Heading into the 2011-2012 season the Edmonton Oilers need to start making some strides on the back end. Some of the changes the club have made could see the club heading in that direction. One move in particular could be a steal for the Oilers long term.
Ryan Whitney - Last season it became very evident on how important Ryan Whitney has become to the Oilers. Whitney is the horse that this team can simply not compete without.
Whitney not only eats minutes in all situations for the Oilers but he has shown the ability to raise the overall play of whomever his partner on the backend will be.
For that reason, I see Whitney pairing up with newly acquired Cam Barker. Whitney should be able to let Barker simplify his game and thrive in an Oilers uniform.
Look for Whitney to pick up where he left off last season...as arguably the most important skater on the team.
2011-2012 Prediction: 8 G - 37 A - 45 Pts
Cam Barker - The Oilers made a low risk - high reward move this off season by signing Cam Barker as a UFA. The Minnesota Wild decided to buy Barker out and because of that move, the Oilers may have found their power play quarterback moving forward.
Barker should fit in very nicely with the young core group in Edmonton and playing with Ryan Whitney should allow him to have a bounce back season. Barker will be given every opportunity to be successful in the coming season..unlike Minnesota.
He'll be given the reigns of what has been a very lack luster power play in Edmonton. Barker's big shot and experience of playing with an elite puck moving power play in Chicago should be a big addition to the club.
2011-2012 Prediction: 8 G - 26 A - 34 Pts
Tom Gilbert - While Gilbert struggled at times last season, after Ryan Whitney went down with injury Gilbert did raise his level of play. He is not a top pairing defencmen but he is clearly a second pairing guy. He's a very good puck mover and makes a great outlet pass out of his zone.
Gilbert should be paired up with Ladislav Smid heading into the 2011-12 campaign. The two showed signs at the end of last season of forming chemistry and with Whitney back in the lineup they won't be asked to log way to many minutes.
One area Gilbert needs to improve on is using his shot more often...especially on the power play. Gilbert has a good shot but at times he almost seems unwilling to use it.
2011-2012 Prediction: 5 G - 27 A - 32 Pts
Ladislav Smid - With Smid signing a two year contract extension, the Oilers have shown they still believe in him becoming a top 4 defenceman. He legitimately seems to love being an Oiler and playing in Edmonton.
Smid should be paired up with Tom Gilbert on the teams second pairing. The one thing that has always lacked in his game is consistency. If he can simplify his game and stay away from getting hammered into the boards, he should take another step in his development in becoming a solid shutdown defenceman.
2011-2012 Prediction: 1 G - 10 A - 11 Pts
Theo Peckham - One could argue that Theo Peckham was fortunate to not start last season in Oklahoma but no one could argue that by seasons end he was the Oilers biggest surprise. While his play leveled off in the second half of the season, he was the Oilers best defenceman not named Ryan Whitney during the first half.
With the addition of Cam Barker, it will bump Peckham down to the third pairing and he's a very solid number 5/6. He should be patrolling the ice with newcomer and fellow bruiser Andy Sutton to form a punishing pairing. Ever since putting on the Oilers uniform he has made it a priority to stand up for his teammates and it's clear that they love him for it...as does Don Cherry!!!
2011-2012 Prediction: 2 G - 8 A - 10 Pts
Andy Sutton - The addition of Andy Sutton via trade this off season will make teams think twice before taking liberties with the Oilers skilled players. Along with newly aquired Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk, the trio will help Sutton's defence partner Theo Peckham in keeping opponents in check.
At this stage Sutton is no more then a number 6 or 7 guy but he should be a good fit on an roster that badly need his size. He has a really heavy shot and hopefully he gets they odd opportunity to show it off.
2011-2012 Prediction: 3 G - 6 A - 9 Pts
Taylor Chorney - After a horrendous couple of seasons between Springfield and Edmonton, Taylor Chorney was a completely different player last season.
In his 12 games in the NHL, he didn't look out of place. Previously he seemed in over his head, where as last year he was clam and kept everything simple.
With Chorney just signing a one year extension, I do expect him to make the club as the number 7 guy out of camp and he'll get opportunity when injuries occur and it will be up to him to leave a mark when he plays.
2011-2012 Prediction: 2 G - 5 A - 7 Pts