Well grabbing the number one overall pick in the draft certainly is something to be excited about, but last season must have been the longest in recent memory for the pitiful Oilers. Worse even than the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton won just 27 games and finished 33 points out of the playoff picture. Injuries, poor play, personnel issues, you name it, it happened in Edmonton last year. Thankfully, for the fans of what has typically been a very entertaining team to watch, salvation is on the horizon, in the form of an army of young stars. It may not happen this year, but this team is building towards becoming a very competitive team in the near future.
*Offense:’ For now, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner and Shawn Horcoff are the featured weapons on the Edmonton offense. The vets won’t have too long, though, as there are literally handfuls of budding stars in the Oiler ranks. Foremost among them is Taylor Hall, the 18 year old phenom who was drafted first overall in June. Even more impressive than him in the preseason was Swedish winger Magnus Paajarvi (he dropped the -Svensson from his name, to the relief of announcers everywhere), and with Canadian junior hero Jordan Eberle joining the team this year as well, there will be plenty of excitement on a nightly basis. Throw in the next generation of Oilers’ forwards that should be just about ready to step into full-time roles (Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner) and the Oilers have the potential to actually score a few goals this year. Beating their pitiful mark of 214 last season shouldn’t be difficult, but too-high expectations have ruined many a career, and the Oilers would be wise to bring their prospects along at their own pace.Grade: B’'’Defense:’’’ If it’s possible, the Oilers were worse on defense than they were on offense, but even without recently departed Sheldon Souray, the Oilers don’t look terrible on paper. Kurtis Foster is a capable offensive defenseman and will get plenty of opportunities on the powerplay. Ryan Whitney has a chance to become the anchor around which this blueline corps is built. If he takes advantage of it, Edmonton’s keepers might start to lose some of that tan on the back of their neck. There’s no guarantee that he will, though, so there are lots of question marks on the blueline heading into the season.Grade: C’'’Goaltending:’’’ Probably the biggest reason the Oilers were so unexpectedly terrible last year was the fact that they went out and spent their big bucks on Nikolai Khabibulin last summer, and got 18 starts, only 7 of them wins. Rookie goalies Jeff Drouin-Deslauriens and Devan Dubnyk were put through a serious trial by fire behind a questionable team, and neither of them emerged unscathed. Khabibulin’s 3.03 GAA was the best on the team, as was his .909 save percentage. The “Bulin Wall” will get a chance to redeem himself, so long as his off-ice escapades don’t derail yet another season. He’s looked sharp in preseason and hasn’t shown any ill effects from the back surgery that kept him out all year last season. A healthy and competitive Khabibulin will jump this team at least 7-10 wins on his own. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.Grade: C’'’Key Additions:’’’ Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Kurtis Foster*Key Losses:’ Sheldon Souray