To quote the ever-hilarious Brennan Huff of Step Brothers lore, "holy Santa Clause shit!" Yes, the NHL regular season is finally here. After the rookie camps, two-a-days and a preseason filled with menial talent, we have finally arrived at the big dance. The Winnipeg Jets are hoping to shed their tag as the almost-good-enoughs and their eighty-two game journey begins tonight when they pay a visit to the Edmonton Oilers.
As part of our gameday coverage, we had a few questions relating to the Oilers before puck-drop later today. With that, here are our pal Derek Zona from Copper & Blue in today's instalment of Gameday Questionnaire:
How good will the 2013-14 edition of the Edmonton Oilers be?
I had them ranked fifth in the Pacific and eight in the Western Conference a couple of weeks ago. Then Sam Gagner got hurt and Craig MacTavish went crazy for goons. Depth at centre has been a problem since 2007, and knowing that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was recovering from a torn labrum made that depth even more important. Rather than address it, MacTavish claimed Steve MacIntyre. Then Luke Gadzic. He waived Linus Omark in favor of Mike Brown. The Oilers are left with Taylor Hall - Boyd Gordon - Mark Arcobello - Will Acton down the middle and a bottom seven of Acton, Arcobello, Brown, Eager, Gazdic, Joensuu, and MacIntyre. Forward depth is an acute problem. They're a key injury away from the bottom five in the league.
What - if anything - has Craig MacTavish done thus far to instil optimism that the Oilers are on the upswing?
"One step up, one step back" is an accurate description of MacTavish's time at the helm thus far. The positives are recognizing the defensive depth probelms and signing Anton Belov, Denis Grebeshkov and Andrew Ference. Getting a stable backup goaltender for peanuts was very nice.
Which Oilers' player is the biggest dark horse to have a huge season?
If you consider a recovering Ales Hemsky a dark horse, then it's him. Otherwise, it's Anton Belov. The defenseman is going to get third-pairing minutes as the wheelman for the defensive Nick Schultz and power play time with the second unit. If he stays healthy, Craig MacTavish is going to be applauded for the signing.
Ed. Note: We thank Derek for his time in this edition of Gameday Questionnaire. Look for our next edition Friday with our pals at Battle of California.