THIRD TIME UNLUCKY

Robin Brownlee
October 09 2008 11:32AM

"Get giddy. The next few years are going to be a lot of fun in Edmonton."

-- Terry Jones, Edmonton Sun

With more gushing in Oil Country since roughnecks tapped Leduc No. 1, it's obvious optimism abounds when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers on the eve of the 2008-09 season.

Over at The Sun, Jones and hockey writers Rob Tychkowski and Derek Van Diest were unanimous Wednesday in picking the Oilers to not only make the playoffs after two straight years out, but to win the Northwest Division outright. They're not alone.

While I tend to agree with Large the Oilers are going to be fun to watch, I'm not convinced they'll manage either -- winning the division title or making the playoffs. But that's just me.

Here's how I see the Western Conference.

THE TOP TIER

1. DETROIT. In a class of their own. They have Hart Trophy candidates in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, perennial Norris Trophy winner Niklas Lidstrom and they've added Marian Hossa. Great special teams.

2. SAN JOSE. Is this the year? If Jonathan Cheechoo can regain his form, the Sharks will be absolutely loaded up front. I'll take Evgeni Nabokov over Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin any day.

3. CALGARY. If the wheels don't fall completely off Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames will be the class of the Northwest Division. Not many teams have a one-two offensive-and-shutdown punch like Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr on the back end. Nice additions in Cammalleri and Glencross.

4. ANAHEIM. Not having Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer farting around with retirement talk is a bonus. I like the addition of Brendan Morrison.

THE NEXT FOUR

5. DALLAS. Proof that the pre-season means little. A full season of Brad Richards and the grit added with Sean Avery will help, although I'm not sold on super-hyped Fabian Brunnstrom.

6. MINNESOTA. While we might see a return to more defensive hockey and a less potent transition game, the Wild will have enough offence unless Marian Gaborik comes off the rails.

7. CHICAGO. For all the talk in Edmonton about young talent, no team in the conference has more young skill than the Blackhawks with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews up front and Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith on the back end. A team on the rise in the Windy City.

8. COLORADO. The Avs would be a spot or two higher if it wasn't for the goaltending tandem of Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft. Expect a bounce-back year from Ryan Smyth. When will Joe Sakic slow down?

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR

9. EDMONTON. This team looks better on paper than it will in the standings, although I fully expect the Oilers to be in the thick of things and destined for another hair-on-fire stretch drive.

There's lots to like about this edition of the Oilers . . .

-- I don't have the doubts about Mathieu Garon some people do. I think he can be the No. 1 guy for 65-70 games, and he'll be motivated because he's playing for a contract.

-- Erik Cole for Joni Pitkanen is a big upgrade. I won't be surprised to see Cole score 30 goals. While Cole, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky weren't a great fit in pre-season, give it time.

-- I don't see a big drop-off, aka the sophomore jinx, for Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. I'd be more worried about Robert Nilsson, only because he's had inconsistency in his game in the past.

-- Shawn Horcoff is in his prime and those people who don't consider him a "legit" No. 1 centre don't get how well-rounded his overall game is. He's in for a bounce-back year and I won't be surprised to see 75 points.

-- Hemsky. He'll be more protected from the constant muggings he's endured for several seasons. Those who've been waiting for that elusive breakout year will see it this season.

Here's what makes me nervous . . .

-- A bogus schedule. The Oilers play 12 of their first 15 games on the road and could spend the first two months of the season digging themselves out of a hole. That's a factor in a conference where you could have six points separating seventh place from 10th.

-- Trouble in the circles. Nobody has stepped up to make up for the loss of Jarret Stoll and Marty Reasoner on the dot. While I don't put a lot of weight in pre-season records in terms of wins and losses, the Oilers inability to win face-offs has been alarming.

-- The third-line mix. I haven't liked the trio of Ethan Moreau, Fernando Pisani and Dustin Penner a bit. Two guys playing out of position and another who has barely played the past two seasons. Trouble.

-- The power play. Good enough? With the addition of Lubomir Visnovsky and 75 games from Sheldon Souray it should be, but . . .

-- The Oilers have enough offence, but they have to be way better defensively in front of Garon. Have they shown marked improvement in their own end? Well, no.

THE ALSO-RANS

10. VANCOUVER 11. COLUMBUS 12. PHOENIX 13. NASHVILLE 14. ST. LOUIS 15 LOS ANGELES

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Wanye Gretz
October 09 2008, 11:40AM
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9th place?? Great beard of Thor. I can assure you the Oilers will finish higher than this and will finish ahead of the Flames.

BELIEVE THAT

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#2 Rick
October 09 2008, 11:49AM
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Right now, aside from the schedule which they can't do anything about, the biggest concern heading into the season has to be the inability to win a face off. God they looked horrible in that regard during the pre season.

It seems like an either you have it or you don't kind of skill so it's not like you should need the pre season to get up to speed like the other things they tend to work on at this time of year.

Other than that I don't see any more question marks than almost every other team in the league. Some will break their way and some won't. Again like almost every other team in the league.

...

I know you don't specifically point to it as a concern but there seems to be more than a few people out there that are suggesting that the Oilers may struggle because you can't rely on all of the kids to have a smooth 2nd year. It's probably valid.

What I would like to know is why they are so quick to declare that the Hawks are not only now legit but can be expected to be better than the Oilers because of all of their talented kids.

Aren't the Hawks at an even greater risk than the Oilers? At least here there is a veteran contigent playing ahead of the kids. Which isn't the case in Chicago.

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#3 Douggy
October 09 2008, 11:53AM
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yeah, kipprusoff is going to shit the bed this year, so will big bert! best three players the flames have will be iggy, phaneuf, and unfortunately glencross! oil will win the div title! flames suck.

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#4 swany
October 09 2008, 11:57AM
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9th are you kidding, Minny and the Avs are going to be better than us !!! Minny lost 2 of there top six forwards, Gabby won't resign and the Avs backend and Goaltending are quite poor. Lets hope the Oilers can come through the first 20 games at 500 then watch out

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#5 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 12:04PM
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Yeah FLAMES Suck! remember you can't spell Calgary without s-u-c-k.

Robin I totally think you're saying this just to be different. Thats why you bell bottoms when everyone else was in GWG's why you listened to ABBA whilst the world listened to SOUNDGARDEN and why you pick the OIL the MIGHTY MIGHTY OIL to finish ninth.

For you to think Colorado is a better team, you must be wearing you Ryan Smyth colored glasses with clip on mullet attachment to think that team is better in all three areas then the Oilers.

The Oilers will make the playoffs for sure for this reason. If they don't have the players to get it done, they have the wealth of assets to TRADE for the players to get it done (i.e. when we picked up Spacek, Roli, tarnstrom and Samsonov in '06). The Oiler nation can rest assure that Katz and company will not tolerate underperformance.

The team will be good and Brownie will be wrong. So everybody wins.

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#6 Chris.
October 09 2008, 12:15PM
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I can't shake the premonition that the Oil will win a game by 3 or 4 goals one night and then lose the next two nights by one. There is a difference between offence and TIMELY offence. Also am nervous about all the third period collapses.

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#7 Gord
October 09 2008, 12:26PM
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I've mentioned this several times - I think the biggest concern is a lack of physical, shut down style defencemen. We can have the 6 best puck moving d-men in the league, but if they can never gain control of the puck, their skills are wasted.

Pointing this out, face off wins become even more important, another category which the Oilers have seen a drastic decline from last year (as previously mentioned). Marty 'Party' Reasoner and Mr. Rachel Hunter will be horribly missed in this area. I have a feeling Horcoff will take 75% of the team's faceoffs unless this issue is addressed.

I don't see a concern on the PP if Souray goes down. We have a good group of offensively talent d-men, and two solid scoring lines. The Oilers PP looked great to close last season, which of course had no Souray.

Bogus schedule? Sure 12 of the 15 first games on the road to start the season looks bad initially. What that says to me (with being lazy and not taking the time to look too deeply) that the home stretch while trying to sneak into 8th position will have the Oil playing more often in the friendly confines of Rexall Place. This seems like an advantage to me.

I didn't want to comment on the predictions as each is entitled to their own opinions, so I will insert my own.

1) Detroit - what Robin said 2) San Jose - what Robin said 3) Calgary - what Robin said 4) Dallas - great additions in Avery and Richards 5) Anaheim - Burke is an idiot and is bound to drive the team into the ground. I also think the PP is not as strong as it was last season with Schneider gone) 6) Chicago - what Robin said 7) Phoenix - I think that Phoenix has the best crop of young players and Wayne Gretzky (not Wanye Gretz) will have these kids playing great hockey. Also, adding Jokinen can only be good 8) Nashville - Lost Zidlicky and Radulov, but should still squeak into the play offs by virtue of the Oilers losing their last regular season game :( ------------- 9) Edmonton - if they win that last game, they will be in!! ;) 10) Colorado - too many questions in goal 11) St. Louis - not enough depth 12) Minnesota - lost Rolston and if Gaborik gets hurt they have no chance of scoring 13) Vancouver - if Luongo can get 35 shut outs, the Canucks could get 35 wins this season 14) Columbus - no help yet for Nash. What a waste of talent with him there by himself 15) Los Angeles - I would love to ee LA finish higher but I can't see Labararbabrabrbra winning 30 games for them.

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#8 outKast
October 09 2008, 12:53PM
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1. Vancouver - that's what she said 2. San Jose - that's what he said 3. Detroit - that what... you get the point 4. St.Louis 5. Chicago 6. Dallas 7. Calgary 8. Nashville 9. Colorado 10. Columbus 11. Los Angeles 12. Minnesota 13. Phoenix 14. Anaheim 15. Edmonton --> Victor Hedman

Edmonton 1st line can't stay intact.

- Hemmer and Cole can't stop running into eachother on the RW. Cole doesn't know how to play his position and Hemsky is useless without a triggerman.

- Horcoff is the best 2nd line center on any Stanley Cup winning team.

- Visnovsky will underwhelm

- Souray will score 7 goals and add 10 assists.

- Moreau should be a 4th liner. He is sloted in the 3rd line...why?

- Grebeshkov (-45)

- Gilbert 2 goals, 20 assists

- Garon 3.12 GAA, 0.899 SP

- Smid 0G 5A 250PIM (all minor penalties for hooking) -35

- Gagner 5G 25A

- Cogliano 40G 15A

- Brodziak 25G 20A

etc. etc.

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#9 RobinB
October 09 2008, 12:54PM
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Fiveandagame: To be different? No. To be right? Yes. Maybe they're one and the same.

ABBA? If you only knew how wrong you are. Soundgarden? Good Lord. man, by the time they broke out in 1990 I had 20 years of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, BOC, Molly Hatchet, Alice Cooper and KISS under my belt.

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#10 outKast
October 09 2008, 12:56PM
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pardon me. Edmonton's biggest hooker is Ales Hemsky

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#11 Phil McCrackin
October 09 2008, 01:06PM
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outKast - Vancouver 1st? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!

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#12 RobinB
October 09 2008, 01:09PM
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Phil: Heywood Jablome here. You're spot on. The Canucks are headed off the rails with Mike Gillis at the wheel.

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#13 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 01:50PM
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Brownie of the KISS army--

If, for whatever reason the Oilers miss the playoffs (only plausible scenario being that their plane crashes and we play out the season with Falcons (we'd still finish 9th cause we'd still be better than Vancouver)) You would get to be right wouldn't you?

If you're right you will be soooo smart won't you. Going against what EVERYBODY else is saying.

So S-M-R-T

Where if you're wrong, you can say things like "Wow Brodziak really exceeded expectations, Who knew Pisani would score 20+? Eric Cole performed above expectations, I was drinking heavily and hanging out with Wayne Gretz when I made that prediction" Whatever excuse you'd give for them making the playoffs, you could quantify with some type of BS like the above.

NOW, if you predict them to say make the playoffs or win the division and they don't, you'd just be wrong. Wrong and then when you'd defend your stance earlier in the year it would sound like you're making excuses/whining about the poor play of such and such or MacT or the schedule.

SO, your prediction of them to miss the playoffs guarantees you good standing at the end of the year, with either an "I told you so" or "wow the team really surprised me, how great is that" and everybody would greet you with open arms on the playoff bandwagon you'd be hitching a ride on.

You can be right with your prediction, or pleasantly surprised, but not wrong....well wrong but nobody would be pointing fingers cause we'd all be 3 pints deep into playoff mode by the time Jonathan digs this article back up and reposts it.

I think your prediction is media cowardice.

.....chicken:)

and finally....

OUTKAST YOU'RE RETARDED!

don't you know that Vancouver is getting all of their wins out of the way in the preseason?

Question: What will it take to get playoff ticket in Vancouver this year?

Answer: A plane ticket to Edmonton.

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#14 freeze
October 09 2008, 02:20PM
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looks like we have trolls.

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#15 Darren
October 09 2008, 02:22PM
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While I am not the biggest fan of Robin in the best of times, this is one of the few times I actually like what he has to say. There are concerns with the team, and what he all pointed out is basically things I have been worried about. One question though, why did the Oiler's sign JDD to a one-way contract, I dont see the sense of that at all.

Fiveandagame... you are an idiot

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#16 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 02:32PM
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//Fiveandagame… you are an idiot//

Darren--

I resemble that remark!

Although my previous post was meant to be read with thy tongue firmly pressed into thy cheek...

I agree with you on JDD. Why the one way? Was there a deal for Roli that fell through? WTF?

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#17 myteammytown
October 09 2008, 02:43PM
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So that is what Eklund looks like...

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#18 Chris.
October 09 2008, 02:58PM
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The Oilers will either win with the curent lineup...Or The lineup will change. Either way, this team will win. Calgary won't score if Iggy gets hurt and Vancouver won't win a single game without a forty save effort by Luongo. Wish the Oilers had more top end talent, but having all your resources tied up in a few players can be problematic also. I like that the big problem this year is "Faceoffs" as opposed to "Defence" or "Goaltending".

1)Detroit 2)Dallas 3)Calgary 4)San Jose 5)Anaheim 6)Edmonton 7)Minesota 8)Chicago Or Nashville

Edmonton/Calgary to swap position if Iginla gets hurt for any signifigant length of time.

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#19 Wanye Gretz
October 09 2008, 03:10PM
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Calling everyone retarded is retarded.

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#20 docweb
October 09 2008, 04:37PM
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RB, I will talk about the only two teams that I care about. The Flames IMO have made a couple of sideways moves that have not made them any better. The key as always is Kipper and more to that his relationship with Keenan. I can see that if they get off to a so-so first half and Mike starts yanking Kipper around...Kipper implodes, Mike gets canned and the team turns around. In a tight division though the time for that turnaround means no playoffs. I agree the Oil's chance is 50/50. The kids have to be as good, the PP better, and faceoffs are a real challenge. Can we count on all of the shootout points again? I doubt it. On the other hand surely we can't have as many injuries as the last 2 years. Thanks for your thoughts.

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#21 RobinB
October 09 2008, 04:41PM
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Doc: It'll be tight just like last season when Calgary finished seventh with 94 points while Edmonton, Chicago and Vancouver missed the playoffs with 88.

If Kiprusoff struggles, the Flames have no margin for error. None.

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#22 Matt N
October 09 2008, 04:44PM
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I predict that the difference between 1st and 5th in the NW division will be around 8 pts. A snapped MCL here or torn rotator cuff there will be the difference. Just to give it a whirl here is my final order.

1- Minny (system, defence and solid goaltending makes them really difficult to play against)

2 thru 4 - everyone else

5- Colorado (goaltending becomes a gong show and their forwards who have a past of inconsistency will be inconsistent)

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#23 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 05:41PM
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--Calling everyone retarded is retarded--

This coming from captain retard?.....no wait thats me...no wait thats Joffery Lupul...no wait thats Wayne Gretz....no wait I already said that....no wait it's Curtis the retard Glencross!

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#24 RobinB
October 09 2008, 06:36PM
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Men: Back on topic. One of the things I took into consideration in picking the Oilers where I did but didn't mention here -- I did talk about it on Gregor's show today -- is the new schedule.

If, like a lot of people think, Colorado, Minnesota and Vancouver are slipping to varying degrees, this ISN'T the season you want to be playing them only six times instead of eight.

Some of those games will be made up against weaker teams in the East, but that's still six head-to-head games (plus two more against Calgary) where the Oilers won't be playing "four-pointers" against teams they need to beat to get in.

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#25 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 07:07PM
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Hmmm Robin that is an interesting point regarding the schedule.

Picking them 9th though seems to suggest you see little improvement over last years squad, OR that the division has improved over and above the Oilers.

That to me is the hard part to understand. With a record number of man games lost to injury last season the addition of one of the leagues best offensive d-men and Eric Cole at forward are they not improved? With a healthy team, just based on that, they have to be better.

They missed the playoffs by 3 pts last year. If Garon had started the year as the Oilers number 1 we would have made it. (based on his GAA).

Picking them 9th would appear on paper (IMO) to be more pessimistic then pragmatic.

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#26 outKast
October 09 2008, 07:37PM
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I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message...

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#27 RobinB
October 09 2008, 07:59PM
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Fiveandagame: "With a record number of man games lost to injury last season the addition of one of the leagues best offensive d-men and Eric Cole at forward are they not improved? With a healthy team, just based on that, they have to be better."

Do they? I like some of the pieces they've added, as noted, but that doesn't mean those pieces will fit together -- at least not right away.

With a brutal early schedule and changes to three of four of their lines, I don't see the Oilers getting off to a good start unless they come together WAY more quickly than I think they will.

Let's, for argument sake, say they do start slowly but settle in and get rolling in the second half. How much better than 14-5-1 can ANY team be in the last 20 games of the season? That didn't get it done last season.

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#28 PunjabiOil
October 09 2008, 08:55PM
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LOL - hilarious pic.

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#29 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 09:05PM
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RB-

Well I hope for the sake of my playoff beard you're wrong. You have very good points. I think why this is a hotly contested issue is, as you stated earlier, 1-5 will be tight. 6pts could mean the difference between 3rd and 9th in the conference.

Ultimately our division could be decided by injuries to key players.

To the Oiler Nation:

Shhhhhhhh....did you hear that???? I think that was the puck dropping on the 08/09 season!

Oh and I am sure the Toronto papers are already picking the Leafs to make the playoffs after they beat the wings tonight. 82-0!

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#30 Gord
October 09 2008, 09:11PM
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Fiveandagame: Just becuase the Oilers have improved in some areas, doesn't mean they haven't taken a step back in others. Don't underestimate the impact the departure of guys like Stoll and Reasoner and what they brought to the team. Their skills were not replaced by any new member of the current starting line up. Sure it can be expected the Oilers will score a few more goals and be more effective during the PP, but lack of key faceoff wins and troubles recovering the puck in the defensive zone are big concerns. Not to mention that the Oilers were outshot in every preseason game but 1 and (correct me if I am wrong) they surrendered the lead in every game but the blow out vs. the Flames. Those are serious concerns that haven't been addressed.

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#31 Chris
October 09 2008, 09:30PM
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Wow. Who spilled the Koolaid? The puck hasn't evem dropped on the season yet! Good People Of Oil Country... Let's see what happens when two points are on the line. Who said pre-season means nothing? It apparently means a lot to the pundits and would be profits. Everything will be alright! Really.

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#32 Gord
October 09 2008, 09:39PM
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Winning or losing means nothing in pre-season, but basic fundamentals are key. If they continue to give up the lead and depend on winning 10+ shoot outs this year they are going to be in big trouble.

There is always room for team improvement and there is no harm discussing the holes that we, the fans, feel the team needs to address.

I want the Oil to blow away the competition every game night in and night out and win every playoff game in 4 straight and parade down Whyte Ave, I just haven't seen anything that tells me that there is a possibility of that.

I'm just trying to stay realistic. We have enough people pointing out all of the positive achievements in the offseason, I'm just trying to bring balance to the conversation. If we all wear rose colored glasses we will be wondering why no one saw a .500 start coming. Quite honestly with their schedule, a .500 start over the first 15 games this season would be a great accomplishment!

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#33 Smokin' Ray Burnt
October 09 2008, 10:37PM
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Geez.... Yawn.

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#34 What were they thinking
October 09 2008, 11:25PM
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I don't want to be negative but it won't be a surprise if the Oil miss the playoffs another season. We're over-estimating their skill level. The new new NHL is about puck control. Puck control starts in the face-off circles, where the Oilers appear to be in trouble. Puck control moves into the corners and along the boards and is really critical in the Oilers' own end, where they once again have trouble. Losses to teams in their own division will be the Oilers downfall. They will be playing against bigger, stronger and tougher players who will move them off the puck and most of the play will be in their own end. Look out for the Canucks; with superior goaltending and big, fast forwards, they will be a contender.

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#35 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 11:26PM
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--3. CALGARY. If the wheels don’t fall completely off Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames will be the class of the Northwest Division--

HEY BROWNIE! would a 6-0 loss constitute a wheel alignment problem for Kipper?

HA! What Class that team showed....HA!

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#36 Jonathan Willis
October 09 2008, 11:35PM
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Nice article, Robin. I do not like Colorado, from the front office out, and I really doubt Calgary takes the division, but it is pretty hard to argue with things outside of that. (Personally, I figure Minny wins the division).

I tend to think the Oilers have enough horses to make the playoffs, but it is a ways from being a sure thing. A couple of veteran support players, one for the front and one for the back would make me a lot more confident.

I think a surefire prediction is that the Oilers will disappoint many fans, and that they will blame MacTavish.

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#37 Douggy
October 09 2008, 11:42PM
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i knew kipprusoff would shit the bed...

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#38 Fiveandagame
October 09 2008, 11:56PM
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I love this website......

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#39 Death Metal Gary
October 10 2008, 01:54AM
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I agree 100% with Brownlee, not necessarily in the standings, but in the concerns.

if the shots against total doenst come down theyre going to be stuck in another year of goals against being higher than goals for. thats the defenses fault and from such a defensive minded system in MacTavish, youd expect that to be a little better.

the third line is overpaid and overrated. its all feel good stories who got their dollars for it. great. a lot of those players lagged in pre-season and did no favors to young kids looking for experience when playing on lines with them when all three werent together.

too much finesse in the forwards. yes, theres great talent but which one has the guts to go to the net and win aside from Cogliano, Cole, and during a rare anomaly Hemsky or Horcoff, when needed? there needs to be way more urgency and determination on the top 6 for putting the puck in the net and wanting it instead of tic-tac-toe fun.

based on Vancouver's system, healthy D and Goaltending, its not time to count them out of a competitive division either.

i dont think theyre that far from the Oilers when it comes to a total balance.

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#40 RobinB
October 10 2008, 07:18AM
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Jonathan: I always have a difficult time picking against Minnesota because Jacques Lemaire is a master of getting the most out of what he's got to work with. Minnesota plays a sounder systems game, Calgary has more depth of talent, so it's a coin flip in a lot of ways. Colorado won't be as bad as many people think.

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#41 Jason Gregor
October 10 2008, 09:54AM
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DMG,

Hemsky goes into the tough areas more often that most skilled guys, which is why he gets rocked so often. The Oilers would like him to avoid crossing into the middle as often, but that is how he plays.

Rueben, we will debate on the show today. And my pick of the Canucks looks good for one night!! But seriously Burrows won't be a 20-goal scorer this year, but he'll draw about 40 penalties.

Colorado is bunk. I know they have Burnaby Joe, and Rueben you are from BC so you have a bit of a man crush on him, but I don't see them being anywhere but 5th in the NW.

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#42 Fiveandagame
October 10 2008, 11:02AM
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Despite some talented forward ranks, If the Colorado stays as is, they will compete but 5th place is where they'll live.

1. Detroit - Easy competition in the central puts them at the top again and by a wide margin. 2. San Jose - A good team with all the tools to take it all. 3. Edmonton - by two points (98) but could easily fall to 6-8. 4. Dallas - will challenge SJ 5. Anehiem - will suffer from Burkitis 6. Minnesota - every game they win will be 2-1 every game they lose will be 3-2 7. Chicago - Ups and downs of a very young team if the kids stay mentally healthy and the veterans stay physically healthy they will move up. 8. Phoenix/Vancouver/Calgary - toss up better goaltending in years past in Phoenix makes them an interesting team/ If Vancouver's score by committee works they will win and could move up due to a solid back end and arguably the best goaltender in the league(Luongo gets hurt Vancouver is hurting) Calgary, has the veteran leadership and game breaker Iginla, BUT I believe their bruising style will be exploited by faster more mobile teams.

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#43 erixon
October 10 2008, 01:28PM
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My question is, why does everyone have such strong opinions on something that is completely unpredictable? There is a few things that I look at which MAY be advantages when I look over the Oilers, when comparing to other teams in the conference. Watching hockey over the years, I've learned that teams which seem to have a lot of uncertainty in their lineup and spots open in pre-season have their struggles, trails, and tribulations. This is one area where I think that the Oilers are better than a lot of teams. You've got strong goaltending from Garon, who many forget or fail to notice that he has actually played 60+ games in a year before, with on of the worst clubs in the NHL, and still managed to pull off a winning record, It's not like he is a complete stranger to being the #1 guy. Remember, this is his 10th season in Professional hockey, he has experience. I am personally still worried about the defense, but I can't tell what they are going to do. Why? Because I've never seen the first pairing play one regular season NHL game together. I've never seen the first line of forwards, or the third line play a regular season game. So how the hell can you even grade it? It's for that very reason, coupled with the fact that with the cap, and how even the teams are, it's not even worth arguing over.

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