As we inch closer to the regular season, Oilers fans such as myself are anticipating great things. The Canada Red-White game last night was another testament to Edmonton's recent draft success. Although, Dillon Simpson is a longshot to make the team, the oilers boasted a star forward, potential number one goaltender and a potential puck moving defenceman.
The youth on display is another shining beacon, but I cannot wait for the hockey season to start. I am excited for RNH's debut as well as seeing many of the new faces brought in. Were upgrades made? I can't say for certain that Andy Sutton is an improvement on Strudwick, but what I can say is that Strudwick's time was up and Foster was not as good as he needed to be. I think Vandermeer is a significant loss, but with developing kids such as Jeff Petry and Cam Barker hopefully finding his way the Oilers D may be somewhat better. Up front is another story. Steve Tambellini did an excellent job of beefing up at the NHL and AHL level. The amount of bodies in camp to compete for spots is a dramatic improvement from years past. There are plenty of youngsters to push experienced vets and competition makes everyone better. Addin Ryan Smyth to the core provides an excellent example of how hard the young guns need to work to get ice time.
The one area that the Oilers need to address is on the Defence. They are a top 4 person away. Petry could grab that spot as early as this year, but it is still a question mark. Many people have been critical of the goaltending situation. At the NHL level I believe Devan Dubnyk will continue to entrench himself as the #1 goaltender. Khabibulin will have a better year, mostly because he can't be any worse, but also because he will be starting the year with no legal issues and he is a competitor. If he can post a S% above .900 he could be a .500 goaltender and Dubnyk should be better than that while starting 50+ games for the mighty oil typhoon.
As far as predictions go, I have no clue where the Oilers could end up. I want to say the Oilers will make the playoffs, but with the additions of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and others to the already ultra competitive Western Conference I don't think it is possible. They will finish anywhere from 10-13 in the conference if injuries do not become a major factor. The team should be able to send out 3 lines that can contribute offensively and help swing momentum back in the right direction. The toughness of this team will be better served than JFJ and S MAC because they can play the game in more situations.
This team should be competitive on most nights and special to watch on many. There will be setbacks, but with Tom Renney at the helm this young team is going to move up the standings for a number of years