Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Edmonton Oilers Add Size, Sandpaper for 2014-15, but Playoffs Still a Longshot

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Edmonton Oilers Add Size, Sandpaper for 2014-15, but Playoffs Still a Longshot

Article excerpt

Oilers add size, sandpaper for 2014-15 season

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EDMONTON - While the playoffs may be a bridge too far in 2014-15, the woebegone Edmonton Oilers know it's time to demonstrate there's light any light at the end of the tunnel.

"There's no question in my mind that we're better, and we're significantly better," said general manager Craig MacTavish after the final training camp cuts were announced.

"But we're closing a significant gap. We were a very poor team last year, a very flawed team.

"So my optimism is muted by the fact that we have a significant distance to close to get into that (playoff) race."

The savvy fans, said MacTavish, understand.

But many aren't happy after eight consecutive years of poor finishes, no playoffs, and empty promises.

Some of the more disgusted took to tossing their oil-drop jerseys onto the ice at Rexall Place last year as the squad stumbled to a 29-44-9 record (28th in the NHL).

MacTavish and second year head coach Dallas Eakins responded by refashioning the lineup with more size, youth, and sandpaper.

The wings remain the strength, led by Taylor Hall.

The 22-year-old scored 27 goals and added 53 assists last season, and is expected to join centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle on the top line.

Eberle looks to rebound from a disappointing, inconsistent season (65 points).

Nail Yakupov is coming off a forgettable year of benchings, sub par offence (24 points) and poor defence. The former No. 1 pick must prove he can do more than float above the fray while waiting for the puck.

Teddy Purcell (six foot two) and Benoit Pouliot (6-3) have been acquired to deliver strength on the puck.

David Perron, Matt Hendricks, and Jesse Joensuu round out the wings.

The Oilers remain dangerously thin at centre. Nugent-Hopkins had a strong training camp and wants to improve on his 19 goals and 56 points from last year.

Leon Draisaitl, the team's 2014 top draft pick, took control in the pre-season and played his way on to at least a nine-game NHL tryout before the Oilers face a decision on whether to send him back to junior.

The 18-year-old says he won't make it an easy call.

"It's a kid's dream. I've come so far, and now I don't want to stop," he said. …

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