Possibly the biggest question mark this season is the Edmonton Oilers: a team that possesses the best player under 25 in the entire league, but also challenged the Maple Leafs for last overall last year. What are we expecting from the Oil? Here’s managing editor Ryan Batty from Copper & Blue to give us an idea.
1. The Adam Larsson / Taylor Hall trade was easily the biggest Oilers moment of the summer. What kind of season are you hoping for from Larsson?
Regardless of what you think of the trade, I’m not a fan of it, there is no denying that Larsson is a very good hockey player, and at just 23 years old, turning 24 in November, there is certainly room for him to continue to grow and improve his overall game. That’s what I’m looking for from him this season, that continued improvement. In New Jersey he was given brutal zone starts and managed to keep his head above water, that’s absolutely a good thing, the Oilers could use a little more of that. Along with strong play in the Oilers end of the rink, hopefully he can find a little offense as well because the Oilers could also use a little more of that. I’m certainly not looking for him to justify the Hall trade though, and I hope that there aren’t too many fans that will judge him against that bar.
2. The Oilers kind of lucked into getting Jesse Puljujarvi, the consensus number-three pick at the draft. Do you think he'll make the team out of camp? Where would you expect him to play in the lineup?
Five of the Oilers’ last six first round picks have played in the NHL the year after they were drafted – Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Leon Draisaitl, and Connor McDavid; only Darrnell Nurse went back to junior – and I would be stunned if Puljujarvi didn’t make it six of seven. With a right side that isn’t particularly deep, there’s an open spot in the team’s top nine just waiting for him. Eberle almost certainly holds down the right side on the top line, but after that it could be either Puljujarvi or Yakupov (until the Oilers trade Yakupov for pennies on the dollar). Before the Hall trade I had a better idea of how the lines might shake out, now it’s less clear, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Puljujarvi on a line with Nugent-Hopkins to start the season.
3. Probably a question you're tired of answering - what would you consider a successful season for the Oilers in 2016-17?
After ten years of missing the playoffs, and three rebuilds, or maybe it’s four now, it’s hard to figure out what success looks like for this team anymore. For most teams (really should be all teams) a successful season should start with making the playoffs at an absolute minimum. The Oilers are still not a playoff calibre team though, so we can cross that off the list right away. The Oilers finished last in the Western Conference last season with 70 points. The Hall/Larsson trade makes them better in the short term, 82 games of Connor McDavid will give them a bump as well, and hopefully the team can stay healthy for a change. If everything goes well they could end up around 85 points. 10-12 wins better. I guess we could call that a successful season. That and not making another Hall-for-Larsson level trade.