I have been reading a number of articles and tweets over the last few days and there appears to be a consensus that the Oilers need to make some significant changes for next year. Oiler fans have conveyed their displeasure in coach Tom Renney, the defence and inconsistent goaltending. These are some drastic changes that can not be easily solved with exception to the first one.
Yes, the "fire Tom Renney" chants are currently being tweeted in the social world. Renney is in his last year of his contract and can be easily released. Not renewing his contract could be justified since the Oilers have finished at the bottom of the standings under his two years as coach. Many fans question his time management of players and the sheltering of our young stars. I empathize with Tom`s predicament of developing players and at the same time trying to win games. Fans can not argue the progress our young Oilers have made this year; Tom Renney has to earn some of that credit and the sophomore jinx was not prevalent this year.
Perhaps fresh ideas and a new face is needed next year but keep in mind that Renney is well liked by both players and management. In most cases coaches are fired when players have lost faith, Tom doesn`t have this problem. When it comes to the coaching, the Oilers need to stay the course and give Renney one more year.
The defence is entirely a different animal. There doesn't appear to be any immediate help available this Summer with this years' crop of UFA defenseman. Ryan Suter and Dennis Wideman would definitely help out our defence but do the Oilers want to get involved in a bidding war. Anyone else would just be bottom pairing defenseman; this would probably explain why the Oilers chose to sign Andy Sutton instead of trading him. The only real viable option for the Oilers is to trade for a top pairing defenseman.
The team does have a few Kings and Queens that could be dealt to attain a current or future top pairing defenseman. The question is are there any teams out there wanting to go fishing with the Oilers. I'm not crazy about moving Sam "wise" Gagner and even less crazy about dealing a top three pick. Yes, Gagner is not a big player, but he's only 23 and has proven this year that he can produce points.
The only other high card is our draft pick for this upcoming year. Steve Tambellini is not a gambler and nor am I when it comes to playing with a lottery pick. We have the potential of selecting another superstar, a team can't have too many of those. The only justifiable reason to trade a top three pick is if the team has a legitimate chance of making a Cup run. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, the Oilers can position themselves for the playoffs next year but not for the Cup. Picking up or trading for a depth defenseman seems like the most logical course for the Oilers.
The last of the Oilers problem is of obviously the goaltending. Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk have been inconsistent to say the least. Khaby is on his last leg and Dubnyk doesn't appear ready to take over the reins. Devan has much to prove, but he is only 25 years old and just playing his second full year in the NHL. Dubnyk is the sixth youngest goalie in the league with modest NHL experience.
The big question that enters our mind, is what should the Oilers do about Khaby? We can't trade him, we could bury him in the minors or ship him to Europe. Tambellini could try to replace him with Evgeni Nabokov or Josh Harding who are UFA's this Summer. The only concern is neither goalie has any winning experience. Nikolai has one year left on his contract and is currently the only player with a Cup ring. If you want the Oilers to develop a winning attitude, you need players like Khaby. If you want Devan to develop into a number one goalie, we need players like Khaby.
The Oilers have invested a fair amount of time in Dubnyk, it wouldn't make sense to throw that away. The Oilers goalie situation is less than idea yet we've put the building blocks in place. Lets give the mortar time to solidify and stay the course.
The Oilers do not need mortgage the future to make the playoffs next year. With a few depth moves and a little less time in the infirmary, the Oilers will challenge for the playoffs next year.