Review Of 2011-2012: 32-40-10, 14th in the Western Conference
Additions via free agency: Justin Schultz, Dane Byers
Additions via trade: None
Subtractions: Cam Barker
The Oilers young group of forwards, led by Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is among the league’s most dynamic and exciting, and it will be joined by 2012 first overall pick Nail Yapukov for the 2012-13 campaign. Veteran Sam Gagner had a breakout second half of the 2011-12 campaign, and winger Ales Hemsky will be expected to perform at a superstar clip fresh off signing a new contract. The group has solid veteran Tutelage in Ryan Smyth as well, who is sure to be a positive influence on the young cost of Oiler forwards. Expect Edmonton to score in bunches this season, but outside of veteran Eric Belanger, the group is a little light on two-way depth.
The Oilers defensive corps started out 2011-12 with a bang but quickly fell to Earth. Perhaps the most talented member of the group, Alternate Captain Ryan Whitney, spent most of the season on IR and Theo Peckham, Geoff Petry, Ladislav Smid, Andy Sutton and company found themselves searching for consistent good play. The marquee addition to the club this off season is UFA d-man Justin Schultz, a former Anaheim draft choice who spurned the Ducks for Edmonton and is expected to step in and contribute right away. While there are some talented individuals on their roster, the Oilers continuity on D is probably their biggest question mark headed into 2012-13.
The Oilers are banking on the 6’5″ Devan Dubnyk to continue to progress in goal. Dubnyk showed flashed of brilliance at times in 2011-12 and finishing with 20 wins playing for a conference also-ran is a fairly impressive feat. Still the Saskatchewan native is still maturing and suffers from mental lapses at times that lead to inconsistent play. Dubnyk will need to take the next step for the Oilers to ascend in the tough Western Conference. Taking the backup job again is Nikolai Khabibulin, the grizzled vet who can still spell #1 if needed and should again help to stabilize the Edmonton crease. Veteran Yann Danis is the #3 guy, while Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz provide system depth in goal, though it remains to be seen if either has a future in the NHL.
Prediction: 4th in Northwest, 11th in West.
The Oilers will get better this year, but the Oilers still aren’t as good as Vancouver, Minnesota and probably Colorado in the Northwest, which will leave them on the outside of the playoff race looking in again. Fret not, Oiler fans, this could be a playoff team in another season.
2012 first overall pick Nail Yapukov is expected to step in and contribute right away, and in order to stand out among the Oilers group of young, skilled forwards, he will have to be something special. Will the Oilers have their second Rookie of the Year in 3 seasons in Yapukov?