The Edmonton Oilers New Years resolutions are quite simple: acquire a right winger who can provide depth scoring, and a backup goalie who is not named Jonas Gustavsson. The Oilers success in 2016 has pleasantly surprised fans who are more than thrilled to be cheering for their team’s playoff hopes heading into the New Year.
The Oilers are going to be fighting for their first playoff appearance in over a decade going into 2017. The team looks to have finally made the change in competitiveness that fans have been desperately waiting for. As they sit second in the Pacific Division, ahead of NHL powerhouses like the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. However, while the team has improved immensely so far this season, there are still holes in the in the lineup which must be addressed in order for them to truly become legitimate contenders somewhere down the line.
Edmonton Oilers New Years Resolution
The Need for a Right Winger… Who Can Score
Can't imagine worse Xmas for Tyler Pitlick. Torn ACL. Done for year. The kid showed he was NHLER. 8 goals playing 10 mins a game
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) December 23, 2016
Tyler Pitlick had stepped up this season and had been a consistent goal producer playing in a depth role. When asked on the impact of Pitlicks injury Coach McLennan stated “It’s a huge blow. We lost a key player. He got the opportunity here and we feel his pain.” (@EdmontonOilers) With Pitlick suffering a devastating season-ending injury the Oilers now need to find a depth winger who can step up and provide those important goals that aren’t just coming from the teams top lines.
The current right side of Edmonton’s forward group has combined for 24 of the teams 103 goals on the season. Over half of those goals coming from Leon Draisaitl, who has rotated between centre and right wing throughout the season. The Oilers need to add another winger who can contribute to depth scoring, and be used up or down in the lineup. Preferably a shooter with a quick release who could could be utilized on the struggling second power play unit.
The fifth youngest team in the NHL could also benefit from a veteran presence who brings passion to every game. Along with leadership qualities and a winning intensity that would be extremely vital if the team were to secure a spot in the 2017 postseason for the first time since 2006.
A Backup Goalie They Can Trust
Another clear problem in the Oilers lineup is a lack of trust in backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. Who has played in just six of 36 contests so far this season. In his last start on December 8th against the Philadelphia Flyers he allowed three unanswered goals late in the third period. While also posting an .806 save percentage on route to a 6-5 loss, in a game that many believed the Oilers should have won. That performance alone is an example where the Oilers lost a game due to a bad goaltending performance, and shows why the club has had him on the bench for over 90% of games this season.
Cam Talbot leads the league in games played so far this season with 32. While Talbot’s outstanding play this season is a main factor of why he has played so much, another factor is the lack of trust in Gustavsson. It is extremely important for a team fighting for a playoff spot to receive quality goaltending that gives them a chance to win every night. And they just don’t have that in their current backup goaltender.
Acquiring a quality goaltender that could allow them to potentially go with a 1A-1B tandem that is stronger than most of their competitors could prove to be instrumental for the team turning into a real contender. Talbot has never played more than 70% of the games in a full season. And he is currently on pace to play over 70 games this season. Allowing Talbot to get more rest could help the Oilers to continue to receive solid goaltending late into the season. When they are fighting for crucial points to secure a playoff spot, and potentially during the 2017 postseason.
What to Expect in 2017
This roster has shown promise and has a legitimate chance of holding on for a playoff spot come April. The sky is the limit if Connor McDavid and Draisaitl continue to score at a torrid pace. Especially if they receive production from the supporting cast of players. However, a right shot forward that we could slate in the top six or top nine of the lineup, and a quality backup goaltender to help Talbot carry the load could be the missing pieces that push this club into legitimate contenders that will fight for a top spot in the division. While also giving their opponents goosebumps in the postseason; if they happen to solidify a playoff spot for the first time since 2006.