The 2015-16 Oilers are a marriage of clusters (or possibly constellations). The future is absolutely the McDavid cluster, but for this season, the Hall cluster will push the river.
- Connor freaking McDavid.
- The goaltending last season (and before) was simply awful. Seriously.
- Taylor Hall is about to enter his prime, Jordan Eberle is already there and Nuge is close.
- Todd McLellan is the new coach (and of course he’s bringing his power-play brain).
You can counter “defense, dummy!” and you’re right, there are major issues. That said, if the Oilers added a real NHL defenseman today I’d call them playoff bound. A team at +6 GF-GA one year ago would have finished No. 10 overall in the Western Conference and I do believe this team (as it stands) is not a playoff club. I also believe (as we’ve discussed) Peter Chiarelli will be aggressive in upgrading the roster mid-season. One final item: Connor McDavid changes everything. I’ve aimed for reasonable here but he could blast off and that means playoffs, awards and a new day dawning basically overnight. It’s a fabulous dream, but we’re currently tracking reasonable. In regard to McDavid, that’s a very difficult find.
THE MCDAVID CLUSTER
These are the under-22’s and really we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg in every case. Yakupov’s three years obscure his youth, but here we see him in a more natural view. Connor McDavid is placed at about .9 points-per-game and believe me it’s a guess.
THE HALL CLUSTER
This is an extremely valuable group of players. Hall—Nuge—Eberle could perform magic through the end of the decade and beyond, and may well do it together. Sweden gifts us Oscar Klefbom, who should be a major piece and could play a feature role this season. Anton Lander looks like a role player plus a little more and if the Jan-WHC’s Lander returns this fall, we’ll need to revise the wording.
Schultz is a heavy bet from the organization, a puck moving blue who looks to be heading to an early career crossroads. I included Gazdic here because that’s where he fits based on what little we know about team dynamic.
I know that many of you tire of my love of Taylor Hall’s game but for me, if healthy, this is the season we see him absolutely scorch the opposition. He’s matured, he’s so very gifted, and if those knees are even close to okay this is going to be something else.
THE VETERAN CLUSTER
This would have been called ‘the actual NHL players cluster’ a couple of years ago, but the Hall group has matured and are veterans, too. There are several significant talents here, I’d point out Benoit Pouliot, Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne and Matt Hendricks as being important to the season ahead. If Eric Gryba can help, it would make a world of difference.
THE GOALIE CLUSTER
THE 2015-16 OILERS
- Final record: 82GP, 41-30-11 93PTS
- Finish: No. 10 in the Western Conference, No. 19 overall (draft No. 12 for 2016 draft)
- All-Star Team: Taylor Hall (2nd All-Star LW)
- Calder Trophy: Connor McDavid
- Traded by deadline: Nikita Nikitin, Ben Scrivens, at least one AHL defenseman
I hope you enjoyed the RE series for players, the next few days will see executives, ownership and a bonus RE. Stay tuned!