Key arrivals: D Lubomir Visnovsky, F Gilbert Brule, F Erik Cole, GM Steve Tambellini, owner Darryl Katz
Key departures: D Joni Pitkanen, F Marty Reasoner, F Geoff Sanderson, F Jarret Stoll, F Raffi Torres.
Offence: Shawn Horcoff and Ethan Moreau are healthy and ready to resume their respective roles on the top line and short-handed unit. Erik Cole provides grit and goals and seems to be the type who will love playing in a city where hockey is a preoccupation. He also should take a healthy amount pressure off of Dustin Penner. The upside of last season's injury problems was that the young trio of Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson thrived with the extra ice time, but it might be a tad optimistic to expect all three to continue to have unabated progress this season. If most of the supporting crew of forwards can stay healthy, there's no reason talented Ales Hemsky can't reach 90 points. With Fernando Pisani and Kyle Brodziak also back, probably only one of Marc Pouliot, Gilbert Brule and Rob Schremp have a shot at making the NHL roster. Edmonton will need to improve on a power play that finished 21st last season.
Defence: Nearly every player on the Oilers defence corps has something to prove individually, which should make them better collectively. Tom Gilbert emerged last year but has been rewarded with a big contract that he must live up to. Sheldon Souray also has a big deal and was mostly injured in his first season in Edmonton, Steve Staios needs to bounce back from an off year and Denis Grebeshkov needs to put two solid NHL seasons together. With Souray's big shot, it would be disappointing if the Oilers weren't better with the man advantage. Lubomir Visnovsky should help on the power play, but wasn't that said this time last year about Joni Pitkanen, who has already departed? Despite the injuries last year, the Oilers were fifth in penalty-killing, a standard they'll have to approximate to get back into the playoffs.
Goaltending: Whether it was by design or because they didn't get any intriguing offers, it's probably wise the Oilers didn't move veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson. Mathieu Garon has yet to show that he can put together consecutive seasons of strong, injury-free netminding. For all the talk of injuries in Edmonton the past two seasons, they've been healthy in net, and a significant injury at the position this time would really threaten their chances. Garon's shootout record was astounding last year, but this time around it will be up to him and Roloson to make that key extra save in regulation so that opposing teams don't gain that extra point so often. Edmonton will need to begin contemplating the future of the position as both goalies are in the last year of their contracts. One fly in the ointment is that Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, third on the depth chart, must clear waivers to be sent to the AHL.
Coaching: Craig MacTavish enters his eighth season as Edmonton coach. While there's a new general manager at the helm, Steve Tambellini, he and MacTavish have a prior history. One area of focus for the coach is improved play at Rexall — the Oilers lost 17 games last season at home, third most in the West. Kelly Buchberger has been brought up after coaching in the AHL to join the assistant team.
Outlook: Edmonton plays 12 of its first 15 games on the road, which could see the team behind the eight ball early or turn out to be a great way to forge team chemistry for the long season ahead. No matter what misfortunes come their way, the time for injury excuses is over this season. On paper, the Oilers are at least as talented as three teams that made the Western playoffs last season — Nashville, Colorado, and Minnesota — and they should be competing in the post-season for the first time since the 2006 Stanley Cup run.