Hope for the Future: Oilers Strike Back
This is the first in a new series, wherein we detail why each of the teams who managed to miss the playoffs can hope for better days in the near future. Well, probably, anyway.
The Edmonton Oilers were, by a wide margin, the worst team in the NHL this season. They were the only team to lose 30 games, and also the only to not win 30, including a stretch from December 15 to January 30 where they went 1-18-2. What is there to be happy about?
Power Play – A lot of this season's struggles can be attributed to two things - a wasted contract on Nikolai Khabibulin (who couldn't stay healthy, and then couldn't stay sober) and Ales Hemsky's injury. When Hemsky went down, the team had really been clicking - they had four players (including Hemsky) on pace for 20 goals. Center Gilbert Brule was on pace for 60 points at the time, which was fourth best on the team. Brule finished the season with only 37 points, but was still third on the team in scoring
Shorthanded – Khabibulin’s contract is a 35+, which means that since he is over 35 years old the team owes him $3.75 million for the next three years no matter what they do with him. That could affect their cap space just enough to be a problem. They also need to give new contracts to Brule, Deslauriers and Sam Gagner, plus a handful of other depth players will need re-signed or replaced.
Shootout Victory – Things probably can’t get much worse than they were this season for Edmonton. They may or may not have enough cap space to both re-sign their current talent and bring in a top line center. However, with the discovery of Deslauriers, a healthy Hemsky, a guaranteed top two draft pick (either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall), and a true No. 1 center (Pat Marleau? Tomas Plekanec?), the Oilers could get a lot better very quickly.