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How sickening has it been to watch the Edmonton Oilers? 

24-44-14. A record nowhere near good enough for contending in the 2014-15 playoffs. However, the poor record that the Edmonton Oilers earned themselves a lucky first overall draft pick in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, also known as the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

The Edmonton Oilers kickstarted their busy offseason with the hiring of Bob Nicholson on June 20, 2015. What followed was the hiring of coach Todd McLellan, the hiring of General Manager Peter Chiarelli, and the acquisitions of Cam Talbot, Eric Gryba, and Griffin Reinhart.

The Summer of 2015

The summer of 2015 has the ball rolling for the Edmonton Oilers.

The acquisition of goaltender Cam Talbot is a risky transaction that might work well in the Oilers’ favour. Cam Talbot is a 28 year-old goalie who proved himself on the New York Rangers when “King” Henrik Lundqvist was out with a neck injury. Talbot posted an impressive 21-9-4 record for the blue shirts in the 2014-15 season, a record that the Oilers would love to be (nearly) doubled in the future. Maybe not the immediate future, but numbers similar to Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators (41-17-6) would leave the hockey universe speechless.

The problem with the Oilers has constantly been the issue of team defence. Many have harped on the team’s blue line, which had captain Andrew Ference playing on the second unit while Justin Schultz would be producing lackluster numbers on the first defensive unit.

Chiarelli changed the defensive dynamic on draft day, acquiring Eric Gryba from the Ottawa Senators for Travis Ewanyk and the 107th overall in 2015 NHL Entry Draft (Christian Wolanin). Eric Gryba is a 6’4” defenceman who can likely play as a shutdown defenceman on the second unit with Andrej Sekera or Oscar Klefbom.

Chiarelli also acquired defenceman Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders in exchange for the 16th overall pick in 2015 (Matthew Barzal) and the 33rd overall pick in 2015 which was flipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning (Mitchell Stephens). Griffin Reinhart is a big, solid, point producing defenceman who can move the puck and defend well. Reinhart posted a forgetful -13 with the Islanders’ affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but will likely show his defensive upside in the preseason with the Oilers.

To add an experienced defenceman, the Oilers locked up Andrej Sekera to a six-year contract. Although the contract is a hefty term and salary, Sekera is a good mentor to have in the locker room who can play on the second or third defensive unit alongside Mark Fayne or Eric Gryba.

Patience

The 2015-16 season will be a fun rollercoaster. It won’t be awfully identical to the past eight seasons, but there will be competitive hockey in the City of Champions.

Starting from offence, Connor McDavid will likely play with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, while RNH will play alongside Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov. Having a top six that the Oilers have is pretty special, but having a supportive bottom six is crucial. Anton Lander, Lauri Korpikoski, Teddy Purcell, Rob Klinkhammer, Mark Letestu, and Matt Hendricks: six experienced forwards that can play both ends of the game. Connor McDavid is no solution to the problem that the Oilers had, but he will aid with his defensive abilities down the middle.

The Oiler’s blue line is more complicated than many think. Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart are likely NHL-ready, but who knows what Todd McLellan wants to do with the two outstanding defensemen. Once both Nurse and Reinhart come up, the Oilers will have a surplus of five left-handed defensemen. Will the Oilers trade Ference? Draisaitl? Maybe acquire Shea Weber?

As the new bench boss for years to come, Todd McLellan is a head coach liked by Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall at the World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. His presence as a mentor will improve each player’s capabilities every season. Goaltending will be stronger. Defence will be stronger. Offence? Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, RNH, Nail Yakupov. Is Connor McDavid enough now?

Playoffs?

If you’re thinking that the Oilers will go as far as the 2016 Conference Finals, you’re dreaming (or they added a top right-handed defenceman and it’s April of 2016).

Will the Edmonton Oilers clinch a berth in the 2015-16 playoffs? Most likely, no. But they will likely go as far as finishing a couple points behind the final Western Conference wild card spot. The summer of 2015 will be the summer that properly facilitated a forward direction for the storied franchise.

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