Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Offseason report: Edmonton Oilers

5 Comments

From July 16-Aug 16, we’ll be profiling all 30 NHL teams by recapping what they did this offseason and previewing their upcoming campaigns.

2011-12 season

32-40-10, 74 points. 14th in Western Conference, fifth in Northwest Division.

Additions

Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov

Departures

Cam Barker, Ryan Keller, Taylor Chorney

2012 Draft

First overall — Nail Yakupov (F – Sarnia – OHL)

Looking back

It was yet another miserable season for the Oilers. While there were glimmers of hope for the future thrown in with how well Jordan Eberle played (34 goals, 76 points), they saw Taylor Hall again run into injury problems missing 21 games and rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins too missed 20 games. Those two fellow youngsters played great hockey, but it doesn’t do them any good being hurt.

While the slew of youngsters played great, the same issues that plagued Edmonton for the last few years remained. Defensively they were brutal ranking 23rd in goals allowed. Devan Dubnyk showed hope that he could be their goalie of the future but still split time with Nikolai Khabibulin. The defense had no real leaders nor anyone all that great.

Being unhealthy and unable to keep opponents off the scoreboard help you land in a position to get the first overall pick in the draft for the third year in a row.

Looking forward

The Oilers managed to get younger in the offseason. While they haven’t splurged in free agency, signing former Ducks pick Justin Schultz as a free agent and then picking Yakupov first overall helped the Oilers add a lot of very young talent quickly. Schultz will give them a young potential stud on the blue line while Yakupov figures to be another possible superstar forward. Edmonton is really gunning hard to recreate the dynasty years.

They’ll have to hope Schultz can live up to the hype right away and steady a defensive corps that’s been nothing short of awful in recent seasons. If they can have that happen and see Dubnyk continue to improve his game maybe things get better in Edmonton and maybe they can push for eighth in the West.

That said, the team is still terribly thin at forward with lots of other young guys (Linus Omark, Magnus Paajarvi) unsure of where they stand with the team and others (Sam Gagner, Ryan Jones) still figuring what exactly their game is. Factor in a handful of veterans like Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth and… You still don’t know what you have.

There’s hope here, there’s too much young talent around not to, but there are a lot of questions surrounding this team.

Have your say

Vote in our poll and let us know what you think of the Oilers’ 2012-13 outlook in the comments section.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

3 Comments

Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

1 Comment

The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
1 Comment

There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal