Oilers radio colour analyst Bob Stauffer answers fans submitted by fans about the team.
- What do you think the Oilers D combos and goalie situation will look like for Game 1 against St. Louis?
— Shane in Grande Prairie
Great question because there are a lot of variables in play, especially on defence.
The easiest thing to probably do would be to partner Andrej Sekera with Mark Fayne, Oscar Klefbom with Justin Schultz, and have one of Andrew Ference/Nikita Nikitin with Erik Gryba.
In this scenario, you would have three lefty-righty combinations and also have top prospect D-Men Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart “percolating” — to use a Ken Holland term — in the minors.
Fayne had a lot of success and solid possession #’s playing with Andy Greene in New Jersey and I think that Sekera is somewhat similar to Greene, in that he can play 22 to 23 minutes a game and can move the puck; but is not and elite offensive defenceman.
Klefbom has a chance to be a really good top-four NHL “D” but there are going to be growing pains along the way, but Oscar can skate, is strong and can stop the cycle in the “D-zone”. I also think Oscar will provide some more offence over time.
To me Schultz will be the defenceman that will benefit the most from having an experienced coaching staff, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up 45-50 points this season, assuming he has gotten stronger in the off-season.
Ference and Nikitin would give the Oilers a veteran presence in their third pairing, and Gryba has established himself in the last couple of seasons as a hard-nosed number six in Ottawa.
The wild cards on the back-end to watch in the pre-season are the aforementioned Nurse and Reinhart.
Both Nurse and Reinhart have leadership skill (captains in Major Junior) and a unique set of tools.
Nurse possesses exceptional athleticism and has a mean streak. Reinhart is a more subtle player, but can really process the game.
Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli strongly hinted when the Oilers acquired Reinhart at the draft that he could see the fourth-overall pick from the 2012 NHL Draft in Edmonton this season.
Brandon Davidson is also in the mix to crack the Oilers opening day roster.
Could be some tough decisions for the Coaches and Management staff if Nurse and Reinhart have strong camps.
As for in goal, I see Cam Talbot as the starter with Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson battling for the back-up job. Hey Bob do you think the Oilers have what it takes to make it into the post season or where do you think the Oilers will finish in the standings this year?
— Brian from Edmonton
The easy thing to say here is that I am cautiously optimistic that the Oilers will improve this season.
But, I honestly believe the Oilers are poised to take a significant step forward and could finish anywhere from sixth thru 10th in the Western Conference, and certainly in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
The Oilers have an envious core of young skilled forwards with the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and have obviously added a guy in Connor McDavid, who could be a generational superstar…in time.
Sekera and Talbot should help the Oilers defensive woes.
Todd McLellan is a proven NHL Head Coach and he and his staff have a track record of developing young skilled forwards and growing “D” on the back-end during their tenure in San Jose; which bodes well for Nail Yakupov and Leon Draisaitl up front; and Klefbom, Reinhart and Nurse on defence.
I guess I am bullish about what the Oilers might be capable of this season.
Hi Bob, in your experience, with so many transactions and changes to the team what do you realistically expect the first month of Oilers play to consist of. And maybe offer any keys to success?
— Steven from Taipei City
Todd McLelllan was quite specific when he took the job that he wanted the team to first build a “foundation” and then go from there; and he also recently stated on “Oilers Now” that he wanted his team to be “fast, hard and supportive”.
This might take some time out of the gate; especially given that the Oilers play five of their first six games on the road.
The Oilers will need some stops early in the season — something which they didn’t get a lot of the last two seasons out of the gate. Edmonton will also need to establish a strong defensive structure and their PP needs to be clicking earlyBob Stauffer is Colour Analyst on the Oilers Radio Network and Hosts “Oilers Now” each day Noon to 2:00 PM Monday thru Friday on 630 CHED and you can follow him on Twitter at @Bob_Stauffer