There is no prize to be won for having the best offseason. No awards given to the most improved team. Nothing matters until the spring. It's too bad, really, because if there was an offseason award the Oilers would run away with it - the first thing they have won as a franchise in a long, long time. It was a truly great summer for the team - even if you ignore the draft. You know, the one where they selected the best player chosen in a decade. There has been an incredible amount of incompetence on display in the league's northernmost city for a decade. Terrible coaching hires. Horrible management. Uninspired players. In one summer that all changed - or at least it looks that way right now.
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Edmonton Oilers Offseason Moves
It all started with the front office. For too long former players had been in charge. Kevin Lowe was the GM who couldn't make a good decision if his life depended on it. There was a revolving door behind the bench where the coach was supposed to be. It was a mess, and the team was never going to shine until changes were made. That happened this summer, and the changes were dramatic. Bob Nicholson, who had guided the Canadian National Team program through their period of greatest success, is now the president of the team. He hired Peter Chiarelli, formerly the GM in Boston, as his GM. Together they brought Todd McLellan in to coach. Proven guys with no previous Edmonton ties - just what was needed. If those were the only changes that happened I'd be much more optimistic about this team than I have been for a long time. But that's only the beginning.
They needed to strengthen the defense. They traded for Griffin Reinhart from the Islanders. The youngster has struggled so far, but he returns to the city where he was a superstar in junior. They also traded for Eric Gryba from Ottawa and signed Andrej Sekera from the Kings. Darnell Nurse, who was drafted two years ago, will also be looking to make the team. Add it all up and the defense is much deeper and stronger than it was.
They needed to toughen up and diversify the forward corps. Mark Letestu, a free agent from Columbus, can score, but he's disciplined in his own zone as well. Brad Ross and Lauri Korpikoski, added in trades, offer great depth options.
Goaltending has long been a mess in Edmonton. Ben Scrivens is still here for now, but he can't be comfortable. The Oilers traded for Cam Talbot, the backup for the Rangers who had been so good in relief duty. They also brought in Anders Nilsson. He had seen limited action with the Islanders as a backup and then headed to the KHL last year where he was exceptional. Their goaltending is in the best shape it has been in years.
Oh yeah, they also drafted Connor McDavid. He's the best player to enter the league since Sidney Crosby. A total difference-maker. Add him to the young forwards that have come to the team in past drafts, and Leon Draisaitl, who was drafted the year before McDavid and played half a year last year before returning for junior and should be ready for a full year this year, and there is an embarrassment of young talent.
Edmonton Oilers NHL Outlook
There is really no excuse for this team. They are dripping with potential pretty much everywhere. They are very young, though, and they need to learn how to win after developing every bad habit a team can have over the last several years. Taylor Hall is already a very strong player, and with McDavid on his line he should explode. The defense should be sound - and should be helped by the offense. The goaltending is unproven, but there is reason to be optimistic. Management and coaching has never been better. It might not be this year, but this team will soon be very dangerous. Of course, I have said some version of the same thing for a few years now, and that has gone badly - though that was about teams without McDavid.
Edmonton Oilers Schedule
The first three games, and five of the first six, are on the road. That's a very good thing. Excitement is at a ridiculous level in Edmonton. It's insane. Being away from that as a team for a while, and building chemistry early on, can't hurt for a team that has changed so much.
Edmonton Oilers NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Oilers are +2800 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them tied with four other teams and behind 14 others. They are tied with two teams as the ninth choice to win the Western Conference at +1600 and are the fourth choice to win the Pacific Division at +650.
2015-16 Edmonton Oilers Predictions
It might be ambitious and premature, but I have the Oilers penciled in as a playoff team this year. The mindset is radically different, and the talent runs deep. It won't be a smooth ride, and I don't anticipate them doing much once they make the playoffs, but in a deep, tough conference I think it is more likely that they are in than out. One thing is sure, though - they should be a whole lot of fun to watch. McDavid will be every bit as good as advertised, too.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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