Anyone can say that the Oilers have been rebuilding since 2007 but have they? Sure they have added some big name talent in proven players such as Eberle, Hall, RNH and Nail. Plus hopefuls such as Reinhart, Nurse, Draisatl and even Schultz for some prospecting sites. Still this is the first real year of anything resembling an attempt to improve the franchise all around.
Obviously the biggest factor has to be from an entire organizational stand point. Until this year we have basically been sending great young talent to the wolves. Continual new coaching and GMs have made any development by these players in leagues with a miracle. This year Katz finally realized he had a team and not just a lucrative real estate venture. A change from the top down and it looks like a proper development structure is in place.
Sending the young talent down to the AHL helps in a big way. It improves the new franchise substantially and sells seats. Which, as a fan is not the biggest part. Sold seats means cheering fans and marginally more pressure for the young players to improve. They also get a chance to learn the new coaching strategies in a setting where they can dominate while they learn. This will also boost confidence and allow for them to move more seamlessly into the NHL club.
One of the best moves done by the new coaching staff has been to give Nail a chance to fight for a spot on the PP. Something that he never got with Eakins and was rare with MacT. Nail was not the Oilers best hopes for leading the team to victory but he may be one of the only wingers other than Hall and Eberle that can keep up with the talent of the Oilers centers.
Many will argue with me and say that McDavid is the best thing to happen to the team this year. There is no doubt that this kid has already proven he is everything he was built up to be. Not only is he dangerous in any situation but he makes his line mates better. Plus he has an infectious winning attitude that as a fan I can sense and I can only imagine what that does to the Veteran Oilers that have become okay with losing.
With all the success Nail has had so far, a lot of credit has to go to RNH. Obviously McDavid seemed to be ear marked for the top line position. Nuge has stepped up his game substantially and allowed McDavid to play without the pressure of being the top center. Not saying that he would fail if he were put in this role but it has to make it easier knowing you aren't expected to carry the NHL franchise... yet.
The Oilers have added two goalies. One is a prospect we got from Calgary who looks to be the real deal. Nilson may very well be the Oilers future star net minder. However Talbot also appears to be a solid starting goalie in the NHL. I would think the team would want to lock him up or deal him before the trade deadline. Not doing so would mean they gave up a ton for a one year rental in a season where they were not projected to even make the playoffs.
This time next year the talk will be all about the young squad. No doubt the club will play its four amazing wingers in Hall, Eberle, Draisatl (he will play wing) and Nail. I think there is increasingly less doubt that these players won't develop in a big way this season and be ready to open the new arena as part of the top 6. The blue line will most likely see Klef, Schultz, Nurse and Reinhart as 4 of their top 5. I think by the end of the year, Sekeras will be the sixth man. Hopefully the Oilers can add one more defender.
With this line up on wing and defense, coupled with a strong young goalie and the likes of RNH and McDavid at center, the potential for this club next season is completely unpredictable. I expect the Vegas odds to range significantly. With Arizona currently leading the Division, it would not surprise me if the Oilers would dominate in the same way. Different teams but the Oilers top 6, comprised of 4 first overall picks, a third and a sixth... the team could pull off the unexpected.
One thing for certain is that the Oilers will be a playoff threat next year and for the next decade at least. The change started before McDavid was chosen and he is not the only player on the ice. Still there is no doubt he will establish the Oilers in the same way that he did the Otters. Take the club from virtually no where and lead them back into being a consistent playoff team.