The Edmonton Oilers take solace in one thing from their eighth straight playoff-less season: It cant get any worse. Brooks Robinson Jersey . "Last year was such a debacle from start to finish in so many ways," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish explained to TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, "that we are for sure going to better, its just a measure of how much." In an attempt to get better, the Oilers made plenty of changes toward the end of last season and through the off-season, however the team did not make a change at head coach. Instead the club elected to stand by Dallas Eakins after a trying first year at the helm of an NHL club. "Ill say this for Dallas, quite incredible the way he kept it together for a first-year head coach in an incredibly difficult set of circumstances and to come through a season like that with his integrity and his sanity as rationally as he did was a real testament and tribute to his character," MacTavish said before giving his bench boss another vote of confidence. "We as an organization believe wholeheartedly in Dallas Eakins. We think hes our coach for the future and its up to us in management to give him the tools and support that he needs to have success because hes not an impediment for us moving forward." Amongst those tools and support are newly hired assistant coaches Craig Ramsey and Rocky Thompson, who were brought in to replace Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger. "When youre in a losing culture, I think change is important," MacTavish told McKenzie. "I think change brings optimism, I think optimism is important in our business, especially when youre talking about coaching. This isnt to blame it on assistant coaches, thats for sure. But, thats the nature of the business, you bring people in and they add a little bit something different, a little bit different set of eyes and thats why we did it." One thing that wont change with the Oilers new set of eyes is their top line. The trio of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle will once again be tasked with leading Edmontons offence. Hall proved to be a star last season, scoring 80 points in 75 games, and now MacTavish says his linemates must determine if they can raise their playing level in order for the Oilers to be successful. "We all know Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle are really good players but what we dont know is whether they are star players. They have a lot of room for growth...but theyve had enough experience and enough time. I think, in fairness to them, they want this more so than anybody else. We need to see whether theyre going to be good players or whether theyre going to be star players." Behind the top line, many questions remain for the Oilers lineup and at the top of that list is centre depth. Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander, Leon Draisaitl and Boyd Gordon are all viable options for the team down the middle. But decisions on where each them will play remains undetermined. "Going into camp thats the single biggest question we have," MacTavish said of the centre position. "We think that the goaltendings stabilized with Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens, weve added some depth and some puck-moving defencemen, so I think the depth there is certainly going to be better and the wings have always been strong and the wings are going to be good on our team again this year. The question mark is whether we have enough currently to fill those other positions and if we dont, well be looking to find somebody that can." MacTavish said the question at centre would not, however, impact the decision of how to develop the teams third-overall pick, Draisaitl. "Well make our decision on whatever is best for Leon," MacTavish stated. "We dont want to put him into a situation thats not best for his development, because that is really what well be basing that decision on. Hes got lots of NHL-ready attributes but we dont know that it will all mesh to the point that he can play this year, and well make that decision on whats best for him." The Oilers have a recent history of putting pressure on early draft picks. Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov both played full NHL seasons after being drafted first-overall. Nugent-Hopkins has developed into the teams top-line centre, while Yakupov has struggled. MacTavish says the team has taken a lesson from their handling of Yakupov. "Development is seldom a straight line," MacTavish said of the 2012 first-overall pick. "For very few people, maybe Sidney Crosby started here and went higher, but I think generally we put way too much pressure on young players. I expect Nail to go in (to camp), hopefully be able to breathe a little bit, take some pressure off and just gain some experience and continue to develop." Last season, the Oilers, despite a pressing need at defence, decided not to rush seventh-overall pick Darnell Nurse into the NHL. Now, the Oilers have added Nikita Nikitin, Mark Fayne and Keith Aulie to join Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry and Nick Schultz on the blue line. MacTavish doesnt believe those additions guarantee Nurse, or another prospect, wont crack the roster as well. "Its safe to say that when youre talking about young defencemen, that both Oscar and Darnell, and Marty is in that mix as well, are going to be excellent defencemen for the Edmonton Oilers for 10 or 15 years. Whether next year is the first year of those 10 or 15 years, that I dont know but theyre very good prospects, theyre going to be very good players and its safe to say they have to play somewhere near the top-four for us to make a case to keep them." Behind the defencemen, this year at least, will be goaltenders Scrivens and Fasth, who were both acquired in-season via trade last year. Though the starter has yet to be determined, MacTavish said Scrivens holds the early lead. "Based on last years work Ben Scrivens had a pretty firm hold of the No. 1 spot by the end of last year. Well pick up where we left off last year with Ben being the de facto No. 1 goalie for us but Viktor is a very capable guy and hes going to fight hard for that position, which is exactly what we want." One thing that could help determine who starts in net for the team is analytics. The Oilers hired former analytic blogger Tyler Dellow to help in that respect. MacTavish said the move should help the Oilers recognize problems not otherwise seen on the ice. "I think analytically when you look at your team and your execution of your team in a myriad of different zones and different situations, it will lead you to ask questions maybe that you otherwise wouldnt ask," MacTavish explained. Is this the year the Oilers finally end their eight-year playoff drought? MacTavish says he learned an important lesson last season on high expectations. "Be careful with optimism," MacTavish told McKenzie. "I think (going into last season) I was more optimistic then I should have been. Youre always evolving and youre always learning in this business if youre going to survive and hopefully Ill be stronger and better and more capable in the job that I do because of the struggles we had last year." The Oilers open training camp on Thursday. J.J. Hardy Jersey . Almost 40 years to the day, the two teams will meet again, this time at BC Place, to celebrate the past and try to earn important points for the present. Chris Tillman Jersey . And follow TSN.ca right through Deadline Day for all the updates. Getting Creative The Pittsburgh Penguins will try their best to acquire Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks before the Trade Deadline.MIAMI - LeBron James of the Miami Heat says Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant would be a deserving winner of the NBA MVP award. Its expected that Durant will be announced as this seasons MVP later this week. James has lauded Durants play this season several times in rrecent weeks, doing so again on Monday. Caleb Joseph Jersey. James says: "Much respect to him and he deserves it. He had a big-time MVP season." James is a four-time winner of the leagues MVP award, taking the honour in each of the previous two seasons. 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