Reasons for Optimism in Edmonton

The Edmonton Oilers have been bad for a really, really long time. Like so bad they’ve gotten the number one pick four times in the last six years. It’s been a steep and long fall for the runner ups from the 2006 season, a season in which Edmonton lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup. That 2006 season was the last time the Oilers have sniffed the playoffs. In the nine plus seasons of the postseason drought, the Oilers have gone through eight coaches and have never finished above 88 points, which came all the way back in 2008. In this decade, the Oilers have never had above 74 points. They’ve piled up the first overall picks and other high picks, and now there is finally some reason for positivity for Oilers fans.

The Oilers stand at 14-16-2, third in their division, although they are below .500. They have had a nice six game winning streak this month before the Rangers ended it. Will the Oilers make the playoffs this season? No, probably not. But they still have a lot to look forward to.

Their high draft picks are finally paying off. Taylor Hall looks like an absolute star in the league. He had a down season last year due to injuries, but now he’s once again playing at a point-per-game clip. The fifth year pro was Edmonton’s first first overall pick in 2010. This year, he finally looks like All-Star they hoped they had drafted five years ago.

The next years first overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is also enjoying a breakout year for the Oilers. His career high in points is 56, which he has set the last two seasons. This season, in just 31 games he has 23 points. The 6′ center has shown the playmaking ability that made him the number one pick in 2011.

Nail Yakupov was picked first overall the next season and has looked like a bust in his first three years, with his career high in points being 33. He also has a career +/- rating of-73. IN JUST THREE YEARS! But even he looks like he’s ready to turn a corner. The Russian sniper hasn’t done much in the goal department, but has improved his playmaking abilities. Unfortunately for Yakupov, he’s currently injured with a hurt ankle. If Yakupov can manage to stay healthy crawl himself out of the deep hole he threw himself in, he can become an integral part of this roster.

They also held the first overall pick this season and drafted Connor McDavid. He was off to an impressive start before he was injured last month.

The Edmonton Oilers are still a very young team. Leon Draisaitl has improved this year, as have Jordan Eberle and Teddy Purcell. The young forwards for Edmonton have started to fill the seats once again at Rexall Place.

The defense is still a work in progress. The Oilers allow the 25th most goals in the NHL. However, promising young defenseman such as Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom have provided good hockey from the back end.

Injuries have also slowed down the rebuilding process this season. Injuries to veterans such as team captain Andrew Ference, Rob Klinkhammer and Benoit Pouliot have been serious detriments to teaching the young guns how to play as a team. Even the injury to Connor McDavid has affected the team offensively.

The Oilers are an extremely young team. Their leading scorers are all under 30 and still learning how to play in the NHL. The team has had some extreme growing pains over the last nine years. They’ve gone a long way from the team in 2006. The inordinate amount of first overall picks and first round picks that they have stockpiled over the years are finally beginning to pay off. No one on that team remains on this roster. Edmonton is a team that has learned how to lose together, but soon enough, this is a team that will learn how to win together and hopefully bring more good hockey to a city pleading for some good hockey.

 

Photo via NHL.com

Statistics via ESPN.com

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