Edmonton Oilers 2008 Offseason Report
Edmonton almost snuck into the playoffs in the spring but came up four points short for the third time in the last four seasons (the one other time was their Stanley Cup final loss to the Hurricanes). The Oilers were semi-busy this off season improving the team by adding a few veterans while continuing to keep the team one of the youngest in the league. Expectations last season were not as high as they will be this up coming season
The Oilers allowed the second most goals in the Western Conference last season with a staggering 247 while only potting in 220. Those extra 47 goals against were the difference between the playoffs and going home early. I would like to blame it on two things; the inexperience and the goaltending.
Of the 25 man roster, this team has 14 players that are 25 years old or younger. This is definitely a team that needs time to develop into the NHL game and will a force to reckon with in the near future.
Sam Gagner had a very good season scoring 49 points and had many highlight reel shootout goals but on the downside, he was also a -21 (worst on the team). Andrew Cogliano played in all 82 games managing 45 points and looked really good on the ice throughout the year. Overall the Oilers looked small but skilful and very, very fast.
Ales Hemsky led the team with his 71 points but he is not much of a leader. His skill is second to none on the team while is effort can be questionable. Shawn Horcoff, who is seen as the leader, missed nearly 20 games with an injury which took its toll on his team. At 29, Horcoff is one of the elders on the team so the organization brought in some solid vets to help the leader out.
Erik Cole will be a perfect fit on the Oilers with his grit and sniping hands while on the blue-line, the signings of Lubomir Visnovsky and Jason Strudwick are also fitting.
Both new defenders help out the depth on the defensive side since Sheldon Souray is having a hard time playing a full season. Souray signed a huge deal with the Oils but only managed to play in 26 games and only 10 points. Now if he slips and falls, Edmonton can look to its other players for credible results with worrying.
Now my other concern for the team is the goaltending situation. Dwayne Roloson has had one, maybe two good years for the Oilers until they signed him to a big contract, go figure. Last season he only started in 43 games, winning 15 with ended with a save percentage of .901 and zero shutouts. That puts him in the same category as Andrew Raycroft.
Goalie #2, Mathieu Garon, may be the new goalie #1 with his play last year. He finished the season with a 26-18-1 record with four shutouts and a higher save percentage than Roloson. Smells like a goalie controversy in Edmonton that involves an over paid 38 year old and young gunner playing very well.
Coach Craig MacTavish is entering his eighth season behind the bench and I can’t remember ever seeing him this excited. Now he officially has a young core of talent for him to mold into whatever the hell he wants. Even with his excitement he still knows that this is still a two to four year project.
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Notable top players staying for the Edmonton Oilers:
Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson, Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios, Mathieu Garon, Dwayne Roloson, Denis Grebeshkov
Edmonton Oilers - Players added via free agency & trades:
Edmonton Oilers - Players lost to free agency & trades:
What Edmonton has:
Youth. An incredible roster of young talent. The question is: who will break out of their shell?
Underrated defensemen. Souray is the only blue-liner that has “star” talent, everyone else is being looked past. Visnovsky, Strudwick, Gilbert, Grebeshkov and Staios are all players that can produce accordingly and should protect the net better than last year.
Patience. Though the organization is expecting better numbers this season, they are very aware of the youth and the time it takes to make a contending team.
What Edmonton needs:
#1 goalie. I say Garon deserves a shot, since the two goalie system is obviously not working with Roloson’s statistics.
Better road record. Of all the playoff teams, only Colorado had a .500 away record while everyone else had more wins than losses. Edmonton needs to find away to win more games in other teams arenas.
Stop goals. When you allow 47 more goals than what you score, winning is hard. Somehow, someway, they need to keep the puck out of their net.
Expectations for the Oilers next year:
I will enjoy watching the Oilers this year and really hope they make the playoffs. Unfortunately, I think it is a little too early for this futuristic team to be playing hockey in the post season. Not doubt they will tease us with either a streaky start or an exciting finishing run for the playoffs but the Northwest is tough to get out of. Team of the future, not of the present.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Director of Content
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