Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers enter the 2016-17 season in the same place that they entered the last half dozen seasons -- looking to make a move out of the NHL’s basement and back into contention. Over the summer the team acquired Adam Larsson to help shore up the blue line, a perennial issue for the team, but paid a high price by sending Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in return. They then filled the hole created from that trade by signing Milan Lucic on the first day of free agency. After just two offseasons with the Oilers, GM Peter Chiarelli has already put his stamp on this team.

The question now is whether or not it’ll be enough to get the Oilers out of the basement. In Chiarelli’s first season the Oilers improved, but after finishing with 70 points there is still a long way to go before the team could even be considered respectable. A long, long way to go. With Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic, Jordan Eberle, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, not to mention new draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi, things look good up front, but there are still a number of question marks on defense and between the pipes. The Oilers are still a work in process, but the changes that have been made should have the team moving in the right direction.

THREE QUESTIONS

  1. Can the young players excel in more challenging roles without Taylor Hall around?
  2. Did the team do enough this summer to address the blue line?
  3. Can Cam Talbot carry the load?

BEST CASE SCENARIO

The best case scenario for the Oilers this season sees the team sneak into the playoffs. This will require a number of things to go right for the Oilers. First, they’ll need to stay healthy. Last season the Oilers spent the entire season missing at least one top-six forward and Oscar Klefbom missed almost all of the season. That can’t happen again. Second, the Oilers will need Talbot to play like a true No. 1 starting goalie on opening night, not in January. And third, they’ll need McDavid to build on his phenomenal injury-shortened rookie campaign. If all of those things happen and the Oilers get a little more luck throughout the season, they could break their 10-year streak of missing the playoffs.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

The Oilers should improve this season but it’s not inconceivable that they could end up in the exact same place as they finished last season: at the bottom of the NHL’s standings. In Talbot, the Oilers think they’ve found the solution to their problems between the pipes, but after signing Jonas Gustavsson to be their backup, the team is working without a safety net. If the Oilers once again get bit by the injury bug and Talbot spends any significant amount of time sidelined by an injury, the team is going to have to turn to a goalie who hasn't shown that he's capable of being a No. 1 netminder. If that happens, the Oilers season will very quickly fall apart.