MY GUT SAYS OILERS MAKE THE PLAYOFFS

Robin Brownlee
December 21 2012 04:39PM

As a sportswriter, I've been guilty of letting my gut overrule my head more than once, with decidedly mixed results. I find myself rolling the dice again as I contemplate the possibility of the Edmonton Oilers making the playoffs this season – assuming the NHL gets around to playing one in January.

Such a prediction flies in the face of common sense and the odds, of course, but as the lockout has dragged on I've become more convinced the Oilers will put an end to six straight years out of the post-season if the NHLPA and Gary Bettman can come to their senses in time to squeeze in a 48-game schedule.

Having finished 21 points out of a playoff spot in 2011-12 with a 32-40-10 record for 74 points, it's a sucker's prediction, but it's one I made live on the air with Jason Gregor during his show at On The Rocks Wednesday -- without having sampled a single beverage. I feel the same way today.

Reasons why? A few, aside from that gut-feeling thing – the same gut that had me convinced Jeff Deslauriers would one day be a regular NHL starter. There is, in other words, considerable margin for error when ignoring one's brain. It goes something like this.

NO REST FOR THE BEST

Much of my optimism hinges on Edmonton's best forwards hitting the ground running if Bettman and Donald Fehr sort things out after ringing the New Year because they've been playing at a relatively high level as opposed to sitting around or taking a casual twirl in their local beer league to stay busy.

As everybody knows, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been tearing it up in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons. RNH is taking a break to captain Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.

Ales Hemsky, as Gregor noted earlier today, is having his way with the opposition while playing with Pardubice in the Czech Republic. So far, no signs of the shoulder and confidence issues that plagued him last season.

Sam Gagner, who will slot in behind Nugent-Hopkins at centre in Ralph Krueger's line-up if there is a season, has also stayed busy and productive. Gagner is playing in Austria with Klagenfurt, where he's scored 10-8-18 in 18 games. He's also been added to the Team Canada roster for the Spengler Cup.

Factor in rookie Nail Yakupov playing in the KHL and Ryan Smyth about to join Gagner for the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, and Edmonton's offensive top-end should be primed and ready to go.

I have no way of accurately measuring what that'll in terms of wins and losses to start the season, but if it contributes to a reasonable facsimile of the start the Oilers put together a year ago, it'll weigh heavily with a shortened schedule.

THE SCHULTZ FACTOR

Free agent snag Justin Schultz has had gums flapping during his pro debut with the OKC Barons, and with good reason. The former Anaheim prospect is tied atop AHL scoring with Eberle at 38 points on 14-24-38.

Schultz, who has drawn favorable comparisons to everybody from Paul Coffey to Scott Niedermayer – even if that seems overly optimistic at this early stage of his career – looks like the puck-moving defenseman and power play catalyst the Oilers have been lacking. What will he do at the NHL level? I don’t know, but a lot of people can’t wait to find out.

The other key component impacting Edmonton's blue line is the other Schultz, Nick Schultz, who came over from Minnesota in the Tom Gilbert trade last season. Lost in all the fuss over his namesake, I'm convinced Oilers fans will soon understand just how quietly good Nick Schultz is, and what he means to the group as a whole, the longer they see him play.

THE WILDCARDS

The most important wildcard for me is the extra time the lockout has given Ryan Whitney to heal and rehab after two very difficult seasons battling foot and ankle injuries. While there's no guarantee Whitney will ever be as good as he looked before his ankle came apart, the time away has provided him time to recoup. We'll see what he's got left.

With all the uncertainty, and rightfully so, about Edmonton's goaltending, fans have to be happy with Devan Dubnyk's inclusion on the Team Canada roster for the Spengler Cup. It's not the NHL or the World Championships, but the tournament gives Dubnyk the chance to knock off the rust.

The other wildcard for me is impact of a shortened season. My sense, and again, I can't put a finger on anything to prove it, is a shortened season will favor the youth and energy of a young roster while helping to mitigate questions of depth and experience that might be more glaring in a long haul.

Add it up, and the gut says playoffs in 2013.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show 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.
Avatar
#51 otter2233
December 21 2012, 10:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

Seasons above 30 goals:

Williams - 2

Gagner - 0

Seasons above 20 goals:

Williams - 4

Gagner - 0

Seasons above 50 points

Williams - 4

Gagner - 0

Yeah, this is really close.

You fellas debating whether Williams is better than Gagner may want to make sure you're referring to the correct Williams. It's JASON Williams not JUSTIN Williams who is on the roster.

EDIT: Nevermind! I see someone has beat me to the correcting!

Avatar
#52 dawgtoy
December 21 2012, 10:34PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Romulus' Apotheosis

Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.

Avatar
#53 Tim in Kelowna
December 21 2012, 10:53PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

What a refreshing read! Robin, you're in mid-season form with this article. No team in the NHL has benefited from the lockout more than the Oilers. Sure the Oil lose a year of entry level contracts with the youngsters, but our top line is playing together in the AHL, RNH gets a chance to lead a national team to a championship, it allows the fragile guys to heal and it gives 4, 93, 14, 64 and 19 a year to bulk up.

Robin, I have the same gut feeling.

Avatar
#54 Cervantes
December 21 2012, 11:20PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think the key to an Oil playoff run is a short season and our veterans.

Almost always, we run good out of the gate, slump a bit during the break, run strong through the back half, then choke in the stretch. Because we shelter our kids with our vets, and our vets tire out. Horcs and Smytty were running over 20 minutes a game almost the whole season, that's just ridiculous for anyone, especially guys in their 30's.

A short season means the vets still have plenty in the tank. Horcs and Smyth were killers the first half of the season, Mullet was running over ppg. The kids playing 30 games together already means they've got solid chemistry and good confidence. Add in the emergency of Smid/Petry as a Top4 unit last year, Whits having more rehab time, Hemmer feeling good, and our only solid question is how Dubs/Danis will do as our goalies, and what kind of depth we can pull together for D injuries.

I think we'll have trouble against strong teams, and we'll mop up weaker teams. Given that a 48 will be entirely conference games, I don't think that'll work in our favour. But I'd sure like to see.

Avatar
#55 Robin Brownlee
December 21 2012, 11:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Tim in Kelowna wrote:

What a refreshing read! Robin, you're in mid-season form with this article. No team in the NHL has benefited from the lockout more than the Oilers. Sure the Oil lose a year of entry level contracts with the youngsters, but our top line is playing together in the AHL, RNH gets a chance to lead a national team to a championship, it allows the fragile guys to heal and it gives 4, 93, 14, 64 and 19 a year to bulk up.

Robin, I have the same gut feeling.

Mid-season form? No, I'm one of those vets who'll take some time to get going again . . .

There's obviously still questions about the make-up of this team, even with the addition of Justin Schultz and the possibility of a healthy Hemsky and Whitney.

I just have a hunch the cards might fall their way this season. If the Oilers can get off to the start they had last year, I don't see them falling off the map like they did in 2011-12.

Avatar
#56 Johe
December 21 2012, 11:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

To be honest, I don't see any way there's actually going to be a season. The owners side was clearly ticked after the players response to their last offer, and they're determined to get the "last laugh."

Am I wrong? Because I would love to be wrong.

Brownlee? Thoughts?

Avatar
#57 nunyour
December 22 2012, 12:23AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

the oilers don't have the goaltending to make the playoffs and their defence is one injury away from being terrible,sad but true.

Avatar
#58 Kevrock
December 22 2012, 01:06AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Pajamah

Oh ya? Like your trolling two posts in a row..take your own advice m'kay

Avatar
#59 TigerUnderGlass
December 22 2012, 09:42AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Johe wrote:

While I agree with the first part of your post, I must respectfully point out that the current discussion revolves around JUSTIN Williams, not Jason Williams. Easy to miss :)

HAHAHA.

I love it when people condescendingly correct someone and are dead wrong.

Avatar
#60 Romulus' Apotheosis
December 22 2012, 10:24AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Johe wrote:

While I agree with the first part of your post, I must respectfully point out that the current discussion revolves around JUSTIN Williams, not Jason Williams. Easy to miss :)

Except that the conversation is revolving around making Spengler Cup players cock-fight for some reason...

that conversation necessarily excludes JUSTIN WILLIAMS:

http://www.hockeycanada.ca/index.php/ci_id/75137/la_id/1/season_id/197877/profile_id/197892/team_id/81377/ss_id/197926/

EDIT: on the second page I see others already caught this. ho hum.

Avatar
#61 Taylor Gang
December 22 2012, 10:54AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Tim in Kelowna wrote:

What a refreshing read! Robin, you're in mid-season form with this article. No team in the NHL has benefited from the lockout more than the Oilers. Sure the Oil lose a year of entry level contracts with the youngsters, but our top line is playing together in the AHL, RNH gets a chance to lead a national team to a championship, it allows the fragile guys to heal and it gives 4, 93, 14, 64 and 19 a year to bulk up.

Robin, I have the same gut feeling.

We also lost a year of horcoff's contract ;)

Avatar
#62 Johe
December 22 2012, 11:05AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@TigerUnderGlass

Well I was partly wrong, but the discussion on the previous page WAS about Justin Williams. And if I came across as condescending, I apologize. Maybe putting HAHAHA would have been more respectful.

Avatar
#63 tileguy
December 22 2012, 11:09AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The real problem with the Oilers coming fast out of the gate in shorten season is that all the teams will be, which will make for an intense hard hitting 48 games All the optimism will implode if (choose one) RNH, Hall Hemsky have shoulder issues from a physical pounding. Who is riding shotgun on this team, Eager?, lets hope mngt has been feeding him nails for breakfast or our hearts will be destroyed.

Avatar
#64 tileguy
December 22 2012, 11:12AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

P.S. Is Ben in/out/going to jail?

Avatar
#65 Romulus' Apotheosis
December 22 2012, 11:16AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Johe

Not sure where you get the idea Justin ever came into the equation.

He's not on the Canadian Spengler Cup Roster...

There is no context, outside of understandable misidentification based on similar names, to include him in this admittedly silly conversation.

@Tileguy

"The real problem with the Oilers coming fast out of the gate in shorten season is that all the teams will be"

but Brownlee is suggesting the Oil would be somewhat more cohesive/battle hardened from having their core playing together in a competitive league.

Avatar
#66 tileguy
December 22 2012, 11:22AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

cohesive/battle hardened, I guess that can be the glass half full suggestion, another might be harden veterans will be more rested and healed ready to punish, ie clutterbuck and all.

Avatar
#67 Johe
December 22 2012, 11:25AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Romulus' Apotheosis

DSF was arguing with others about Justin Williams being better than Gagner. That's all I'm saying. But yes, such an argument is completely unnecessary seeing how, as you rightly pointed out, it is Jason Williams on the roster. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Avatar
#68 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
December 22 2012, 11:34AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
David S wrote:

I don't really care if Smyth is on the first line (but I'd be very surprised if he was). Having said that, Sam Gagner will outperform Smyth in the Spengler. That's the bet. The measure is total points scored. Loser stays off of Oilers Nation for a week. Smyth outpoints Gagner, I ban myself. Gagner wins, you do the same.

Exciting!

it is a festivus eve miracle!

Avatar
#69 TigerUnderGlass
December 22 2012, 11:35AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Johe wrote:

DSF was arguing with others about Justin Williams being better than Gagner. That's all I'm saying. But yes, such an argument is completely unnecessary seeing how, as you rightly pointed out, it is Jason Williams on the roster. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Pointing out that you went along with one of DSF's mistakes doesn't really help your cause.

Avatar
#70 Romulus' Apotheosis
December 22 2012, 11:37AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Johe wrote:

DSF was arguing with others about Justin Williams being better than Gagner. That's all I'm saying. But yes, such an argument is completely unnecessary seeing how, as you rightly pointed out, it is Jason Williams on the roster. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Not trying to harp on you, just trying to clear it up.

the first time Williams is mentioned, it is by DSF at comment #28.

He is clearly talking about the Spengler Roster.

He is talking about JASON williams:

Gagner is the 5th best centre on the team. One should assume that Smyth, Williams, Duchene and Seguin will likely get a better look on the wing ahead of Gagner. I'd wager he'll end up as a third line winger.

Again... there is no context, barring mis-identification, in which to bring up JUSTIN williams.

Avatar
#71 Johe
December 22 2012, 11:42AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@TigerUnderGlass

Haha. Yes. That is indeed great cause for shame. *hangs head*

Avatar
#72 Rama Lama
December 22 2012, 11:58AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Love the optimisim assuming we have a new CBA in place. Yes the Oilers are poised to finally look good but we will never know until next year.

The only problem with that is there is only three guarantees in life death, taxes, and Unions doing exactly the wrong things!

I have never met collective intelligence and never will............the season is as good as over.

Sorry to be scrooge.......bets anyone?

Avatar
#73 Johe
December 22 2012, 12:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Rama Lama

Yes. I bet you're right.

Avatar
#74 Darrell
December 22 2012, 05:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@David S

Finally you get it - we all want you to screw off and leavers Homers alone!

Avatar
#75 Darrell
December 22 2012, 05:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Darrell

That obviously for DSF .... Staples is money!

Avatar
#76 @Oilanderp
December 22 2012, 07:48PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

You're ballsy Brownlee. I hope you're right but my gut says somewhere between a 6th and a 10th overall pick. No big jump expected here.

Ballsy.

Comments are closed for this article.