by Lisa McRitchie on 10/07/11 at 04:00 PM ET
The Edmonton Oilers face several challenges in the coming season. The team is still/already riddled with injuries, don’t appear to have complete confidence in their goaltending, and the defence is still quite young and is easily the most identifiable weakness of the roster. While the Oilers appear good up front, that will depend upon the sophomores avoiding the dreaded second year slumps.
Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Pääjärvi shocked many fans when all three made the team on opening night, and surprised fans further when none of them were sent down after their first nine games. It seemed a stretch for the Oilers to be able to break three rookies into the league on their roster at the same time, and that’s before looking at the rookie defencemen the Oilers brought in. Somehow, it worked. There were ups and downs, there were injuries, but overall the big three had successful rookie seasons; Jordan Eberle had the TSN goal of the year after all.
Head coach Tom Renney addressed the media on several topics Wednesday, one of course was Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi.
Renney felt that Eberle was an integral part of the 2010-11 Oilers. “He [Eberle] was quite important to us all year long but as guys started to drop off in the lineup he became even more import and became a marked man, a guy that had to be circled by the opponent trying to stop us. It was good for him to have to go through that and to find ways to work with that. And I think as with all of those young fellows that played last year, I’m sure they’re more enlightened. I hope they feel that they can continue to press the issue and play their game and in those cases take the attack to the opponent. Jordan’s a good, complete player now and with that kind of wherewithal learning from what he did last year, I’m sure he’ll be better.”
While many attribute Eberle’s success to the fact that the young winger spent some time in juniors and had an opportunity to play in the world juniors, you cannot deny that Eberle is also just a very talented hockey player. There is no way to say whether or not Eberle would be as successful, or even more successful if he had made the NHL team earlier or later.
In his first season in the NHL, Eberle scored that one amazing goal, but also 17 additional goals and 25 assists for a team leading total of 43 points. Of course the pressure is on for Eberle to outdo his totals from last year. With healthy linemates, and added off-season talent it shouldn’t be a stretch to expect fifty five/sixty plus points this season. Eberle himself expects to have a great year and is not anticipating a slump. “No, not at all, this is my second year. I know what to expect, I know what the season will be like and I know the pace. I expect to be a key contributor for this team.”
Tom Renney has something to say on Magnus Pääjärvi as well; “Magnus came a long way last year as a two way forward. That’s not to suggest that he’s not going to be an explosive offensive guy. I don’t think that this will hurt him at all. I think that it will help to become a complete player. If we’re going to win, we need to be better defencively and everybody has to buy into that and be very much a part of that mantra. If you’re not, then we’re not going to win. Regardless of the combination of people, everybody better know what they’re doing without the puck and put in the requisite work or the combinations are going to be changing all year long until I get what I want. “
Pääjärvi should also be able to build upon his 34 points and successes of last year. But, Pääjärvi is not the same sort of player Eberle or Hall are and his point totals will likely remain significantly lower. As much as Pääjärvi is one of my favourites, Pääjärvi would not be a major point getting for me in any hockey pool. If Pääjärvi were able to hit 45 plus points, that should be considered a successful season.
Taylor Hall was anxious to get back on the ice in a game setting after a long off season and recovery. Hall suffered an ankle injury March 3rd, 2010 and is ready to get back into regular season games after a successful pre-season with three goals and an assist in four games played. Although it is always difficult to project anticipated points for coming seasons, a healthy Taylor Hall should be able to score as many, or more points as Jordan Eberle. However, health and the results of the rest of the team’s play will have an effect on everyone’s point totals.
There will always be more players on the ice than just one of the young Oilers, and sometimes despite an individual player’s best efforts, things just don’t work out. However, with the talent and determination that players like Hall, Eberle and Pääjärvi possess, things should only get better from last year, so long as they can put aside the pressures and take it the proverbial one game at a time.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
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