NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Edmonton Oilers.
[Oilers 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. Can Cam Talbot return to his form of 2016-17?
The 31-year-old goaltender played a big role getting the Oilers into the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs but was one of many players who struggled at times last season.
Talbot was 31-31-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .908 save percentage after going 42-22-8 with a 2.39 GAA and .919 save percentage in 2016-17. Edmonton's fortunes rest largely on the play of their No. 1 goaltender, who believes he can bounce back this season.
"I think I finished last season the way that I had my season two years ago," Talbot said. "So down the stretch, I felt as good as I had all season long, going back to a couple of years. So I need to pick up from there and I need to have a good start so the rest of the team can have a good start, and I'm focused on that right now."
Video: VAN@EDM: Talbot stops Edler in SO, seals Oilers' win
2. Will Milan Lucic rebound from an unproductive season?
The Oilers signed Lucic to a seven-year, $42 million contract July 1, 2016, and the 30-year-old forward had a solid first season in Edmonton with 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games.
But Lucic's production fell dramatically last season, and with it went the Oilers' playoff aspirations. He had 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games and scored one goal in his last 46.
"We expect a big recovery year from him," coach Todd McLellan said. "He's had a pause now; when a season ends you get an opportunity to pause, you get an opportunity to reload and reset. Your stat line is very similar to other players' when the season starts, and there is no reason why he shouldn't show up as a very confident player, one that can do what he's done in the past on a yearly basis. We'll support him in that role, we'll push him in that role, but he is a big piece for us to succeed. He has to find a way to be productive."
Video: 31 in 31: Edmonton Oilers 2018-19 season preview
3. Can Connor McDavid win a third straight Art Ross Trophy?
The 21-year-old center was a bright spot for the Oilers with 108 points (41 goals, 67 assists) in 82 games to win his second consecutive NHL scoring title. He also won his second straight Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player as voted by the NHL Players' Association.
McDavid alone cannot take the Oilers into the playoffs, but they need him to have another outstanding season if they are to return.
Video: Connor McDavid lands at No. 1 on the list