The Oilers are likely done their major offseason personnel changes barring a blockbuster mid-summer trade. But have they done enough to make the playoffs?
Oiler fans are used to drinking Orange and Blue Koolaid in the July heat but many, myself included, are wondering if the club has done enough to propel themselves into playoff contention.
For a fleeting moment late last season the Oil held a playoff spot before flittering it away, but it was just a mirage. The team was not that good. Over an 82 game season the chances of them turning things around and making the playoffs were comically low.
MacTavish has added not an insignificant number of names to the roster: Grebeshkov, Larsen, Belov, Joensuu, Labarbara, Bachman, Ference, Gordon, and Perron. And yet despite those additions the face of the club looks a lot like it did before.
The top 9 forwards will have 7 returnees with Perron now added to the 2LW spot and Gordon in the 3C position. Only Perron is actually expected to contribute meaningfully to the offense which was ranked 18th last season in total goals. If the top 9 plays better next season it will largely have to do with the 7 who were there before and not the 2 who have been added.
On defense the top 4 remains relatively unchanged with 3 returnees and only Andrew Ference likely taking a spot from Nick Schultz. Ference looks like he will add a little more offence than Schultz the elder, but not significantly. The most change for the Oiler blue line is the depth of the 3rd pairing and beyond. If Nick Schultz is indeed bumped to the 3rd pairing and remains there the Oil will be able to roll all 3 pairings without being afraid of ticking time bombs like Ryan Whitney. And yet, the composition of their top 4 looks almost identical to last season’s.
The Oil have not improved their marquee positions by a great deal despite adding much needed depth. Taking a big step forward rests on the (wonky) shoulders of returning Oilers. Nuge has to perform well when he returns from surgery, Eberle has to perform well from a slightly off year, Yak needs to build off of the way he finished his season, Petry needs a big season to prove he hasnt leveled off, and Schultz needs to regain some of that confidence he had early.
That’s a tall order. Can it happen? Sure.
The team is young, steps forward are expected from them and I think they can deliver, but that blueline is thin on high end talent. I would feel a whole lot better if there was a stabilizing force back there who could keep the ship moving in the right direction.