Admittedly, I'm super-critical of the Oilers. Heck, you go and miss the playoffs for ten straight years after coming within a fart of the Stanley Cup in 2006 and you'll be a smidgen critical of the administration.
The Oilers once again crashed to a deplorable 29th place overall finish in 2015-16. Injuries certainly helped play a part in this, but more importantly so did the fact that the Oilers were once again guilty of not icing a good enough club on many nights. For a few hours, I'm going to put on my 3D rose-coloured lenses and imagine this team getting through 2016-17 without any catastrophic injuries, and being the benefactors of some good luck.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.
The Oilers will be better if...
- they get a full season out of Connor McDavid
Probably the most obvious thing in the world, the Oilers would benefit heavily with a full season of the 2015 number one pick. McDavid's injury shortened season saw him finish with 48 points (16-32-48) in just 45 games. I'm scared to place a ceiling on this one. I think he's way better than 75 points next year if he's healthy. The Oilers finished 26th in goals scored in 2015-16, and a healthy Connor McDavid helps that out quite a bit.
-Continued improvement from Leon Draisaitl
Take a look at Leon's numbers. 51 points! Wow, that's not too bad. 19-31-52 in 72 GP? Is he going to get any better? You sure hope so. A 14.3 shot percentage seems a little high, but 5 power play goals along with 2 game winners sure looks pretty nice. Number 29 spent most of his time last year with Taylor Hall, who drove that line. Who will play alongside Leon? Maroon? Unless 14% is Leon Draisaitl's normal and he shoots the puck an awful lot in 21016-17, I've got to think those numbers might not be as nice. But man, let's hope.
- they get a full season out of Oscar Klefbom
The Oilers' defence is suspect when everyone is healthy. A broken finger and a staph infection limited presumptive top LHD Oscar Klefbom to 30 games in 2015-16. Getting a full season out of Klefbom will go yards in helping improve the defense
- Milan Lucic comes as advertised.
Milan Lucic is a player that most fans (and Edmonton media) were happy to see join the club on July 1. While Lucic isn't as offensively gifted as Taylor Hall, Lucic brings what many believe was lacking to the club in a big-body, physical presence. Fortunately, Lucic is also no dummy when it comes to the puck. Lucic will almost certainly get substantial time on a line with Connor McDavid, which will probably help contribute to bigger numbers for Lucic.
- Adam Larsson makes people forget about a giant crater on the right side
The key (only) cog in the Taylor Hall deal will need to be the best damn right handed defenceman that this team has seen in quite some time. Larsson's game isn't flashy and that's OK, he just needs to be a capable, steady top four (read: top RHD unless something changes soon) guy. It would really help if the Oilers were able to acquire another top four defenceman on the right side, but Larsson will certainly help things at a position the Oilers were the most vulnerable at.
-Cam Talbot doesn't hit the skids
Cam Talbot fared admirably as the season carried on. He'd like to forget a six game slide in October-November that saw him allow 24 goals on 169 total shots. No pressure, Cam.
-Jonas Gustavsson performs at replacement level when backing up Cam Talbot
The Oilers spent only 800 thousand to acquire veteran backup Jonas Gustavsson on July 1st, and he'll help the Oilers if he can play better than he has over his career. Seems like a safe bet, right?
I'm probably missing something (voodoo, mystics, a locker room shaman), but this is what I've got so far. I'd add secondary scoring, and I'd also like to ask for a soft landing for 2016 fourth overall draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi (I currently have him at about a 3% chance of playing anywhere else but the NHL in October) but I know what team I'm following here.
The team needs another RHD to play top four, and that's a big, big piece that will eventually need to be addressed.
But maybe, just maybe can we get a little good luck here to remain competitive until after the new year?