As we approach the 2016-17 season, we’re previewing what’s ahead for each of the 30 NHL teams. Next up: The Edmonton Oilers.
MAIN SUMMER HEADLINES
• Oilers select Jesse Puljujarvi fourth overall
Head coach: Todd McLellan
GM: Peter Chiarelli
Team payroll: $64.6 million ($73 million salary cap)
2015-16 Record: 31-43-8 (Seventh in Pacific)
GF: 203 (25th in NHL)
GA: 245 (26th in NHL)
Result: Missed playoffs by 17 points
Key acquisitions: Adam Larsson, Milan Lucic, Jonas Gustavsson
Key departures: Taylor Hall, Lori Korpikoski, Teddy Purcell
Rookies to watch: Jesse Puljujarvi was a consensus top-three pick at the 2016 draft until the Columbus Blue Jackets passed him over for Pierre-Luc Dubois. As a result, the Finnish phenom fell into the Oilers’ lap at No. 4 and they must still be overjoyed. This 6-foot-3, 205-pound winger is ready for the show. After putting together a sterling international resume with Team Finland and showing his playmaking ability with Karpat of the Finnish Liiga, he’s going to be a pleasure to watch as a part of this high-flying Oilers offence.
Edmonton will have a successful season if…
McLellan gets everyone on board with playing high-pressure hockey in all three zones.
This team has speed in spades, and if used effectively, it can make up for some of the deficiencies it has on the back end.
If Connor McDavid can lead the effort on the backcheck, the kids will follow. Milan Lucic and Kris Versteeg (PTO) could be big influences on getting everyone to commit as well.
That’s what it’s about for Edmonton this season. It needs all its players committed to the structure McLellan will implement.
Not only that, but this mixture of blue-liners, with the addition of Adam Larsson, needs to take a step up. Larsson came at the heavy price of Taylor Hall, so if the defence corps continues to be a shortcoming, the Oilers will stay stuck in the mud.
Edmonton will have an unsuccessful season if…
The goaltenders don’t do their part.
Cam Talbot has the ability and he’s now proven capable of taking on the workload of a No. 1 goalie. He’s played 113 games in the NHL (including 56 last season) and at 29 years old he has to be a leader.
If Talbot can’t muster anything better than a .920 save percentage, this Oilers team is doomed. The defence is slightly improved with Larsson, but it’s not good enough to make up for Talbot being anything less than top-tier.
As for Jonas Gustavsson, he’s going to have to be better as an auxiliary than he was in Boston last season, where he posted an 11-9-1 record with a .908 save percentage.
The Oilers need this duo to carry them to their first playoff appearance in over 10 years. It’s a tall order.