The Edmonton Oilers had a relatively quiet offseason for a team that drastically failed to live up to the expectations laid out before them last season and as you would expect that has some fans in Edmonton concerned about the direction of their team.
In spite of the fact that there were a number of trade rumors surrounding the Oilers this summer they opted not to make any big moves, and that may have been a good thing for the team. Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli has one of the worst trading histories of any National Hockey League general manager and any additional big moves could have only resulted in more damage than the big trades he has previously made for players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and so on and so forth.
Players like veteran enforcer Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom were all connected to trade talks at different parts of the offseason including the National Hockey League Entry Draft, the star of free agency, and even much later into the offseason in the case of both Lucic and Klefbom. In spite of that however Chiarelli has held firm, but that now does raise the question of how the Oilers hope to make significant improvements with so few changes to their current roster.
Well according to recent comments from Chiarelli during an interview with Edmonton Oilers radio legend Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now, Chiarelli appears to be putting a good part of his hopes on two of his wingers. It seems that Chiarelli believes that both former first round pick Jesse Puljujarvi and recently acquired winger Tobias Rieder are both presently poised to have their breakout seasons in the National Hockey League.
Rieder, a 25 year old center and one of the few players acquired by Chiarelli in the offseason, has previously spent almost his entire career as a member of the Arizona Coyotes organization so it's fair to say that he likely hasn't had every chance in the world to show his peak performance. In spite of his relatively underwhelming offensive performances with Arizona over the years Chiarelli believes he can go to the next level as a member of the Oilers.
"I think his game has that platform," Chiarelli said as per NHL.com. "He hasn't done it yet, but he has speed, he has something to prove, he's still young and can play both sides.
"The opportunity is there for him. He does have the offensive capacity although he hasn't done it yet. He's shown flashes. He's a terrific penalty-killer too, and that hasn't been said as much."
It has to be said that Rieder has certainly never had a chance to play with someone like a Connor McDavid or even fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl and it will be interesting to see if Draisaitl especially can help bring out the best in him this season. When it comes to Puljujarvi Chiarelli acknowledged the concerns that some have had with his slow development but remained confident in his progress thus far.
"Where he was picked [in the draft] people expect more immediate returns," Chairelli said of the Finnish forward. "He's shown a lot of progress, he's getting more mature. We tend to forget he's a northern Finn and he still has that maturation process going as far as living in North America and being a professional.
"This kid's a horse, he can score, he's still learning, and his learning curve maybe is a bit more shallow than some of the guys drafted around him, but he'll be there in the end and I think you're going to see big things from him this season."
Photo Credit: Keystone Press