THN: OILERS FINISH LAST AGAIN?

Robin Brownlee
August 15 2011 01:39PM

For those of you who care what The Hockey News thinks, the scribes over there are picking the Edmonton Oilers to finish dead-last in the Western Conference in 2011-12.

While that doesn't necessarily mean the staff at THN is predicting a third consecutive 30th place finish for the Oilers -- we don't get a breakdown of overall NHL standings in their predictions in the item -- writers at the publication, at one time considered the Hockey Bible, obviously don't see Edmonton improving enough to escape the conference basement.

The item reads:

"Why: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was added to the exciting core of youth in Edmonton, but like the Senators, the Oilers still have a couple years of bumps and bruises ahead of them. While the prospects should have fans giddy with excitement, the fact is Edmonton is buried in a deep conference full of Stanley Cup contenders, so expectations have to be tempered. Once their prospects earn some experience, the Oilers will be off and running."

There's also a link highlighting off-season changes forecaster.thehockeynews.com/hockeynews/hockey/teamhome.cgi

LONG WAY DOWN

Truth be told, I have difficulty mustering much outrage regarding THN's prediction, probably because I don't think they're far off in terms of how the Western Conference stacks up.

At 25-42-12 for 62 points last season, the Oilers obviously have a long way to climb. Last season, Colorado was 14th with 68 points and Columbus finished 13th with 81 points.

So, even allowing for a 20-point improvement in the standings, and that's hardly a given, realistically, how many teams in the West are the Oilers likely to pass in the pecking order? One? Two?

While I think a 20-point improvement is possible -- if Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky play something approaching full seasons and if Ryan Smyth, Cam Barker, Ben Eager and Eric Belanger represent the upgrades I think they do -- it's not going to vault the Oilers many places up the standings.

My best guess is the Oilers will overtake more teams from the Eastern Conference in overall standings, bottom-feeders like Ottawa, the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers, than they do teams from the West.

Still weeks from training camp, my first inclination is they finish right on the cusp of a third straight lottery pick, or 24-26th overall.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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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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#51 Feynman
August 15 2011, 11:59PM
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Oilers will finish 6th in the West in 2011-12; a 37 point improvement over last year! Islanders also crack the top eight in the east

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#52 Bank Shot
August 16 2011, 12:44AM
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druds wrote:

We are forgetting that we had a terrible injury situation last year which helped immensly in our quest for the first draft pick, If we have a relatively injury-free year I should think our standings will be around 21-23 area. There is no way if our team had been healthy last year we would have finished last.

What???

The Oilers were terrible before guys started getting injured.

They were on pace for 60 points (last place!)30 games in before they started racking up injuries.

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#53 Saytalk
August 16 2011, 06:20AM
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Last in the West is not an unreasonable prediction given that this team, even before injuries, was so awful last year. We were outplayed in every (yes, EVERY) aspect of the game, especially the physical part. Jones was the only forward who made a consistent effort to battle along the boards and go to the net for screens and rebounds. Too many "skill" players tried to score via fancy stickhandling and were repeatedly knocked off the puck, only to slowly skate back to their own end while the opposition had a quality 3-on-2 the other way. Gagner and Cogs couldn't win a faceoff or backcheck to save their lives. Omark's diminuitive size makes his efforts fruitless. Gilbert is a spectator in his own end. The coaching staff believe Khabby is a starting goalie. This all has to change.

I think the addition of Smyth and Belanger is crucial to changing this lousy approach to the game, because the coaching staff and other veterans have forgotten how to win, and team management and the fans have forgotten what quality hockey looks like. Until management stops using draft pedigree as their main criteria for acquiring veterans and then drafting their buddies' kids as our future (Gagner, Musil, Simpson?), this team will perpetually rely on top 5 picks to get out of the basement. We lucked out by having Smyth demand to come back here, because Lowe and Tambellini are as big a gong show as Garth Snow and the NY Islanders.

Sorry for the rant, but I don't like losing and I'm tired of posters here being enamoured with how many first round "prospects" this team is collecting. Who cares where our players were drafted, just win some GD games!

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#54 Lofty
August 16 2011, 07:42AM
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Smyth is going to help this team a lot. His point totals over the last couple of seasons should not be discounted. The PP will be much better and it all starts with having a player willing to muck it up in front of the net. Smyth is a huge upgrade on Penner when you consider consistancy and ability.

The D will be more physical and a little faster.

To me this adds up to 9-11 in the West. I think this season will look a lot like either of the 06-07/07-08 season. Meandering a few spots out from the playoffs and winning at around 40% clip. The good news is that the team looks like its on the rise rather than just hanging on. The team will have some good rental players that can be traded at the deadline for picks which can then be packaged for an NHL goalie next summer.

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#55 Woodguy
August 16 2011, 07:52AM
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@Mason Storm

With Florida minus Vokoun they are toast.

Florida's top 6F: Fleischmann, Booth, Upshall, Weiss, Versteeg, Kopecky. Top 4 D, Campbell, Jovocop, Kulikov, Weaver and Gubranson playing this year.

They are weaker in goal, but much stronger everywhere else.

Toronto are relying on Reimer far too much and will implode.

Agreed that TO has a chance of being a lottery team

The Islanders always screw everything up They have as much young talent as the Oilers and are older. If Dipietro hits the IR early they will not be bottom 5

Phoenix is finished without Bryzgalov. They were a playoff team last year and LaBarbara is a fine young goalie. They lost some talent, but are not a lottery team.

New Jersey will continue their decline, especially after they trade Parise.

You are talking about the team with the best record in the NHL after they fired their coach. Way off.

Ottawa are in the midst of a re-build and plan look like they'll bottom out

Agreed, but Anderson will have them winning more games than they should.

Dallas minus Richards can't compete in the Pacific.

They still have a solid top 6F and but poor top 4D. If Lethonen plays decent they are not a lottery team. If he doesn't they may be in the lottery

Calgary are a year older and a year worse

Calgary had the 13th best goal differential in the NHL last year, and best goal differential of any team that didn't make the playoffs. If Kipper plays ok they have a shot at the playoffs. They are not a lottery team.

I think you underestimate just how crappy the Oilers are in term of goal differential (best predictor of winning hockey games) and how little they did to improve.

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#56 Matt Henderson
August 16 2011, 08:15AM
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@Woodguy

Florida's D isnt that good. Gudbransen for all his hype, will be eaten alive against NHL competition, especially if he plays top 4 minutes. Jovocop is getting older and Campbell has absolutely nothing to play for.

And never bet against Garth Snow screwing it all up.

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#57 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 16 2011, 08:21AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Florida's D isnt that good. Gudbransen for all his hype, will be eaten alive against NHL competition, especially if he plays top 4 minutes. Jovocop is getting older and Campbell has absolutely nothing to play for.

And never bet against Garth Snow screwing it all up.

I see it mentioned daily, maybe we could see a list of all of Snow's "screw ups".

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#58 Woodguy
August 16 2011, 08:39AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Florida's D isnt that good. Gudbransen for all his hype, will be eaten alive against NHL competition, especially if he plays top 4 minutes. Jovocop is getting older and Campbell has absolutely nothing to play for.

And never bet against Garth Snow screwing it all up.

Florida does have a good D.

I forgot to include Garrison into the top 4 D.

Garrison and Weaver handled the toughs last year and did an amazing job considering the team they played for.

See this link: http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/2011/07/10/the-games-most-underrated-defense-pairing/

Add to those two: Kulikov who is quickly becoming very good, Campbell, Jovocop and a sheltered Gubranson and you have a very serviceable Dcorps.

Miles ahead of the Oilers for sure.

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#59 Woodguy
August 16 2011, 08:48AM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

I see it mentioned daily, maybe we could see a list of all of Snow's "screw ups".

Snow's biggest mistake was the Dipietro contract. Pretty massive mistake.

Past that he's been reasonably solid (although I didn't like Neiderreiter where they picked him, but the jury will be out on that for a few years yet)

Getting a very good young Dman in Wishart for Rollie was an excellent move.

Picking Nabakov off waivers will result in him either playing for NYI or being traded for a good asset.

For what he has to work with, I don't think Snow is terrible.

They just need to cut off Dipietro's leg so he can be LTIR for the rest of his career.

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#60 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 16 2011, 08:52AM
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Woodguy wrote:

Snow's biggest mistake was the Dipietro contract. Pretty massive mistake.

Past that he's been reasonably solid (although I didn't like Neiderreiter where they picked him, but the jury will be out on that for a few years yet)

Getting a very good young Dman in Wishart for Rollie was an excellent move.

Picking Nabakov off waivers will result in him either playing for NYI or being traded for a good asset.

For what he has to work with, I don't think Snow is terrible.

They just need to cut off Dipietro's leg so he can be LTIR for the rest of his career.

Yup, Dipis contract is pretty much all that sticks out to me.... and that really has the looks of an ownership move to me.

I do always get a laugh when Oiler fans take a stab at Snow though.

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#61 Matt Henderson
August 16 2011, 09:00AM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

Hey, It's not like I've said "Garth Snow sux, Tambellini is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better."

They are both GMs of bottom feeder NHL teams. Sorry, but neither deserve praise. Both should be considered subpar.

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#62 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 16 2011, 09:10AM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Hey, It's not like I've said "Garth Snow sux, Tambellini is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better."

They are both GMs of bottom feeder NHL teams. Sorry, but neither deserve praise. Both should be considered subpar.

Oh ya I agree, it wasn't so much directed at you more so just a generalization of those that comment on Snow.

That said, I actually think he's done a resonably good job.

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#63 Oilcruzer
August 16 2011, 09:13AM
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If Oil stay relatively healthy, then they should be fine.

27th on PP is from a loss of firepower and familiarity. They were 10%! less than Canucks

29th on PK is from lousy goaltending, (can old goalies get across the crease fast enough to stop the back door goal??), poor face off numbers and again, injuries. This is an easier fix. Surprisingly, Chicago and San Jose suck here too.

Unfortunately, THN is probably right. Winning 10 more games than last year is reasonable.

That still puts Edm at last in West, about 25 overall.

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#64 Reagan
August 16 2011, 09:16AM
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I will say this only once. "If" the oilers stay healthy, they will end up 8-10th in the west. If injuries once again plague this team they will end up last or darn close to it.

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#65 RLyle
August 16 2011, 09:20AM
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I am a die hard Oilers fan. The worst team I ever watched play in Edmonton was back in the mid 90's. They were terrible. Glen Sather was about to bolt to New York where he finished trading the 80's Oilers to. The only thing he did before he left worth talking about was he rounded up a bunch of first round picks from the league that were not getting any chances to play. Some of those players developed into nhlers. Today we have a similar type of young Oilers. The difference is we have a bunch of future elite players. The addition of quality veterns to address many team weaknesses from last year. The only weakness I see is in net. Unless Dubnyk gets his chance to be number one. I believe the Oilers will improve much faster because they play the best teams in the league on a regular basis. Playoff bound in 2011-2012.

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#66 Matt Henderson
August 16 2011, 09:40AM
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@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

I think that much like Tambellini he inherited a team that has been performing worse the longer he stays on.

This is great for the future (as long as you can capitalize on draft position), but I could lead an NHL team into the basement and have enough smarts to realize that I cant mess up drafting high.

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#67 shau_co
August 16 2011, 12:44PM
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I think often people don't appreciate how much things can swing from season to season.

In my opinion it is unfair to look at last year's wins or goal differential and draw a conclusion based on how much they have improved from that marker. What if last year's result was below "what they should have obtained"?

Momentum can be huge in any sport throughout the season.

Take a minute to compare this year's roster to the Oiler's roster in 07-08 and 08-09. There are some differences but I don't see us being that far off of two Oiler teams that were within 3 and 6 points of making the playoffs.

I expect them to finish anywhere between 8th and 14th in the West this year.

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#68 madjam
August 16 2011, 12:54PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

I think that much like Tambellini he inherited a team that has been performing worse the longer he stays on.

This is great for the future (as long as you can capitalize on draft position), but I could lead an NHL team into the basement and have enough smarts to realize that I cant mess up drafting high.

This years club miles ahead of last two seasons talent wise , with sophmore jinx unlikely to be a problem . They now have enough of a reputable base from which to build upon . Take a player like even newbie Hunter Tremblay . 2.11 points /game that was/is an all round specialist in University hockey ! 5 shorthanded goals - this player will be hard pressed not to make our team . He fills so many specialist roles at a high performance level. Another newbie i am high on is Musil to make club this season . Oilers can't help but be much better than last season and should be surprise of the season . Book it !! Better odds on Oilers than stock market ? HMMM - early retirement possibilty here ?

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#69 stevezie
August 16 2011, 01:21PM
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You know who never gets the credit for being terrible that he deserves? Bryan Murray. Tambellini and Snow took bad teams and kept them bad, but could at least argue that they laid the foundation for things to get better.
Murray took over Muckler's team right after they made it to the finals; he was handed an excellent team. Surely he was handed some bad breaks (Heatley, A lot of people thought Redden was the keeper of his big 2), but the fact remains that they got worse every year until they finally finished in the least desirable spot in hockey, 6th from the bottom.
Anyone could keep a bad team bad, it's something special to jump off the penthouse and still miss the basement.

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#70 Matt Henderson
August 16 2011, 01:25PM
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@madjam

Tremblay and Musil would need to be SPECTACULAR in order to make this club based on Contract status alone. There arent very many openings.

As it stands Petry might be sent down to OKC because Chorney will have to clear waivers if HE goes. I dont see how Musil will take a spot away from one of Whitney, Smid, Gilbert, Peckham, Barker, Sutton, or Petry. That's 7 defensemen.

And where will Tremblay take his spot from? The only real opening for a new player is at C and the best competition for that will be between Lander/RNH/Brule/VV. 3 have played pro hockey and 1 is this year's reigning number one overall selection.

I dont see any realistic place for either of the guys you mentioned to earn a spot unless they make it impossible for Renney to cut them.

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#71 Quicksilver ballet
August 16 2011, 02:50PM
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Any chance the Oilers could land Ryan Johansen for that one soft spot left at center ice?

Now that Howson has a No.1 center in Carter, could they be tempted to part with Johansen for a player who will make them a better club this coming season, perhaps a right winger? This would give Columbus two pretty good lines going into the coming season.

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#72 Matt Henderson
August 16 2011, 02:54PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

I thought that during the Carter deal Howson said that he was constantly asked about Johansen and he refused to give in. I dont think he refused to move him during that deal just so he could turn around and move him for a weaker package later on.

I think it's a pipe dream to land Johansen.

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#73 OutDoorRink
August 16 2011, 02:56PM
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Pretty tough to compare Snow and Tambo when Garth's had 2 more years to work with than Tambellini.

If the Oilers are still a last place team 2 years from now, then you could make the comparison, otherwise, that doesn't seem fair.

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#74 Quicksilver ballet
August 16 2011, 03:05PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

I thought that during the Carter deal Howson said that he was constantly asked about Johansen and he refused to give in. I dont think he refused to move him during that deal just so he could turn around and move him for a weaker package later on.

I think it's a pipe dream to land Johansen.

I think Holmgren had his choice between Columbus' 8th selection and Ryan Johansen in that Jeff Carter deal. Can't help but feel there's something to be had there for the Oilers. Maybe if the Jackets are teetering around that 8th and final playoff spot something may happen before the trade deadline. To get Hemsky along with Carter without giving up a player on your roster is a pretty big improvement over last yrs club.

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#75 Matt Henderson
August 16 2011, 03:18PM
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@OutDoorRink

I dont know if it's that hard. Tambellini has been here long enough that the team is showing the effects of his tenure.

He's made plenty of impact on the roster, positive and negative. Surely he can be compared to Snow in respect to being in charge while the teams go into performance tailspins. They can also be compared in how they overvalued questionable goaltenders (Tambellini dodged a DiPietro sized catastrophe at least).

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#76 Clay
August 16 2011, 04:03PM
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Columbus, Colorado, and Minny are the only three teams that Edmonton has any type of realistic chance of being better than in the Western conference this year, imho.

Columbus got Carter, but their D and G are as suspect as Edmonton's.

Unless Heatley returns to 50 goal form, Minny is in trouble. I think that losing Burns is really going to hurt them, but their goaltending is miles ahead of Edmonton.

Colorado... lots of shake up over the past year, but if Varlamov turns out to be the real deal, they could be real good. They have more upside on their blueline than Edmonton.

Even if Edmonton stays healthy, it's going to take some luck and some bad things to happen to some other teams for them to not finish last.

Playoffs? Not a chance.

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#77 KenL
August 16 2011, 04:21PM
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The emotional part of me wants to dump on THN, proclaim they don't follow the Western Conference as much as the follow the East, and they don't know what they're talking about. Unfortunately they were correct in predicting in Oil's dead last finish the past two seasons...so the emotional card doesn't hold.

That said, here's why they're wrong:

- Injuries were a big part of last season. Had Whitney, Horcoff, Eberele, Hemsky and Hall remained injured free, who knows.

- The lack of grit which probably lead to some if not all the injuries. Unfortunately Renney didn't trust having McIntyre fill up a roster spot, demoted Huggy Bear, and overvalued Jacques' ability to send a message to teams taking liberities with our stars. The additions of Eager, Hordchuk, and Sutton should address this. At the very least, Renny should have greater confidence in slotting these 3 in every day spots.

- Inability to win faceoffs. With Belanger, we have at least one proven face-off specialist, Horc a moderate face-off specialist, and hopefully one of the kids or Brule can improve.

- Lack of a Ryan Smyth plugger on the PP, and a cannon shot from the point. Well Smytty is back, so that solves half the PP problem.

Is this enough improvement for playoff spot? I would like to hope so, but probably not. But it should ensure us from finishing dead last again.

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#78 positivebrontefan
August 16 2011, 04:28PM
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Whatever...they are probaly not far off...should still be fun to watch the kids find their game for another year, finish last and then have Renney fired for no other reason than we finished last again, have another coach come in and mold the winning team. Dave Tippet anyone? He has to eventually get sick of the situation in Phoenix.

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#79 OILERSORDEATH
August 16 2011, 05:02PM
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I dont think for one bit that the Oilers will finish last. Unless the same bunch get injured again but highly unlikely. I really believe the hockey Gods will show us a little mercy this year. With the exception of LA, Vancouver, Detroit, Chicago and maybe San Jose I think the Oil can skate with rest of the pack in the West. The Oilers are not the only team that has holes to fill.

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#80 DonDon
August 16 2011, 05:07PM
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Seeing this subject is still in play, the Bleacher Report also picked the Oilers at the bottom of the heap:

"Edmonton Oilers fans must be getting used to the pain their team puts them through year after year by now, but their hopes of success being not too far away aren't too far-fetched with the stockpile of young hotshots they've got running in their system.

However they're not going to find that success this year.

Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle both are coming off extremely promising rookie campaigns, as is Magnus Paajarvi, but let's not forget they've both only played one year in the league and will still need to grow and mature a lot before they'll be able to really carry the team.

Their defense also looks to be completely tattered, boasting nothing more than the combination of Cam Barker and Ryan Whitney to lead them (neither of whom would really even be a first-pairing guy on most other teams).

And while Oiler fans will argue that the addition of Ryan Smyth over the summer is a solid boost of veteran leadership to their team, it looks to me like nothing more than the re-acquisition of a washed-up player in the twilight of his career in a desperate grasp at nostalgia for long-lost winning days.

They will be better this season, but the Oilers will still be sitting on their couches watching the playoffs next spring rather than playing in them."

Pretty damning assessment for the coming season, but pretty accurate. Note, they didn't speak to the goaltending problems.

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#81 Matt Henderson
August 16 2011, 06:08PM
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@DonDon

I dont think the Smyth bit is very accurate. He would have led the oiler last year and he was LAs PP goal leader. Not washed up yet.

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#82 Quicksilver ballet
August 16 2011, 06:33PM
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Time for a, Should Steve Tambellini be offered an extension poll.

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#83 thebiggestmanintheworld
August 16 2011, 09:25PM
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A lot of 'ifs' in the reasons I'm reading for the Oil making the dance. Probably just enough of them to keep them out actually...

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#84 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
August 16 2011, 10:42PM
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OutDoorRink wrote:

Pretty tough to compare Snow and Tambo when Garth's had 2 more years to work with than Tambellini.

If the Oilers are still a last place team 2 years from now, then you could make the comparison, otherwise, that doesn't seem fair.

Except the NYI aren't in last anymore, they are making a nice progression.

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