The Edmonton Oilers, with three recent first overall picks on the squad, went into the 2013-14 campaign with the goal of taking the leap from rebuilding to competing for a playoff spot. Instead, they’re in the Western Conference basement with a 1-5-1 record, but that hasn’t crushed the team’s spirit.
“I remember playing Columbus last year at about the 20-game mark and they were a team that was well below .500 but you could tell they were a team that was playing well and about to make a charge,” Taylor Hall told the Edmonton Sun.
“I feel like we’re on that verge. We’re sticking with teams that have a lot of skill and we’re working just as hard as them. I have a different feel with this group.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets are an interesting comparison. That team started 5-12-4 last season and finished with a 24-17-7 record, but their breakout was courtesy of a strong defense and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Until that point, goaltending had been an ongoing issue for Columbus as they got glimmers of hope from Steve Mason following his rookie season, but not much else.
The Oilers need a similar defensive and goaltending transformation, but they can’t count on Devan Dubnyk or Jason LaBarbera winning the Vezina Trophy. Still, one way or another, if they can get solid goaltending for any extended stretch, the Oilers might start looking very good.