The 2013 Edmonton Oilers had a lot of expectations coming into this season, postseason play being one of them, and although they did not make the postseason, those expectations are certain to roll over into 2014.
Sure, I am disappointed the Oilers aren’t in the playoffs like I had hoped and predicted, but overall, I am actually pleased with several things the Oilers did this year. The goaltending, though atrocious to some, was not that to me. Devan Dubnyk proved that he can be a number one goaltender in this league. While he was 14-16 in games he started this season, he did have a 2.57 goals-against average with a save percentage of .920. He also made some amazing saves this year, like this one against Calgary on April 2. I think Dubnyk is this team’s leading goaltender going forward, though I’d love to see a guy like Olivier Roy of the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder come up and be his back-up some day.
The Oilers need to rely on their young guns more this coming season. With guys like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Magnus Pjaarvi, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, and Nail Yakopov, there’s no reason this team should be missing the postseason period. If this team is going to be successful in getting to the postseason, the young guys need to be the main focus. If you look at other teams in the league who are in contention for the Cup, they have pretty young line-ups.
They also need to play with more heart, determination,and confidence. There were many games this past season that the Oilers should have had locked up, but lost in the end. Had they not lost a good portion of them, we would be seeing them in their first playoff appearance since their 2006 run to the Stanley Cup Finals and this column wouldn’t even be written. I’d love to see a guy like Yakupov on the second line. He has loads of talent and proved to be a bright spot towards the end of the season, even earning his first career hat trick in the final game of the season against Vancouver, an 8-2 Edmonton win.
Some veterans have to go. I hate to say it, but Ryan Smyth’s best days are behind him. At 37, Smyth doesn’t have much left in the tank. His meager two goals this season said as much and it may be time for him to either retire or resume his career elsewhere. I don’t know if Nikolai Khabibulin should retire or not. Khabibulin,41, has been known to get a lot of saves in the few games he does start,but how much longer can he keep that up? It may be time to get a younger goaltender to back up Dubnyk. Ryan Whitney is also a guy that the Oilers could get some trade value out of, either in the form of prospects or possibly a key player that can help the team win and win fast.
I am forever hopeful that the Oilers, as young and talented as they are, can get to the postseason next season. They flirted with the eighth spot this past year for a bit, and if they could flirt with it a little longer (and hopefully better), they’re in,yo!