Monday, August 3, 2015

Playoff chances among questions facing Oilers

With all the changes the Edmonton Oilers made this offseason, there is plenty of uncertainty going into this season.
Reaction to the management shakeup following Edmonton's NHL Draft Lottery win was positive. Many believe the Oilers are heading in the right direction, but to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Oilers need to make up a lot of ground in what is again expected to be a very tough Western Conference.
The Oilers are not the only improved team in the conference, and selecting Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft will not guarantee success.
Edmonton has proven that having No. 1 picks in the lineup does not automatically translate into victories. The Oilers believed they turned the corner in the past, only to find themselves back near the bottom of the NHL standings.
There are a number of factors that will determine the Oilers' fortunes. Here are the three biggest questions for Edmonton heading into the season:
Will Connor McDavid live up to expectations? Not since Sidney Crosby has a player garnered as much attention entering the NHL. McDavid is considered a generational talent, and the focus heading into his rookie season will be on his offensive production. Crosby had 39 goals and 102 points as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins, which might be lofty goals for McDavid.
"My expectations on myself exceed any of those put on me," McDavid said at the draft. "It's something I can't really worry about. Just have to worry about making sure I'm playing my game and doing all that. If I'm meeting my expectations, chances are I'll meet yours as well."
McDavid will have a strong supporting cast, including No. 1 picks Taylor HallRyan Nugent-Hopkins andNail Yakupov, which should take some pressure off him.
Will Todd McLellan be able to get Oilers headed in right direction? McLellan was hired to coach the Oilers into the playoffs, something five previous coaches were unable to do. Since MacTavish was replaced after the 2008-09 season, Edmonton has not been a kind destination for coaches; Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson did not have much success and were replaced. In fairness to Nelson, he took over from Eakins in December once the playoffs were already out of reach. McLellan signed a five-year contract after leaving the San Jose Sharks and is expected to bring stability to the job and success on the ice.
Can the Oilers end their playoff drought? Edmonton seemed stuck in a never-ending rebuild before winning the right to select McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft. It was a huge boost to the organization, but the Oilers have not played a postseason game since losing Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to theCarolina Hurricanes. Edmonton finished 35 points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference last season, which is a lot to make up in one year.

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