Cam Talbot

Edmonton Oilers ’15-16 Outlook

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With Connor McDavid in the fold there’s a renewed sense of optimism in Edmonton, and rightfully so. The 18-year-old is the best player to come out of the NHL Draft since Sidney Crosby did in 2005.

McDavid finished last season with 44 goals and 120 points while appearing 47 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. He added 21 goals and 49 points in 20 playoff games. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound center won both the OHL and CHL player of the year.

Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli knows there’ll bumps in the road for his star forward as he adjusts to the NHL game.

“He does have some challenges that he’ll have to meet as any good, young, elite prospect will have,” said Chiarelli. “It’s a strong game, strong players and they lean on you. He’s smart, he’ll figure that out, but he’s going to have some learning curves.”

Front office shakeup

Former Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson is now in charge, and has left his mark on the organization in the few months since taking over as the Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group.

Chiarelli along with head coach Todd McLellan represent a new era in Edmonton. Nicholson has since re-assigned Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe.

Joining McLellan behind the bench are three new assistant coaches in Jay Woodcroft, Jim Johnson and Ian Herbers.

As Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur said in April, “They’re not the same old Oilers, and that’s a start.”

What to expect

Despite addressing issues in goal (Cam Talbot) and making additions to the blue line (Griffin Reinhart, Eric Gryba and Andrej Sekera), the Edmonton Oilers chances of ending their nine-year playoff drought are slim at best.

Given the Oilers play in the Pacific Division with the likes of the Anaheim Ducks, L.A. Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, making the playoffs is this season is unrealistic.

The Oilers have not reached the 30 win mark in a season since 2011-12 (32) and should see an improvement on their 24-44-14 record from last season.

Related: Oilers’ biggest question: What about the blue line?

Poll: Have the Oilers fixed their goaltending?

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The Edmonton Oilers went into last season fairly confident that their goaltending would be better.

It was not.

In fact, based on team save percentage, the Oilers had the worst goaltending in the NHL, at .888.

And so a couple of things happened. First, Peter Chiarelli replaced Craig MacTavish as general manager. Second, Chiarelli acquired Cam Talbot from the Rangers.

Talbot went 21-9-4 with a .926 save percentage last season — which was very good — but the 28-year-old has started only 53 career NHL games — which is not much to go on.

“I think he’s really come into his own,” Chiarelli said of Talbot, per the Edmonton Journal. “With a goalie like that, there’s a smaller sample size for these guys, so you never know. It’s such an inexact science these goalies. But he’s played really well for two years now. And he really played well in crunch time for the Rangers.”

Talbot will compete with incumbent Ben Scrivens for the net next season. Both goalies are pending unrestricted free agents, so the club isn’t tied to either long term. Another goalie, Anders Nilsson, is in the mix, too.

OK, time to vote:

Related: Talbot knows he has a ‘great opportunity’ in Edmonton

It’s Edmonton Oilers day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Edmonton Oilers.

For a ninth consecutive season the Edmonton Oilers found themselves on the outside looking in when the playoffs began last spring.

Edmonton’s 24-44-14 record was good for 13th in the Western Conference and 28th overall.

As a result of another poor regular season, the Oilers landed in the NHL Draft lottery and for a fourth time in six years won the first overall selection picking Connor McDavid at the June draft.

Jordan Eberle led the Oilers in scoring with 24 goals and 63 points in 81 games, but finished well off his career-high of 34 goals set during the 2011-12 season.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continued to see his goal totals rise setting a new career-high with 24 goals and matched his personal-best 56 points.

Injuries limited Taylor Hall to just 53 games. The 23-year-old scored 14 goals and 24 assists. His 38 points were good for third in Oilers scoring.

Justin Schultz was the top scoring defenseman with six goals goals and 31 points to go along with a minus-17 rating in 81 games.

In goal, Ben Scrivens shouldered the load going 15-26-11 while posting a 3.16 G.A.A. and a .890 save percentage in 57 appearances.

Off-season recap

The biggest off-season moves for the Oilers came off the ice as Peter Chiarelli replaced Craig MacTavish as the club’s general manager and hired Todd McLellan to take over as head coach from Todd Nelson.

On the ice, Chiarelli addressed some of the club’s biggest issues trading for goaltender Cam Talbot and defenseman Griffin Reinhart.

Edmonton also added depth trading veteran Boyd Gordon to Arizona for Lauri Korpikoski.

Chiarelli dipped into the free agent pool and inked free agent defenseman Andrej Sekera and center Mark Letestu.

Talbot knows he has a ‘great opportunity’ in Edmonton

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Not that anyone expects the Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup next season. But at the very least, with Connor McDavid, a new coach in Todd McLellan, and a few other tweaks, there’s pressure for them to be much better.

Cam Talbot will shoulder much of that pressure. The 28-year-old goalie that the Oilers got in a trade with the Rangers is expected to battle Ben Scrivens for the starting job next season. Another goalie, Anders Nilsson, is in the mix, too.

“It’s definitely an exciting time for this organization to get a generational player like everyone’s been saying like Connor,” Talbot said, per NHL.com.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for me here, to be able to come in and work with a good young group of guys and obviously a group that’s headed in the right direction.”

Goaltending was once again a major issue for Edmonton last season, despite the club’s best efforts to fix the problem with Scrivens and Viktor Fasth.

And let’s not forget that Talbot has only started 53 NHL games in his entire career. Though his numbers are impressive in that small sample (.931 save percentage), it’s like Craig MacTavish once said, “I think anyone who tells you they’re sure about the performance of their goaltenders based on a relatively small sample size, is not likely accurate.”

In Talbot’s favor, he’s been able to watch one of the best in the game go about his business.

“Getting to play behind a guy like [Henrik Lundqvist], you learn a lot and you get to see what it takes to be a No. 1 [goalie] in this league,” he said.

Trade: Oilers add goalie depth, get Nilsson from Chicago

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Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli continued to bolster his goaltending on Monday, acquiring Anders Nilsson from the Blackhawks in exchange for unsigned prospect Liam Coughlin.

Nilsson, 25, is an interesting entity. Picked 62nd overall by the Isles in 2009, he appeared in 23 games for New York over three seasons before signing with KHL team AK Bars Kazan last summer. A few months later, the Isles traded Nilsson’s rights — he was an RFA upon leaving for Russia — as part of the deal that saw Nick Leddy head to Long Island.

In Russia, Nilsson resurrected his stock by going 20-9-8 with a 1.71 GAA and .936 save percentage. He also played for Team Sweden at the 2015 Worlds, splitting time with Jhonas Enroth.

At 6-foot-5, Nilsson cuts an imposing figure in goal and it’ll be curious to see where he lands on the Edmonton depth chart. Chiarelli went out and acquired Cam Talbot from the Rangers at the draft, and already had Ben Scrivens in the fold. One has to think Scrivens could be in direct competition for the No. 2 gig with Nilsson, assuming Talbot enters the season as the Oilers’ starter.