North By Northwest

Lowetide
September 29 2010 07:19AM

A year ago, I picked the Edmonton Oilers to finish 4th in the NW, 11th in the conference. They finished last in the NW, last in the conference and last in the league. Their minor league team was horrible, their veterans made headlines for failures, injuries, running their mouths and worse. They were frightful. They were major league in name only a season ago. Where do they go from here?

I believe the biggest change in the organization this season came at the coaching position. Tom Renney took over from Pat Quinn, and even in the early weeks of this season there appears to be a more rational approach to the task at hand. Whereas one year ago Quinn married Horcoff-Hemsky to the unproven JF Jacques in an attempt to attach brawn to brains, this season Renney's approach seems to center around finding people who can play.

Don't get me wrong, this team isn't going to be a lot better than a year ago. I don't think they'll score much more than they did one season ago, but better health, fewer suspect decisions in important positions, and a sense of structure and discipline (and in defined roles) should win the day. Tom Renney appears to be in charge of this team in a way Mr. Quinn could not manage a year ago. That and the new blood should be enough to get out of the basement. 

  • FIFTH: MINNESOTA WILD (14TH IN CONFERENCE) The Wild have some issues. Among them are a lack of identity since Lemaire left, a lot of injuries in the skill positions and their defense and goaltending looks a little thin. Still, their top end talent (Koivi, Brunette, Havlat)  is more proven than the Oilers group and should Backstrom return to form (he's 32 this season, not a youngster) they should be able to compete at a higher level than I'm suggesting here. I wonder about the off-season pickups and the goaltending. This could be a tough year in Minny.

  • FOURTH: EDMONTON OILERS (13TH IN CONFERENCE) The Oilers should be able to score goals at a solid clip, but the blueline as it currently stands is the weakest in the division. Gilbert and Whitney are backed up by role players (Vandermeer), still developing shutdown hopefuls (Smid), men on the comeback trail (Foster) along with a dozen prospects trying to gain traction. We can take heart, as we'll know more a year from now than we do currently about this bunch, but as it stands there are going to be a lot of saloon-door nights along the blue. I like what Renney is doing with the forwards (it looks like he's going to run those top 9 ragged) and wish he had more options on defense. If he can push this team higher he should get some coach-of-the-year consideration.

  • THIRD: CALGARY FLAMES (8TH IN CONFERENCE) I'm guessing the Flames have done just enough to slide into the second season in 10-11. The Finn in goal and the sublime talent that is Iginla should be enough to get the Flames into playoff contention (and leave the Wild and Oilers choking on their fumes). I don't like their chances in the playoff season unless they get strong performances from several of their defensemen. Bouwmeester needs to have a big year, and the Tanguay-Jokinen express could be a distraction if they can't deliver offense.

  • SECOND: COLORADO AVALANCHE (5TH IN CONFERENCE) There's a lot to like here. Four returning 20-goal scorers, their goaltender might be the best in the division and the Avs always seem to address their problems in a timely fashion. The defense isn't spectacular, but there are a lot of useful (veteran) parts. And for a team that must have emptied the prospect cupboard last seaosn, Kevin Shattenkirk certainly has some buzz about him. Avalanche missed the rebuild time requirement but got the job done anyway.

  • FIRST: VANCOUVER CANUCKS (3RD IN CONFERENCE) I'm not picking them to win the Stanley, but wouldn't be surprised if they do it. Luongo has a better defense in front of him, the piss-cutter Sedins are back and Kesler is a quality player. Vancouver also has a nice group of useful forwards waiting for their opportunity to move up the depth chart, and about 12 more in the AHL. Their GM is going to have to man up and do something major at the deadline (my guess: more defense) but they have a really nice chance this season. 

WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Chicago Blackhawks

EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Pittsburgh Penguins

STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS: Pittsburgh Penguin

C2a6955161684b5e3189319acfa5ebe4
Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
Avatar
#51 loilfan
September 29 2010, 01:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

LT, didn't your website say "2nd (or 3rd, I forget) in the NW, 6th in the conference. Book it!" last year? Or was that the year before?

Avatar
#52 loilfan
September 29 2010, 01:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

The 13th place finish for the Oilers is about right, perhaps a little low, but I don't think it will translate to 25th or 26th place overall. I see them in the 22nd to 24th place range. But here's to a lottery pick proving me wrong!

I don't think the Flames improved over last year - the Jokinen and Tanguay experiment already failed once and Iginla is a year older. I don't see them making the playoffs. I see 10th place for them.

Vancouver owns the division.

I see Colorado in the 7th or 8th position. Too many young guys' to be relying on.

Avatar
#53 spOILer
September 29 2010, 01:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Calgary is in tough with Langkow out indefinitely, and Stajan hurt. Conroy re-signed this year to get his 1000th game and then retire, and now he's looking like he will play a good chunk of the season.

Sutter still has cap issues, although LTIR will help him out a bit there, but sheesh he has them up against the wall again.

And rumour down here is Regehr has asked for a trade.

Avatar
#54 Ender
September 29 2010, 03:20PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
spOILer wrote:

Calgary is in tough with Langkow out indefinitely, and Stajan hurt. Conroy re-signed this year to get his 1000th game and then retire, and now he's looking like he will play a good chunk of the season.

Sutter still has cap issues, although LTIR will help him out a bit there, but sheesh he has them up against the wall again.

And rumour down here is Regehr has asked for a trade.

Add in the Jokinen signing that I don't think will pan out (again) and you start to worry a bit, or chuckle depending on your loyalties. Add in that Kipper had stretches of mediochre hockey last season. Figure that while 33 isn't the oldest player in the league by any stretch of the imagination, it's the wrong side of 30 for your franchise forward.

The Flames can get a lot worse in a heck of a hurry. Be glad in Edmonton we're looking forward to losing games 5-4 instead of being shut out 1-0 all season.

Avatar
#55 dawgbone
September 29 2010, 03:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Ender wrote:

Add in the Jokinen signing that I don't think will pan out (again) and you start to worry a bit, or chuckle depending on your loyalties. Add in that Kipper had stretches of mediochre hockey last season. Figure that while 33 isn't the oldest player in the league by any stretch of the imagination, it's the wrong side of 30 for your franchise forward.

The Flames can get a lot worse in a heck of a hurry. Be glad in Edmonton we're looking forward to losing games 5-4 instead of being shut out 1-0 all season.

If I was a Flame I'd be more worried that Kipper last year had a pretty good year, especially compared to the previous two and my team missed the playoffs.

I can't imagine where they would have ended up if Kipper had played like he did 2 & 3 years ago.

Avatar
#56 Ender
September 29 2010, 03:45PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@dawgbone

You're right. He played well enough to end up with some shiny numbers on the year, but if he backslides on that at all then they're in tough. Who's backing him up again? I don't know much about their two backups, but I can't think Calgary wants to find out if either of them are starter calibre.

And if Regehr becomes Calgary's Souray, well, color me amused.

Avatar
#57 Dave
September 29 2010, 04:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props
Steve wrote:

The Flames' future *is* bleak, for precisely the reasons you mention...but their present is still better than the Oilers'.

Despite the doom and gloom I'm always spreading around here, it's definitely a better era to be an Oilers' fan than a Flames' fan, but Edmonton's still going to finish well behind Calgary this year.

Agreed

Avatar
#58 Ender
September 29 2010, 05:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

lolz

Looks like Jokinen is sitting hurt tonight as well. That's three centers they're down.

To quote Madame Mim:

"Sounds like someone's sick. How lovely. I do hope it's serious. Something dreadful."

Avatar
#59 Dutchscooter
September 29 2010, 06:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

@Oilcruzer

Only four teams scored less and Oil were far and away the league worst in GAA.

....and guess who was one of those teams who scored less? I'll give you a hint. It's another Alberta city that wears red a lot.

Avatar
#60 PabstBR55
September 29 2010, 09:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I have the Oilers finishing last in the Conference, 3rd last in the league.

Worst will be the NY Islanders and Florida Panthers ... two teams that have sunk from the pinnacle of the league to the basement ... no wait, they basically always suck.

We WILL suck too. But there are some great picks if you're in the lottery!

Avatar
#61 R.A. Slapshotzky
September 30 2010, 10:58AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

"...saloon-door nights along the blue."

I love the oldie time sayings, they're hilarious.

Avatar
#62 PerryK
September 30 2010, 11:06AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

Not exactly on point, but since you mention our Blue Brigade, I am finding that crew to be significantly different than I expected previous to the TC start.

Vandermeer has surprised me the most at how well he has played. Didn't I see him doing an impersonation of a pylon couple of years ago in Calgary? Who is the impersonator that seems to be playing so well under this assumed moniker?

Smid has been a surprise in the opposite direction. That may be due to my overly high expectations for admittedly one of my favorite players since we acquired him. He seems to be trying to do too much and getting caught on terrible pinches that have no chance of success.

Foster had looked very good (as I expected that he would) except for the last game against Phoenix. He looked a bit disinterested or a step behind. May be it was the speed on Phoenix team that was exposing him a bit.

How are we ever going to keep Petiot (who?) off our roster? I don't think that there is any doubt that he belongs! (Top 4, may be?)

Gilbert and Whitney look like they are at least what we thought they were.

Plante definitely needs some seasoning, but the up arrows look just great!

I have an idea LT. Why don't you try an updated article on the D-line. Thanks for the great reading.

Comments are closed for this article.