OK, Oilers. It's go time now. You had your fun accruing high draft picks and a young roster brimming with promise. Now, it is time to actually, you know, be good. Last season, they did manage to finish with 45 points and a minus-9 goal differential, which is an improvement over prior seasons. They didn't get the first overall pick for once. They have a new head coach in Dallas Eakins, a promising coach from the AHL. Edmonton has been patient, but the time for patience has ended.
Edmonton didn't just merely sit back and let their young players get older, however. The most significant move was their trade for David Perron. Perron is a really good player, and they didn't have to give up a ton to get him from St. Louis. He helps lean a bit more toward a win now mode, but he's still only 25, so he could be better this season than he has been, and he can be with this team for a while. They also added veteran defenseman Andrew Ference, a good move, and they drafted blueliner Darnell Nurse, who may contribute this season. Up front, faceoff man and defensive forward Boyd Gordon was a nice depth addition.
Then, there are those forwards. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are already great players. Sam Gagner has solidified himself as a good player. Ales Hemsky can add something. It really comes down to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. Yakupov showed up as a rookie, scoring 17 goals and 31 points. The Nuge struggled a bit, as he only scored four goals and 20 points in 40 games. However, he was so strong as a rookie, I expect him to rebound some. Yakupov's numbers will come down a bit, Nugent-Hopkins' will go up a tinge, and they will perhaps balance themselves out.
In truth, it probably all comes down to what happens in net. Devan Dubnyk has become the Oilers' starter. He had a .920 save percentage last season, which is very good. Can he do that again? His career SV% of .913 says he should be at least decent. If he can be good, and if the forwards and defenseman live up to their potential, this could truly be a playoff team.
The Oilers should definitely be fun to watch. They have a ton of talent. If Eakins shows himself to be a good NHL coach, that would definitely help. Can he get the most out of this roster? I don't want to say it all comes down to Dubnyk, because he was good last year and they didn't make the playoffs. However, he is definitely important. A smaller Western Conference helps. Edmonton isn't ready to contend yet. They are ready to make the playoffs, and I think I may just end up picking them to return to the postseason when all is said and done.