Despite his frequent inclusion in trade rumours and all the talent on this roster, Sam Gagner was the second best player on this team, while leading the roster in face-off wins. Gagner was also one of the team's best penalty killers and power play men. He plays so many roles that it might be smart for the Oilers to retain his services, with him being a restricted free agent. Magnus Paajarvi had a decent showing with 16 PTS in 42 GP, which represents a resurrection of his career from the dead. Ryan Nugent-H took a step backwards in 2013, which may have been caused by a bad shoulder. His small frame might be too fragile for long term success in the NHL.
It's great that they have drafted the best forward available with their top pick in the last 6 drafts, but perhaps they should have mixed in a few defensemen to balance out their line-up. Ultimately their blueline was far from what it needed to be, and the General Manager did nothing to strengthen that position. Steve Tambelini probably deserved to be fired, I'm just not sure that I agree with his replacement. Kevin Lowe was a terrible GM and I'm not sure how much influence he's going to have on Craig MacTavish, who was already inside Lowe's inner-circle. Justin Schultz was their best defenseman, certainly so from an offensive perspective. They have a power play quarterback. The forward lines need more grit, and the defense needs a top shut down guy to complement the puck moving Justin Schultz.
Preseason Rank: 9
Midseason Rank: 24
Final Rank: 23
GM Grade: F
1st Star: Taylor Hall
2nd Star: Sam Gagne
3rd Star: Jordan Eberle
UFAs: Ryan Jones, Lennart Petrell, Jerred Smithson, Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton, Mark Fistric, Nikolai Khabibulin
RFAs: Theo Peckham, Sam Gagner, Magnus Paajarvi
Best Contract: Jeff Petry 1 more year at $1.75M
Worst Contract: Shawn Horcoff 2 more years at $5.5M
What I said about them in preseason: I was in an AHL pool this fall before the NHL lockout. The Oilers young guns where destroying the competition. If Devan Dubnyk is decent, this is not just a playoff team, but a potential contender. The best collection of young talent that I have seen in a long time. If they get weak goaltending, they will struggle.
Craig MacTavish has promised bold moves, so we shall see what happens. It might be time to consider trading one of their many young talented forwards for an anchor on defense. Any year now this team is ripe to explode, and every year they don't is a year to be disappointed. The motto of this team should be playoffs or bust, and if they miss again next season, Craig MacTavish should be fired.