GDHQNHL15_2pg-Edmonton Oilers 2

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The other defensive options feature players who simply did not distinguish themselves as players who could stop opposing offenses or at least turn the puck possession battle in Edmonton’s favor. Players like Jeff Petry, Martin Marincin, Nick Schultz, and Mark Fraser were simply not up to the task of filling what was a huge void on this team. To make matters worse, the forwards largely consisted of young players who have not quite learned the nuances of NHL defense. Unlike players such as Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar, who have mastered the two-way game, players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle remain mostly offense-only options. Everything culminated in a defense that was simply badly overmatched and often overwhelmed. It doesn’t appear that much help is on the horizon either. The one defenseman Edmonton acquired in free agency was Nikita Nikitin, formerly of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nikitin enters in a similar situation to Ference – a decent defenseman who will have to fill the role of go-to defensive stopper, a role he’s probably not well-suited for. With the arrival of Nikitin and another year of experience, it’s hard to see Edmonton’s defense being quite as bad as it was last year. At the same time, it’s hard to see Edmonton’s defense being something other than a bottom five unit either. Goaltending Devan Dubnyk quickly became the scapegoat for Edmonton’s defensive woes. In previous seasons, Dubnyk had been a steady but unspectacular netminder for the Oilers, consistently posting a goals against average in the 2.60 range. Last season, that number spiked to 3.43 and Dubnyk was traded to Nashville in exchange for forward Matt Hendricks. After parting ways with Dubnyk, the Oilers tried a handful of goaltenders but none of them worked. Players like Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth, and Ilya Bryzgalov quickly found out that playing goalie is more difficult when the defense in front of them can neither block the puck nor take it away. Only Fasth was able to earn a goals against average of under 3.00, but in just seven games played. Scrivens is penciled in as the starter with Fasth as the backup to begin 2014-15, but it’s difficult to imagine any goalie succeeding on this team unless the defense is significantly improved. Power Play The Oilers have the forwards in place to have a potentially dynamic power play. Hall, Eberle and Perron are all prolific scorers. Ryan Nugent- Hopkins is a solid offensive player with the potential to improve greatly. New arrivals like Benoit Pouliot may be able to bolster the power play and offense in general right now. With the power play being Edmonton’s best chance to possess the puck, it should be a situation where their handful of talented forwards shine. However, just as Edmonton’s defensemen struggle badly in defense, the Oilers don’t have many great scorers on the blue line either. Justin Schultz checks in as the only decent scorer of the group, but even he only scored 33 points last year. None of the other defensemen was a significant scorer, with Jeff Petry second among the group with just 17 points. A lack of good blue-line threats has hurt Edmonton’s power play potential, making this a below-average unit. Penalty Kill Surprisingly, the penalty kill was the one area in which the Oilers ranked average or better by NHL standards. Edmonton killed 82.1 percent of opponents’ power plays in the 2013-14 season, a mark that ranked 14th in the league. This followed rates of 83.4% in 2012-13 and 82.4 percent in 2011-12, so there is good reason to believe the relatively strong performance was not a fluke. For the most part, the reason for Edmonton’s sudden competence in penalty kill situations seems like a mystery. One idea is that veterans like Ryan Smyth (now retired), Eric Belanger, and Anton Lander helped shore up the penalty kill unit on the team. If that’s the case, Edmonton’s penalty kill could be in trouble with Lander being the only player of that group remaining Jordan Eberle on the team. Either way, I would expect this team’s penalty kill to regress as long as the defense struggles in general. Prediction A lack of offensive depth and defensive talent will once again doom the Oilers to finish well outside of playoff contention. However, a slight improvement on defense and further experience for Edmonton’s young talent will help make the Oilers a more competitive team overall. Scoreboard 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH DNQ DNQ DNQ DNQ DNQ REGULAR SEASON 29-44-9 19-22-7 32-40-10 25-45-12 27-47-8 POINT TOTAL 67 45 74 62 62 SHOOTOUT RECORD 4-3 2-3 5-7 2-9 8-6 GOALS SCORED 203 125 212 193 214 GOALS ALLOWED 270 134 239 269 284 POWER PLAY % 17.0 20.1 20.6 14.5 17.3 PENALTY KILL % 82.1 83.4 82.4 77.0 78.0 PHOTO/NHL/Getty Images


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