The Edmonton Oilers could become a juggernaut someday soon, if they take the necessary steps to actually win games.
Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the three of the brightest young stars in the sport. Edmonton has made considerable strides since last season.
Yet the Oilers will be back in the NHL Draft lottery this year, giving the franchise at crack a still another cornerstone player.
What will it take for the Men of Oil to finally capitalize on all this potential?
Money has not been issue. The Oilers have invested heavily on talent. But they haven't always invested wisely.
Here are some suggestions for their future investments:
- Find a cornerstone goaltender. Young Devan Dubnyk does not appear to be that guy, based on his performance this season. The Blues strafed him Wednesday night en route to a 5-2 victory. Edmonton still must pay Nikolai Khabibulin for another year at $3.75 million, so that is a complicating factor as the franchise looks for the Next One in goal.
- Beef up the defense. While the St. Louis Blues have rebuilt from the back end out, investing in goaltending and defensemen, the Oilers loaded up on scoring forwards. So there is no Alex Pietrangelo or Kevin Shattenkirk in Edmonton. There isn’t even an Ian Cole. At some point swapping a front-line scorer for a blue-line bulwark would make a lot of sense.
- Cycle out the needless salaries. This team needs to clear budget space to lock in its elite players to long-term deals. So extending Ales Hemsky at $10 million for the next two seasons made absolutely no sense when a young asset like Sam Gagner is headed to restricted free agency. The franchise was already saddled with Shawn Horcoff for three more seasons and $13 million. The franchise already had favorite son Ryan Smyth clamoring to close out his career in Edmonton. Focus on the under-25 club!
- Find the right coach. Is Tom Renney that guy? Maybe he is, given his track record with player development. On the other hand, Edmonton gives up a ton of goals playing willy-nilly hockey. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and Predators coach Barry Trotz are piling up victories despite lacking scorers like Eberle, Hall or Nugent-Hopkins. They win with structured play. Can Renney achieve that or must the team look elsewhere?
If Oilers fail to make the 2012-13 playoffs with all this offensive ability, they will become an astonishing waste of talent. They are long overdue to make their move.