Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Edmonton Oilers.
Change has been consistent for the Oilers over the last five years. Five coaching changes. Three captain changes (four, if you count the one game Ryan Smyth wore the “C”). Numerous personnel and front office changes.
And this summer was no different.
In an effort to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006, Edmonton made some big moves. Literally. The club addressed its lack of size and depth on defense by adding Nikita Nikitin (6-foot-4, 223 pounds), Mark Fayne (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and Keith Aulie (6-foot-6, 228 pounds). Up front, a big splash was made by inking Benoit Pouliot to a five-year, $20M pact — this coming after Pouliot, at age 27, scored a career-high 36 points with the Rangers — and the club finally parted ways with Sam Gagner, who always seemed to be in the rumor mill, by flipping him to Tampa in exchange for Teddy Purcell.
Changes happened off the ice, too.
A pair of polar opposites were brought aboard as Dallas Eakins’ assistant coaches: Rocky Thompson, the former journeyman pugilist and Craig Ramsay, the longtime NHL bench boss. Thompson is just 37 years old and was playing professionally in 2007; Ramsay, 63, is a well-traveled veteran that’s head coaching gigs in Buffalo, Philadelphia and Atlanta to go along with assistant/associate jobs in Florida, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Boston.
Upstairs, the Oilers made a bit of a splash by hiring advanced statistics blogger Tyler Dellow as an analytics specialist. Eakins called the Dellow hire “the perfect match” for the organization, adding “we think there’s going to be a great opportunity to look at our team in a number of different ways that Tyler can help us.”
So yes. Change abounds.
The real question, of course, is if the results will be any different. The Oilers were bad last year, finishing dead last in the Western Conference while allowing an NHL-high 270 goals. Granted, the Taylor Hall-Jordan Eberle-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins troika is still maturing and wildly talented, the defense looks to be better and the goaltending situation should be more fluid with a full season of the Ben Scrivens-Viktor Fasth combo… but the Oilers still play in one of the NHL’s toughest divisions, and they went an ugly 8-17-4 against the Pacific last season.
Given how badly things went in ’13-14, it’s fair to suggest the Oilers will be better this year than the last. But how much better? For a team that hasn’t tasted the playoffs in six seasons, minimal improvements probably won’t appease the suffering fanbase.