.

Edmonton’s forward group could make up for this deficiency. Jordan Eberle (63 points) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (56 points) are two of the more skilled offensive players in the NHL.

Taylor Hall should bounce back from a disastrous injury-plagued campaign that saw him score 14 goals in 53 games.

Eberle, who was outspoken near the end of last year about the team’s losing ways, should feel refreshed by McDavid’s arrival.  

Peter Chiarelli is in his first-year as Edmonton general manager and will prove a major upgrade from previous general manager Craig MacTavish.  

Also, former San Jose Sharks bench boss Todd McLellan will give the Oilers some stability as the team’s coach. 

Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Connor McDavid, F

McDavid will have a major microscope on him the entire season. Anything he does, or anything that happens to him, will be poked, prodded and parsed. Just a regular bodycheck in a rookie game against the Vancouver Canucks was discussed in Canada for days. He’ll get his points, but all his scores will be held in the context of other great comparables like Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. 

2. Taylor Hall, F

Hall had a miserable year by his standards, which also included trade rumors and whispers that he was un-coachable. Once the golden boy of the organization, Hall will need to rediscover his point-per-game pace of the previous two seasons. In 2013-14 he had 80 points and 27 goals in 75 contests. He’s only 23 years old and should have a lot of high-level hockey left. 

3. Darnell Nurse, D

Nurse was one of the top defensive prospects in the 2013 Draft and the Oilers scooped him up with the seventh overall pick. He’s only played two NHL games, but Edmonton has hopes that he’s ready to take a big step forward. If Nurse is as good as advertised he should give the Oilers the type of steady two-way presence they need at D. 

4. Leon Draisaitl, F

The Oilers No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 Draft will be buried on Edmonton’s center depth chart thanks to Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid. He had 53 points in 32 games last season for the Kelowna Rockets and is considered a high-end offensive talent. But he’s not going to play on the third line for the Oilers. What will Edmonton do with Draisaitl if he’s ready to play at the NHL level? You can’t put a guy with that type of talent on the third line. He creates an issue many NHL teams would love to have, but still a conundrum. 

5. Nail Yakupov, F

Former coach Todd Nelson got through to Yakupov last season and the former No. 1 overall pick had 21 of his 33 points the last three months of the season. McLellan knows how to develop young scorers, having done so in San Jose with Joe Pavelski and then Logan Couture. Yakupov (minus-35 last year) has a ton of talent, but he still needs to score on a consistent basis. This is his fourth season.  

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Potentially The Best Thing About This Team

The Oilers have one of the best young 1-2 punches at center in the NHL between McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins.

There was a time when Nugent-Hopkins was a near point-per-game player.

He should be much better suited as a second-line center than a first liner. While McDavid takes much of the pressure, Nugent-Hopkins can work on his game and not deal with the spotlight as the team’s first-line middleman.

These guys will be exciting and dynamic to watch for years to come. 

Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team

Edmonton’s defense is quite poor. Even if Nurse is able to turn into a solid two-way defender, the Oilers don’t have the blueline to compete on a consistent basis this year.

Edmonton’s so loaded at forward that they may to need to trade Hall or Eberle to get a defenseman to give the team more balance. It may not happen this year as Chiarelli tries to get a handle on his squad, but it probably needs to happen at some point. 

If Edmonton doesn’t get defense help, Cam Talbot’s going to be under siege in what should be his first year as starting goaltender. 

Dream 3-on-3 OT Group

McDavid, Hall and Eberle. So. Much. Speed. But if the other team gets the puck they’ll be in trouble since all three don’t play defense. 

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)

0

No chance McLellan gets fired this year. The Oilers finally have a long-term vision and structure.

Edmonton envisions McLellan growing with this group and being a major part of its future. Even if the Oilers are dreadful this year, McLellan will get a free pass. 

Awkward Old School Video Break

Suddenly in the mood for a sugary, carbonated beverage. 

Their Best Case Scenario Is … 

McDavid has a 100-plus point campaign. Hall rediscovers his form playing on McDavid’s wing and becomes a point-per-game player again. Nugent-Hopkins takes a step forward and looks like the Oilers’ second-line center of the future.

Nurse plays a full season in Edmonton and shows flashes of being a top-two blueliner. Schultz hones his all-around game and finally starts to show his potential. 

Their Nightmare Scenario Is …

McDavid bombs with 40ish points this season. 

Hall continues to play uninspired hockey leading to more trade calls. Nurse spends the whole year in the American Hockey League.

Prediction

McDavid will have about 80 points and Nugent-Hopkins will hit around 70-75 points. 

Chiarelli will deal either Hall or Eberle around the trade deadline for a solid No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman, finally giving the Oilers the balance they need. Edmonton will miss the playoffs again (the Oilers haven’t made the postseason since 2005-06) but the team will be in much more stable shape for the coming years after a season in McLellan’s system and Chiarelli’s stewardship from a management perspective. 

PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators/Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild/Los Angeles Kings/Florida Panthers

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