Edmonton Oilers season post-mortem leaves many questions open
Oilers GM holding cards close to chest when it comes to off-season moves
It's April, and that means, weather permitting, the Oilers can break out their golf clubs.
Just like the last ten seasons.
It's a feeling all too familiar for Oilers' fans.
- Canucks outlast Oilers in season finale for both clubs
- Farewell to Rexall Place, Oilers home ice for 42 years
The end of the 2015-2016 season saw the Oilers again sit at 29th in the league, only Toronto being worse.
The team will once again have a good chance at the first overall pick.
While the Oilers finished the season eight points more than last year, it wasn't enough to allow them to escape the NHL cellar.
On Saturday, the team cleaned out their lockers for the final time at Rexall Place and discussed what was learned this year and what to expect in the future.
Off season moves
The biggest rumour milling about is that the long time core of the team — Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — are on the market.
Breaking up this group was long thought impossible but this season saw the trade of Justin Schultz, a player once thought to be a key piece of the rebuild, and a trade request by Nail Yakupov, a former number one draft pick.
"When you look to make changes, you look at the significant player, you look at minor players, you look at staff, you look at philosophical changes, and no one is untouchable," said Oilers' general manager Peter Chiarelli.
"Except, I guess, just a couple of guys."
Chiarelli went on to say he could make the major moves he wants to without trading the core, but it would be difficult.
The players themselves say they are trying not to think about the possibility of being moved.
"You never know what's going to happen," said Hall. "Now that the season is done it's kind of out of your hands and you conduct your summer as you usually would."
"The games have been played out, whatever happens, happens."
McDavid leading on and off the ice
If you talked to any Oilers' fan over the season, one name would predictably come up, Connor McDavid.
The 19-year-old put up almost a point per game over the 2016 campaign even after going down with an injury for three months.
According to Hall, McDavid was more than just a phenom in a pair of skates during the season.
He was an off-ice leader as well.
"On the ice he was everything and more, by the end of the year he was our leader on the ice," said Hall.
"I think with all the expectations that are on him, the way he conducts himself off the ice and the kind of kid he is, makes it a lot of fun to be around him."
McDavid admits that he's a quiet guy in the locker room but has tried to show leadership through his playing.
"I'm definitely not the loudest guy in the room, but I got more comfortable as the year went on. I'm someone who tries to lead by example on the ice," he said.
"When it came time to play on the ice it felt natural."
Adjusting to being a professional (and losing)
This is not only McDavid's first year in the NHL, but it's also his first season not living with billets.
The rookie currently rooms with Hall and Luke Gazdic, and said he is still adjusting to being a professional hockey player.
"In junior on the road, it's very normal to come down for a two o'clock bus at 1:59 dressed sloppy, and that's something that doesn't go on in the NHL," McDavid explained.
"It's a different thing that's for sure."
Before playing with the Oilers, the number one draft pick was blessed with success so coming to a team like the Edmonton Oilers has been a change.
"It eats me alive," said McDavid. "Losing is something that has happened a lot here in Edmonton for a while now.
"I think it just gets to a point where you get so sick of losing that you can't do it anymore.
"I think a lot of guys are at that point. I'm someone who definitely doesn't handle losing very well, so this year has been hard on me."
Chiarelli said that he expects the Oilers to have a captain by next season and many expect the 'C' to go to McDavid.
World Cup bound
Several of the Oilers are heading to Russia to play for Team Canada at the Worlds, including McDavid, Hall, and Cam Talbot.
Talbot said that if you would have told him that he was playing this year, he would have laughed.
The goalie says while he's disappointed he's headed to the world cup and not the playoffs, he did see a marked improvement in the club over the season.
"From game one to game 82, you could see the strides this team made, a lot of good teams we were playing them hard this year," Talbot said.
He said the Oilers lost many games by a slim margin to Stanley Cup contenders.
"I think we're a few pieces away from being one of those ourselves," he predicted.