By taking a quick glance at the NHL standings it becomes obvious that the Edmonton Oilers are not having a great season in regards to winning games and qualifying for the playoffs. However, if you take a look behind the scenes you can see that, in fact, the Oilers are having an excellent season.
No one expected this team to do any better than it did last year in the standings, why should they? They only added a couple of rookies to a team that performed so abysmally last season. This is the start of a rebuilding process for the Oilers and it is a rebuild that is going very well so far.
Take, for example, the fact that the Oilers have time on their side and field a very youthful roster of hockey players. Hall is 19, Paajarvi is 19, Eberle is 20, Omark is 23, Cogliano is 23, Smid is 25, Peckham is 23, Dubnyk is 24 and Gagner is 21. That makes at least nine players who are 25 or under. The Oilers also have several players who are coming into the prime of their careers in Ales Hemsky (27), Tom Gilbert (28), Dustin Penner (28) and Ryan Jones (26). Only Horcoff, MacIntyre, Khabibulin, Strudwick and Vandermeer are in their 30s.
Some teams might bemoan the lack of experience but in Edmonton it isn’t really an issue considering their situation. They have a bunch of guys who will hopefully be playing together for many years and will gel as a team and gain chemistry on the ice. They might lose one or two to trades (Hemsky and Penner may be gone by next week) but the majority of those players should still be around in a season or two.
It seems that being young has not stopped a few of the Oiler’s roster from having excellent rookie seasons. Theo Peckham has looked tough and uncompromising as a shut-down defenseman on the Edmonton blueline and Jorden Eberle has managed to reach 31 points for the season so far.
However, what most Oilers fans will be happy about is that Taylor Hall, their number one draft pick, is in second place for points (38) and leads the Oilers, along with Dustin Penner, for goals (20). Sam Gagner, who has more experience than Hall and Eberle (despite only being 21), is also contributing and has 36 points so far.
It is exciting to see what this team will be capable of in two or three year’s time if their young players progress like they should. This Oilers team has the potential to be a highly skilled, fast team with plenty of goal-scoring ability. They have all the right ingredients and the right head coach in Tom Renney for the job too. However, as is sometimes the case with potential, the Oilers have to be careful not to let it all go to waste or there could be a few more years of struggle ahead.
It has been a long time since Gretzky and the glorious 80′s. Will this franchise reclaim a place as one of the elite teams of the NHL?