The Edmonton Oilers. The name has taken a whole different meaning in the hockey world. Once regarded as a title that indicated futility and failure, now is met with a feeling of prosperity and hope. The rapid transition that the Edmonton franchise has endured has turned the Oilers into a respectable hockey club once again. The first step was chopping the head of the snake, and cleaning out the team’s top management staff, which most notably included the pitiful Kevin Lowe. The “Old Boys Club” was final disbanded as Lowe and MacTavish were all repositioned into positions of lesser power and, former tough guy, Dave Semenko being fired completely. Bob Nicholson, a proven winner at the management level, was then given complete control, hiring a Stanley Cup champion to look after the hockey side of things with Peter Chiarelli. From there the Oilers made yet another coaching change, although this particular change was very different than the previous. Instead of handing over the entry-level job to Todd Nelson, like they’ve done with Eakins, Krueger and Renny, they went out and got an experienced guy with a proven track record in Todd McLellan. Who woulda thunk it! The Oilers management that had left fans like myself so down in the dumps with no feeling of hope had suddenly disappeared, just like that. Oh, and while all this was happening, Connor McDavid was in the process of becoming an Edmonton Oiler. The past few months have been nothing short of unreal for Edmonton Oilers fans as a light at the end of this dark and twisted tunnel of failure is finally coming into sight, the future has now become the present.
The roster, well its been subject to much change since two premier NHL events in the Entry Draft and Free Agency. The biggest addition was courtesy of the god sent first overall pick (By the way, when in doubt: 1,5,6,14) that turned into the highly praised Connor McJesus…er I mean McDavid. Connor’s presence on the team will be immediate. The term “generational player” has been beaten to death when describing just how good this kid is but, the fact is, it’s the only way to describe McDavid. He will surely slide in between Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov on that second line center position. If speed can kill…then consider this line highly lethal. The reason I find that a likely line is because one, Benoit Pouliot played very well with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, and two, come on that’s a f’ing good line! The forward group also changed outside of McDavid. Chiarelli was firing up the trade machine and made a much-needed improvement to the teams depth on the left wing. The Oilers traded Boyd Gordon to Arizona for Lauri Korpikoski. Korpi, as I have christened him, is a big fast guy that will slot in beautifully on the third line. The loss of Gordon kinda sucked but, PC made that sting go away the next day by signing an exceptional fourth line pivot in Mark Letestu. The Oilers forward group is now deeper than ever, with the lines looking something like this:
1L Benoit Pouliot – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle (Nuge and Ebs are fantastic and Poo adds size and skill to them)
2L Taylor Hall – Connor McDavid – Nail Yakupov (Zoooooooooooooooooom!)
3L Lauri Korpikoski – Anton Lander – Teddy Purcell (Lander finally came into his own the past season, solid 3C option)
4L Matt Hendricks – Mark Letestu – Rob Klinkhammer (Wagon line looking good, swapped out Gordon for a right hand shot Letestu)
Ex Tyler Pitlick (played well with the team in a stretch before injury, could take Klinkhammer or Purcell’s spot, maybe)
Ex Leon Draisaitl (no rush, fully expect a AHL start to let him develop, could see NHL action as a call-up for any injuries)
On the flip side, in regards to team defence, the Oilers were just as active. The first move made to bolster the area of weakness was completed on McDavid Day. The Oilers were on the clock with their #16 pick but they decided to ship it to the Isles for Griffin Reinhart. T’was a steep price to pay, I agree wholeheartedly with that thought however, it was worth it. What has Edmonton spent the better part of 1o years doing? Waiting for draft picks to develop. Peter Chiarelli has shown that he doesn’t intend on sitting back and waiting for the crop to become ripe, he went out and got a player further along in his development and a guy that has a good chance on being on the opening day roster. Anyone available at #16 would have taken two years at least to make the opening day roster. The movement to establish a NHL-capable defence continued onto day two of the Draft, wasting no time in acquiring Cam Talbot in what was, Oiler legend, Glen Sather’s last trade as a GM. Talbot isn’t exactly a proven starter just yet, despite an impressive season with the Rangers, so the jury is still out on him. All the hockey experts say he’s good bet so, there’s that. Directly after solving their goalie problem, Chiarelli turned focus back on defence, shipping out Martin Marincin to Toronto for magic beans and getting Eric Gryba from Ottawa for some more picks. I was a Marincin fan, I thought the kid had the stuff to make it onto the club, it’s too bad that management gave up on him. Give em hell in Toronto Marty! Gryba was a decent pickup, we all remember that hit on Eller, tough fellow to round out the bottom pairing. Then comes the biggest move of all, on Canada Day. The Oilers managed to land a top UFA in Andrej Sekera, who should look excellent on our top pairing. The flurry of moves has the Oilers D-corps looking as good as ever on the backend, not impressive but vast improvement. As of July 3rd, 2015 the defence should look sorta like this:
1p Oscar Klefbom – Andrej Sekera (Klefbom already has top 4 skill, could easily solidify a top pairing role alongside Sekera)
2p Mark Fayne – Justin Schultz (two right hand shots, Fayne can adjust I am sure, Schultz needs a steady veteran partner to calm his game down)
3p Griffin Reinhart – Eric Gryba (Chiarelli straight out said that this is a likely bottom pairing)
1G Cam Talbot (Oiler got him for a reason, he will be given every oppurtunity to be the starter)
2G Ben Scrivens (very bleh season last year, shown glimspes of brilliance, and because of that, he’d make a serviceable backup)
Ex Darnell Nurse (This guy is awesome, could very well be a fulltime Oiler by seasons end)
Ex Brandon Davidson (Coming off an inspiring battle over testicular cancer, Davidson impressed in NHL action, will compete for a bottom pair spot)
(As you may have noticed, Andrew Ference and Nikita Nikitin are missing from the list, that is due to the fact that I don’t believe either are as capable than the guys above. Bob Stauffer tweeted that the Oilers will look to move out d-man with high $$$ on them, and these two fit that description)
This lineup will most likely be the group that takes to the ice at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on October 8th. Pending any moves, the Oilers reportedly still have interest in Cody Franson, this will be the team that will usher in the new era of Oilers hockey. Go Oilers Go.
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