Continuing to attempt to predict outcomes of the 2016-2017 season. Next up: The Edmonton Oilers
2015-2016 Important Notes:
Finish – 14th place in the Western Conference, 29th overall
Goals for vs. goals against – minus 42 (28th overall)
Picked 4th overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft – Jesse Puljujarvi
Where will the Oilers finish?
Everyone has to think that EVENTUALLY the Oilers will not be a lottery team. Will it be this season? With a healthy team, they have the best shot they’ve had in years. For a team that has picked in the top 10 in nine of the last 10 seasons (!!), the fact that they’re still stuck in the basement is an embarrassment. All non-Oiler fans rejoiced when the team fell out of 2nd place in the entry draft down to 4th, only to see Puljujarvi drop right into their laps. Even when the Oilers lose the lottery, they end up on the winning end. Puljujarvi projects to play a key role, riding shotgun on Connor McDavid’s wing for the foreseeable future.
Even with a team that boasts the likes of McDavid, Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl, the team is filled with holes on defense, and question marks in net. How will Adam Larsson fare? Is Cam Talbot capable of carrying this team into the playoffs? These have been the same questions facing the Oilers for the last few years, and this year is no different. I see the Oilers as a team who is still outside of the playoff picture come April, but further up from the basement. I see them right around 11th place in the west, and 22nd overall.
Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson?!?
Everyone knew the Oilers had to improve their defense this offseason, and that a star player was likely on his way out of Edmonton. That being said, I don’t think anyone expected it to be Taylor Hall, and the return to be ONLY Adam Larsson. This was a nightmare trade for Oilers fans, as they watched both PK Subban and Shea Weber (who are much better options) be traded minutes later. This is no knock on Adam Larsson, he’s an immediate and substantial upgrade to the Oilers defense. But he’s no superstar. Taylor Hall is a top 5 player at his position. He’s been the Oilers best player since he came into the NHL, and while that is surely now McDavid, I can’t think of any Oilers fan who didn’t want to see Hall and McDavid play a full season together, or many seasons together for that matter.
This came down to the Oilers being desperate to acquire something that would improve them defensively, even if it hurts their offensive production. Unfortunately for Larsson, he will have the weight of this trade on his shoulders this season, as fans look for him to replace a fan favorite. Will he live up to the trade? No. Will he be an upgrade in an area that the Oilers needed? Yes. How big of an upgrade is the question many will be looking to answer this year.
What can we expect from Connor McDavid?
Greatness. Magic. Dominance.
McDavid comes into this season healthy, and ready to continue right where he left off last year. Everyone will be watching to see how he does at the World Cup, surely leading the ‘Young Stars’ team in all aspects. He seemed to pick up right where he left off after coming back from injury last season, and barely missed out on winning the Calder.
With a full season, and an improved defensive team behind him, McDavid should have no problem challenging for the scoring crown. He possesses all the tools necessary to carry the Oilers to heights they haven’t seen in quite some time. Losing Hall as a key member of the offense could hurt McDavid slightly, but if can rekindle the magic he had last season, it could be a great year for both Oilers’ and McDavid fans.