Nevertheless, change has happened up in Edmonton and the rose-coloured glasses have been cleaned up with a little bit of Windex and things appear to be moving forward... again. I think.
It's a real shame that McDavid did lose so many games to his broken collarbone, the number one overall pick from last Summer's draft was tremendous in the games that he did play, but this sport is so much more than those individual efforts and the rest of the team was still very much like the team that was, than the team that its potential says they are going to be.
Besides McDavid, there were some positives for the Oilers, as they showed off some future talent on the blueline in Darnell Nurse and they appear to be more confident in a goalie like Cam Talbot, so there's hope there. But being the worst team in the West means that there is still a ton of work to do and still some mistakes that need to be corrected.
It was another year where the excitement for the Oilers potential, outweighed the end results in the pool and that has been a common theme in the pool. 14 Oilers were taken in September last year, including a couple of their top end rookies. The mid-season goalie conundrum saw a straight-swap in Week Nine at the Waiver Draft, while it was one drop and one pick-up at the Week Eighteen Waiver Draft as well. When the year was all said and done, the trade deadline passing, there were 11 Oilers on active rosters.
It was another decent year for Taylor Hall, who fell into the shadows of their prime time rookie sensation, but his numbers were still very respectable. Hall finished 35th overall in pool scoring, picking up 65 points in all 82 games, which was also good enough for 20th among all forwards. Hall continues to show why he was a 1st overall pick, back in 2010, except he struggles to help his team win games.
Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Maroon were also pool worthy, despite some injury problems to most of these guys. Of course, those guys who were injured were taken much higher than where they finished in the rankings, which was a tell-tale sign of where they finished. Thanks to injuries again, there was only one pool-worthy defenseman and that was the off-season acquisition, Andrej Sekera, and then it was their other off-season acquisition, Cam Talbot, who was their only pool-worthy goalie in 2016 as well. It was certainly a good year for the new guys.
What I Said Last Year, At This Time...
I will join the many, who have voiced their disgust in the luck the Oilers have had with getting 1st overall draft picks, but my prediction will be fairly close to the same as last year. Despite gaining a franchise player, like McDavid, the Oilers still need some drastic change in their thinking, as teams in the NHL are built to withstand the possibility of another run and gun destiny team, like the Oilers of the 1980's. Unless there is a move to shift one of their top end picks, Eberle being the better for returns, they won't improve as a whole. The free agent pool is shallow and likely won't help a great deal, so unless they can move an Eberle or a Nugent-Hopkins, the 2016 season will be another one for the newly-altered Draft Lottery as well.
As shallow as the free agent pool was, the Oilers did make a little bit of noise from it, but there certainly wasn't much in the way of foundation building blocks, especially on the blueline. The core group of forwards remained, even with the influx of McDavid and Draisaitl. Yet, the result was eerily similar to previous years. They didn't win enough games. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that they didn't have nearly as much luck in the draft lottery this time around.
2017 Pool Outlook
|Taylor Hall||6.000||Andrej Sekera||5.500||Cam Talbot||4.167|
|Nail Yakupov||2.500||Oscar Klefbom||4.167||Nick Ellis||0.925|
|Lauri Korpikoski||2.500||Mark Fayne||3.500||Laurent Brossoit||0.750|
|Matt Hendricks||1.850||Andrew Ference||3.250||Eetu Laurikainen||0.640|
|Mark Letestu||1.800||Brandon Davidson||1.425|
|Anton Lander||1.238||Joey LaLeggia||0.884|
|Anton Slepyshev||0.925||Darnell Nurse||0.863|
|Jujhar Khaira||0.875||Griffin Reinhart||0.863|
|Mitchell Moroz||0.875||Dillon Simpson||0.837|
|Bogdan Yakimov||0.843||Caleb Jones||0.705|
|Jere Sallinen||0.793||Ben Betker||0.683|
The entire cast of pool-worthy players from last season is already signed and ready to go for next season, but that isn't really saying too much about their blueline. Sure, Klefbom was hurt for a good portion of the year, Fayne and Ference were not around for their offense, while Nurse and Reinhart are still trying to come around. Will any of these guys be worth picking next September or will they possibly have any luck in the free agent market?
I would normally like to save this spot for players that we really haven't seen yet in the team's active roster or at least, in a very limited role. For the Oilers, most of the players we should be excited about have played a bit, so it's hard to really find someone who fits this bill. Laurent Brossoit should get a little bit more time as the team's back-up this coming season, so he might be the guy to have a closer look at, when it all gets going in September. He did well in limited showings, after Anders Nilsson was dealt at the deadline.
Needs at the 2016 Entry Draft
With the Oilers getting bumped down to the 4th overall pick from the Draft Lottery, they will have a shot at either another forward, which could be among those in the North American list, but they really should be looking to continue a run on defensemen, especially with their core group there at the moment. At one point or another, they will have to draft a defender and it could be in their best interest to try and trade down, since there will be a lot of teams looking for those prized forwards, while the Oilers could gain an asset and still get the guy they want. I would say that Jakob Chychrun could fall into their laps at four or possibly a bit lower and it would fit right into the plan... you know, if they shared the same vision as everyone.
Free Agency and the Salary Cap
In the rebuilding stage, teams should be more worried about their restricted free agents and there could be a few worth considering to keep around for next season, on short-term deals, of course. Iiro Pakarainen and Zack Kassian found regular roles up front, while Adam Clendening was in and out on the blueline.
The blueline will have a few more questions posed from the unrestricted free agents, as Eric Gryba and Adam Pardy are both up for renewals and unless the Oilers are out shopping for someone a little more well-rounded, they might have no choice but to re-sign these guys.
As for the cap, the Oilers should have a little bit more room kicking around this year, with some of their higher-priced guys unsigned or moved along, as the 34 guys listed above are only coming in at $70.7 million in total. It won't be a lot of room, but another entry-level deal here and there could certainly help their cause.
Now is truly the time for the Oilers management to really get serious about rounding out their lineup. Even with a healthy McDavid and Klefbom all year, there isn't enough in that lineup that says that this team is going to finally make the next step. The Oilers are in a division that is now ruled out of California, the Canucks and Flames have potential to be a little bit better next season, so it will take some immense strides to find a divisional playoff spot, let alone try and keep up with the Central Division, which owned the wild card spots this year. If there are significant changes made to the blueline, we could revisit an improved prediction, but today... no dice. I'm expecting another down year at this rate.