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Injuries on blue line ruin Oilers' chances

Monday, 04.09.2012 / 12:00 PM / Season in Review

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Injuries on blue line ruin Oilers' chances
Injuries on the blue line ruined the Edmonton Oilers' chances in 2011-12.
What happened?

EDMONTON OILERS

LEADING SCORER
RW Jordan Eberle
GOALS: 34 | ASST: 42 | PTS: 76
SOG: 180 | +/-: 4
TOP GOALIE
G Devan Dubnyk
RECORD: 20-20-3
GAA: 2.67 | SVP: 0.914
TOP ROOKIE
C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
GOALS: 18 | ASST: 34 | PTS: 52
SOG: 134 | +/-: -2
TEAM MVP
Jordan Eberle
SURPRISING STAT
Oilers are third in the League on the power play at 20.6 percent.
Expectations were not high this season as the Oilers continued to rebuild, but injuries -- especially on the blue line -- hurt a young team's chances of succeeding. The defense corps was a question mark heading into the season, and having guys like Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton and Tom Gilbert all miss significant time did not help the situation. The trio of Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall was a great story, but fellow high pick Magnus Paajarvi didn't take a similar step forward and an off year from Ales Hemsky limited the team's secondary scoring behind the phenoms.

How to fix it?

The Oilers will continue to preach patience, and there are several intriguing defense prospects who could reach the NHL level at some point next season. Edmonton has a few key free agents to sign -- UFA Ryan Smyth wants to return for another year, while RFAs Sam Gagner, Jeff Petry and Dubnyk will be priorities -- but that could leave enough cap space to add another quality defenseman either through free agency or in a trade.

Three reasons for hope:

1. Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall could be the best line in hockey very soon, and all three could develop into perennial All-Star level players.

2. Those guys were all expected to be great, so maybe the bigger story for the Oilers is the emergence of Petry. He leads the Oilers in average ice time, and has gotten even better as the season has progressed.

3. There is help for Petry coming -- 2011 first-round pick Oscar Klefbom is one of the top defense prospects in the sport and Martin Marincin isn't too shabby, either. Edmonton will also have a lottery pick in a draft flush with elite defense prospects, and someone like Ryan Murray might be skating next to Petry in the near future.

Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis