The Competition: Edmonton Oilers

oilogo.gifAfter a much deserved vacation in New York following the most tiring process of composing the first three “competition” entries (in case you missed them, they’re here, here and here), I wrap up my series with a look at a team that really does deserve those quote-marks around “competition”: the Edmonton Oilers. That crazy Kevin Lowe threw way too much money at Dustin Penner while I’m gone, and while Brian Burke hadn’t made up his mind at the time of this writing, I’m going to guess he takes the picks and lets Lowe overpay. But as many Oilers fans have already suggested, Penner doesn’t exactly turn the Oilers into playoff contenders. Let’s take a look at the sad situation.

Potential 2007-08 Opening Day Roster
(Head coach: Craig MacTavish)
* One more time: I am not an “expert” on other Northwest teams, and have cobbled these rosters together from various lists. Actual experts, please have your say in the comments, I’m all ears (or eyes, in the blog context) …

FORWARDS
Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner*, Fernando Pisani, Raffi Torres, Geoff Sanderson, Ethan Moreau, Marty Reasoner, Patrick Thoresen, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Zack Stortini, J.F. Jacques (Robbie Schremp, Robert Nilsson).

Egad. On a well-balanced team, Shawn Horcoff is a passable No. 1 centreman, and a good No. 2 on any team. Ales Hemsky has as much raw talent as anyone in the Northwest and may one day grow the consistency to go with it. I love Jarret Stoll’s leadership and two-way skill-set, and Dustin Penner* is, uh, big on size and potential. And Raffi Torres and Fernando Pisani are great third-liners. But they’re playing on the second line with this team, sometimes the first. Five of the bottom six (nothing wrong with Moreau at all) are not NHL players at this point, but they’ll be right there this year. And does anyone think floaters Nilsson and Schremp are going to be mature and ready anytime soon?

Seriously, I can’t believe I was in the “The Oilers may score 300” club at the beginning of last year.

DEFENCEMEN
Sheldon Souray, Joni Pitkanen, Steve Staios, Ladislav Smid, Dick Tarnstrom, Denis Grebeshkov, Matt Greene (Tom Gilbert, Danny Syvret).

I will say this for Lowe: This is an improved group. Souray may not be worth as much as he’s getting, but he’s still a guy who can make that first pass that every Oiler fan cried themselves to sleep about last season. Pitkanen is a great young defenceman, and worth the price paid. Staios is steady, Smid is improving, we’ll see what happens with Tarnstrom and Grebeshkov.

It will be interesting to see if the aforementioned first passes make vastly better players out of guys like Horcoff, Stoll, Torres and speedy Geoff Sanderson. I don’t think Hemsky needs a good first pass to make things happen, which is why his season last year was such a disappointment.

GOALTENDERS
Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon.

Dwayne Roloson is capital-C crazy, and I love him for it. I can’t wait for Dion Phaneuf to brush his skate up against his goal pad this year, watch Dwayne flop like a fish, swing his stick and chase after the ref, then watch every Oiler fan online descend on Covered in Oil and Battle of Alberta to express their hate for Phaneuf in creative and profane (or creatively profane) new ways.

All that said, I still think he can be a No. 1 in the league. But while he’s probably still better than Backstrom and Budaj, he’s not a guy who’s going to steal games like Luongo or Kiprusoff. Garon is fine as a No. 2.

FLAMES BLOG SAYS
I’m not one of those Flames fans who lives his life to hate the Oilers, who have dedicated fans and a storied history. That leaves plenty of hate for the Canucks. That said, I still like it plenty when the Flames are better than Edmonton, and I don’t think there are many Oilers fans around who would even try to argue that their own team is going to make the playoffs this year, so many will spend their time trying to make Flames fans scared by pointing out that Mike Keenan is the coach and Miikka Kiprusoff still hasn’t signed a contract past this season.

Trust us, we know. Good luck with those kids on the farm.

Predicted finish: Fifth.

OILOGOSPHERE
Even with a crappy team, Oilers fans can take solace in the fact they have the best collection of blogs of any NHL franchise.

Covered In Oil
Battle of Alberta
Real Deal Hockey
MC79 Hockey
Irreverent Oil Fans

Black Dog Hates Skunks
Lowetide
Always On The Road
Hot Oil
YK Oil
All Oil All the Time
Punjabi Oil

NEXT: Wrap-up and a Flames update

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~ by duncan on July 31, 2007.

21 Responses to “The Competition: Edmonton Oilers”

  1. The sad part about all of this (or good part I guess from our perspective) is that that was almost the most optimistic I’ve seen anyone be about the Oil all summer, and yet you still have them last in the NW.

    Anyways, very nice work on all your team previews, and I agree with your opinion for the most part, but I’d like to see more hate for the Wild, whose REM inducing play just angers me.

  2. You’re certainly giving the Oil more credit than I would. They don’t have single, established difference maker (Hemsky will be one, but he needs support – he’d be ideal on 2nd line like Huselius on Calgary). Their defense is improved only due to the Pitkanen acqisition – Lowe’s lone good move this summer. Souray is a disaster at ES, and Tarnstrom isn’t much better. Staios is steady, but I’d consider him a passable 2nd pairing guy at best. Smid is still a 21 year old kid who’ll be forced to play more than he should. Greene is a slightly less injured Warrener without the experience. the rest are unknown commodities.

    The Oil won’t be as bad as they were down the stretch, but they’re still going to get pounded by the rest of the teams in NW (unless Luongo gets injured, of course). It’s going to be a good year.

  3. I may have been compelled to be reasonably positive because everyone else is being SO negative, it can’t possibly be that bad. I mean, they aren’t the Coyotes. I also have a suspicion that Souray isn’t as bad as those +/- numbers from last year. Not that he has a long and great history as a defensive genius, but he was a career plus player until last year. Pair him with Staios, and I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. And both he and Souray are upgrades over everyone from last year.

  4. Oh, and I forgot to say that I still think MacTavish is one of the best coaches in the league, particularly at getting his players to step up at key times in games. He’ll win games for Edmonton.

  5. I hear you on Souray. However, MC recently did an analysis on his last 2 seasons, and both years he was an anchor at ES for the Canadiens. That’s getting out of fluke territory. he was also a leader in the league in terms of penalties taken last year – which leads me to believe the crack-down on obstruction hurt his game.

    And keep in mind, Souray wasn’t paired with chopped liver last season – I think Rivet/Markov were his partners (the latter being a superior player to Staios, the former probably comparable).

    Danny Markov would have made more sense for the Oilers. Heck, maybe they’ll still get him…?

  6. But while he’s probably still better than , he’s not a guy who’s going to steal games like Luongo or Kiprusoff

    duncan, i MUST know what goalie you put in that you INITIALLY thought roloson was better than (toskala… naaaa. sanford ?…..naaaaa). please please please tell us !!!
    🙂

  7. ^ Budaj?

  8. ^ Backstrom ? (whoah… when i said sanford, i meant backstrom…. but who the fuck knew sanford went to vancouver ?!?!?! when the hell did THAT happen ?!?)

  9. Wow, I’ve gotta stop writing these after beers, or at least copy-edit my own stuff. Anyway, I meant to say Backstrom and Budaj, but wasn’t sure what I thought. Long-term (like, 2008-09 forward), I’d take both B’s over Dwayne, but this season I’d rather have Roloson.

    I’m going in to edit now to limit my embarrassment to the comments string.

  10. A literate Flames fan? I feel like I’ve stumbled an anti-gay marriage website written by Mark Foley. Nicely done.

    What is it that you guys have with white on black though? Irritating to read.

    MG, by the way, while I’m generally irritated with the whole “first line”, “second line” thing, I’m completely puzzled by your assertion that Hemsky is second line talent. He’s a top 30 PP guy in the NHL and he’s no chopped liver at ES. I’m not sure how you go about averaging that out but I’d have a hard time believing he’s not one of the 90 best forwards in the NHL. I’m a little doubtful that Kristian Huselius has the chops to be a fair comparison.

  11. Hemsky is a second-line talent because when you put such a one-dimensional soft player on the top line, your opponent finds the back of your net. Such players flourish against 2nd lines.

  12. What is it that you guys have with white on black though? Irritating to read.

    I recently changed my format for that reason.

    MG, by the way, while I’m generally irritated with the whole “first line”, “second line” thing, I’m completely puzzled by your assertion that Hemsky is second line talent.

    I wouldn’t say Hemsky is necessarily a 2nd liner…I think on a team with an established difference maker at ES he’d be money. I just don’t think he can carry the mail all by himself at this stage of his career. Which is why i think he’d be better of facing the lesser lights this coming season.

    The Huselius comparison is fair right now, I think. Huslius also kicks ass on the PP and he was one of the better Flames at ES last year (albeit on the, *ahem*, second line). While Huselius is probably at his peak, Im sure Hemsky will develop beyond a guy who only excels against the softer competition as he gains age and experience.

    Also, congrats Duncan…it takes a lot for MC to take a Flames Blog seriously…

  13. I’m with MC, Hemsky’s a first-line talent. He’s a guy who should make his linemates better with that ability, not vice-versa. He just hasn’t figured it out yet, but I’ve seen enough to be sure he will. And as much as I appreciate Juice, I’d trade two Huseliuses for him. Plus, you’ve gotta admit MG, Huselius is to you what Conroy is to me.

    As for white on black, just wait a few years, and it’ll take over. Then I’m a pioneer.

  14. Again, I was never arguing that Hemsky isn’t a quality player. Im arguing that, on the Oilers this upcoming season and at this point in his career arch, Hemsky would excel by seeing the opposition’s weaker lights – partially because he’s a young guy and partially because he doesn’t have the linemates to take on strong checkers or other Big Guns. If I was coaching the Oil next year, I would employ him like Huselius gets used in Calgary: middle of the road competition at ES whom he could beat up on and lots of PP time. That was really the only comparison I was trying to make: situational.

  15. He definitely does come across as frustrated on a fairly regular basis … of course, none of that will be a problem now that Dustin Penner’s in town and every team will be focusing their efforts squarely on Mr. 29 Goals.

  16. Aren’t you quaking in your boots already? I would be… if I weren’t wearing sandals right now 🙂

    However we rank players as first/second/third liners, I think Edmonton’s projected first line this season (yes, with their new acquisition and all the shiny whistles) will probably need a few seasons before they really establish themselves as a threat.

  17. I’d trade two Huseliuses for him
    psst…. the plural of huselius is huseliai. why ? because i said so… 😉

  18. Sorry, forgot. It is a superior choice.

  19. Good post Duncan. While I would argue Roloson deserves more credit as a goalie than you’re willing to give him, you’re 100% right that he’s crazy. Him and Dion are friends now though!*

    *Friendship extended to duration of IIHF WHC performance

  20. A flames blog bashing the oilers, this is groundbreaking. The flames must be soooo good they are boring, and you have to write aboout the oilers. I have to go puke

  21. To quote a favourite book of mine, a life in ruins with vomiting is still a life in ruins…

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