The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs eight times in a row. Understandably, their fans are getting a little tired of the whole rebuilding thing.
But even though a ninth straight missed postseason seems likely in the tough Western Conference, there are still reasons for optimism. After all, in sports, there are always reasons for optimism.
Edmonton’s goaltending, for starters, couldn’t possibly be worse this season than it was in 2013-14, when Devan Dubnyk’s early-season struggles helped put the Oilers in a deep hole right off the bat. Now they’ve got Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens between the pipes. Fasth has a .915 career save percentage in the NHL; Scrivens is at .917. At least one of them should be reliable. Right?
Edmonton’s blue line, meanwhile, added a couple of experienced defenders in Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. The Oilers had the worst goals-against in the league last season. Obviously, not all of that was on the defense (we already mentioned the goaltending, and the forwards share responsibility too), but clearly changes were needed.
The hiring of analytics expert Tyler Dellow (a.k.a. the Oilers’ “biggest critic”) has been seen as a positive by many who felt the club had been overly reliant on old-school ideas to build its roster. The signing of Benoit Pouliot to a five-year, $20 million deal may have been evidence of a willingness to look deeper into the numbers.
And, of course, the Oilers still have their trio of first overall picks — Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov — plus other talented youngsters like Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, and David Perron. Eventually, all that talent has to amount to something good. Right?
Finally, the Oilers will start the 2014-15 season with the same head coach. Which is notable, because Edmonton fired Tom Renney in 2012 and Ralph Krueger in 2013, before hiring Dallas Eakins last summer. Not that Eakins had a dream rookie season behind an NHL bench — far from it — but at least the players won’t have to get used to another new guy.
OK, time to vote. Feel free to add your own reason for optimism in the comments section.