Hello Neighbors: Edmonton Oilers - LA Kings Insider

The Edmonton Oilers, who did not finish above third place in the Northwest Division between 2001-02 and the mediocre division’s farewell season of 2012-13, will join the Pacific Division with improved credentials to strive towards their high ceiling.

Expectations that the Oilers’ back-to-back-to-back first overall picks would lift the club towards the Western Conference’s elite teams thus far have resulted in a 2012-13 preseason prognostication that they were the third-best team in hockey – and little else.

After flirting with a playoff spot for the first three quarters of the 2012-13 season, Edmonton suffered through a 1-9-0 stretch that dropped the team out of playoff contention and into 12th place in the Western Conference. They selected seventh overall at the 2013 NHL Draft.

The disappointing finish – and abysmal puck possession and shot metrics – cost Head Coach Ralph Krueger his job after a 48-game tenure. Former Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, who will look to improve upon a negative-six shots on goal differential – tied with Toronto for the league’s worst – takes over the reins of a team that appears to be navigating that blurred span between advanced rebuilding and contention.

He’ll have a stable of young, dynamic forwards at his disposal. Taylor Hall, who has 145 points in 171 games spread across his 19, 20 and 21-year-old seasons, is a world-class skater with excellent hands who is unafraid to work in difficult areas and represents much of what teams covet in a first line left wing. 23-year-old Jordan Eberle has scored 68 goals in 195 career NHL games and boasts a remarkable 14.4% career shooting percentage. Nail Yakupov turns 20 the first weekend of the regular season and will look to build off the success of his 31-point rookie season in which he posted six goals over his final three games. He should be viewed as a major breakout candidate. 24-year-old Sam Gagner had been a model of consistency until his encouraging 2012-13 season in which his 38 points in 48 games translates to 65 points over a full 82. In his five previous seasons, he finished in the range of 13-18 goals and 41-49 points.

And then there are some question marks up front. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, selected first overall in 2011, has missed time due to shoulder injuries in each of his first two seasons and may not be available come October due to April surgery to repair a torn labrum. David Perron, acquired in July from St. Louis for Magnus Paajarvi and a second round draft pick, has rebounded satisfactorily from a concussion that kept him away from the game for much of 2010-11 and part of 2011-12, though he has been plagued by inconsistency and has one goal on 28 shots and a minus-7 rating over the last two postseasons.

This is the type of backchecking Kings fans associate with Perron:

It’s not entirely fair to base Perron’s value heavily on his showings against Los Angeles over the last two years, though it’s accurate to say that he doesn’t possess the hardened skill set that the Oilers have desperately needed: that of a gritty, defensively attuned center to slot in the top two lines. Edmonton needs a Mike Richards like King Richard III needed a horse.

The addition of standout defensive center Boyd Gordon helps out the team’s center depth, though there still appears to be deficiencies in the team’s third and fourth lines, which haven’t been a particularly strong asset over the last several seasons. Also in need of improvement is Edmonton’s faceoff percentage, which clocked in at a league-worst 46.1% last season.

The defense is improving, though still appears to be short on one traditional stalwart stay-at-home, minutes-eating type. 6-foot-3 Ladislav Smid has flown under the radar in that type of a role; he led the team in hits and blocked shots last season, and should improve upon his 20:19 average time on ice. As a 27-year-old veteran of seven NHL seasons – all with Edmonton – he should be stepping right into his prime years.

Justin Schultz is a mobile quarterback and playmaker, and as a 23-year-old who posted a 27-point (8-19=27) rookie season, it’s not a stretch to think the former University of Wisconsin star could develop into one of the game’s elite offensive defensemen. More importantly than his production, he’s going to have to improve his play in his own zone after finishing last on the team with a minus-17 rating a year ago.

Andrew Ference is an intelligent and poised well-rounded defenseman who will certainly help the back end after signing a four-year contract in July. Still, the Oilers’ blue line does not compare favorably to that of Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver and Phoenix in the reconfigured division.

Devan Dubnyk is gigantic. At 6-foot-5, he’s an effective modern goaltender who stopped 92% of the shots he faced last season. The 27-year-old has never played in more than 47 games in any of his four NHL seasons, and though it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him emerge as among the conference’s better goalies, he still has to answer questions about his usage and consistency. The Oilers really shouldn’t have much concern in net.

In the latter parts of their rebuild, Edmonton developed into a team that possessed excellent speed and an amassment of burgeoning young forwards. Cultivating the commitment of those forwards in all three zones will be one of Eakins’ primary challenges this season.

2012-13 Oilers Statistics (NHL Rankings)
Goals / Game: 2.56 (18th)
Goals Against / Game: 2.73 (19th)
Power Play: 20.1% (8th)
Penalty Kill: 83.4% (9th)
Shots For / Game: 26.8 (26th)
Shots Against / Game: 32.8 (29th)
Faceoff Percentage: 46.1% (30th)
Save Percentage: .917 (10th)

Expected Miles Traveled, 2013-14 (stick tap: On The Forecheck)
Edmonton: 48,510 (10th most*)
Los Angeles: 48,432 (7th most)

2012-13 Kings-Oilers Results (LAK finished 2-0-1)
1/24/13 / EDM 2 vs LAK 1 (OT) / W: Dubnyk (30/31) / OTL: Quick (37/39) / GWG: Gagner
2/19/13 / LAK 3 @ EDM 1 / W: Quick (23/24) / L: Khabibulin (35/37) / GWG: Carter
4/6/13 / LAK 4 vs EDM 1 / W: Quick (23/24) / L: Dubnyk (35/38) / GWG: Carter

2013-14 Kings-Oilers Schedule
Sunday, 10/27/13: Edmonton at Los Angeles
Tuesday, 12/17/13: Edmonton at Los Angeles
Sunday,3/9/14: Los Angeles at Edmonton
Thursday, 4/10/14: Los Angeles at Edmonton

*interestingly, northern outpost Edmonton will travel 3,778 fewer miles than Calgary, according to On The Forecheck.

To continue the Oilers discussion, LAKI brought in Sportsnet.ca senior columnist and Team 1260 radio host Mark Spector.

Andy Devlin / National Hockey League

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Adrian Kempe

#9 | 6′ 2″ | 195 lb | Age: 21

Born: September 13, 1996
Birthplace: Kramfors, SWE
Position: LW
Handedness: Left


Kempe was selected by the Kings in the first round (29th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Alex Iafallo

#19 | 6′ | 185 lb | Age: 23

Born: December 21, 1993
Birthplace: Eden, NY, USA
Position: C
Handedness: Left


Iafallo was signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent on April 18, 2017.

Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left


As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right


Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right


Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left


Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.