A Look Back At The 2009-10 Preseason

Apr 11, 2010 - Anaheim, California, USA - Anaheim Ducks' defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, left, controls the puck from Edmonton Oilers' center Patrick O'Sullivan during the second period an NHL Hockey game at Honda Center.

Every year, fans starved for high quality hockey flock to the NHL preseason. Coaches and managers watch the games, and the performance of individual players can have a big impact on whether or not they start in the minors or on the big league roster.

And to be fair, it’s a fun exercise. The reality, though, is that a handful of games against competition that varies from wildly underpowered to nearly NHL calibre is a very poor gauge of player performance. We don’t need to do much more than look at last season’s Oilers to see that.

Last season, the Oilers actually boasted three of the NHL’s preseason stars.

Mike Comrie, who found tremendous chemistry with Patrick O’Sullivan in last year’s warm-up campaign, led the NHL in points, with 10 in five games. He also led the league in assists, with seven. The player he was setting up, Patrick O’Sullivan, finished tied for fourth in preseason goal- scoring, with four, and tied for seventh in the league for overall points, with seven. On the back end, Tom Gilbert led all NHL defencemen in scoring, with seven points.

The regular season turned out far different for these preseason stars. Comrie fought injury, was publicly criticized by his coach, and ended the year with 21 points in 43 games – although that really wasn’t bad, considering Quinn’s penchant for sticking him on the fourth line, along with the fact he spent much of the year at way less than 100%. Patrick O’Sullivan, meanwhile, stayed healthy but quickly turned into one of the most disliked players on the roster, finishing last in plus/minus and scoring only 11 goals before being bought out this summer. Tom Gilbert had the most successful season of the three, but suffered through a brutal year before turning it on after the NHL trade deadline.

Elsewhere on the roster, Jean-Francois Jacques’ strong preseason play (three goals in five games) earned him an unlikely role as a first-line left wing to start the season, although the deficiencies in both his offensive and defensive game quickly put an end to that. Shawn Horcoff scored three goals in four games, a surprising start to a season that was certainly his worst since the NHL lockout. Robert Nilsson, another eventual buyout candidate, finished at the point-per-game mark.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lubomir Visnovsky finished last among Oilers defencemen with a minus-2 rating through preseason play. Gilbert Brule dressed for five games but was held without a goal prior to a breakout campaign. All three goaltenders appeared in at least three games, but while Nikolai Khabibulin struggled, the best of the bunch in the preseason was clearly Jeff Deslauriers, whose 0.918 SV% was the only one above the 0.900 mark.

The preseason is a lot of fun, and every year I look forward to the chance to see players I’ve missed over the summer. But it’s a really, really, bad idea to look at any player’s preseason results and imagine that they’re indicative of the kind of season he is going to have.

  • Eddie Shore

    Nice article JW, a little perspective never hurt. On the other hand though, I think you can read a little bit into the preseason, just not very much. For instance, these kids scoring goals in the preseason doesnt mean squat for the reg season, but it does start to build a little confidence that they can score on nhl goalies. And, the Oilers are playing well in the preseason, and that doesnt mean they will play well in the reg season, but it does show they have the capacity to at least hang in there with nhl calibre teams.
    So, I’d call it a 25% indicator of the real season, imo.

  • Eddie Shore

    Eberle, Hall and Paajarvi are scoring points and laughing – something this team hasn’t done in a VERY long time. If these three guys can simply build some confidence in their game AND if they can continue to work on Renney’s system than who cares how well a pre-season can predict a season?

    The players constantly caveat every media discussion with, “we know this is the pre-season” so its not like they think they are going to be the best in the regular season.

    People get their hopes up. I worked in Chicago for most of last season and people were definitely excited about the team after the pre-season last year – I wonder how the Hawk’s did anyway?

  • Eddie Shore

    Regardless of pre-season win which may or may not translate into regular season wins, one thing from this pre-season is clear.

    The Oilers will be a lot more fun to watch even as a 30th place team than last year.

  • jimmycrackcorn

    Can’t we just be excited. Can’t we just enjoy watching this new team with a lot of talent and a passion to be playing? Why do people have to rain on this parade?

    There are probably a lot of teams that have a good preseason and go on to have a great regular season. Can’t we just dream about being one of those teams?

    People are so negative.

    I want the oilers to win! I am excited to see them play! I am cheering for them to win the cup!

    Anybody with me?

  • Ender

    I am furiously juggling the lines trying to find a combination that will allow the Oilers to keep both Rudy and Snoopy.

    It’s not working. Something’s gotta give.

  • AussieOil

    Chris I feel your pain! Have to figure out how/where I am going to watch the SportnetOne (Edm) during regular season – I live in Manitoba. Hard to watch internet feed after HD on TSN the other night

  • Chris.

    Fcuking BELL. Fcuking Sportsnet. I stand in the shadow of a $600.00 Hi Def PVR reciever… and am listening to this on the RADIO.

    Words cannot describe how pissed I am right now.

  • If only all the negative Nellies who are already writing off this season would treat the pre-season the same way. Nothing is proven, true, but then again, nothing is out of reach yet, either, so why predict a lottery finish before the first official puck is dropped?

  • @ Cervantes:

    The preseason has virtually no predictive value for the regular season, for good or bad. Viktor Salberg and Sergei Shirokov were also stars in last year’s warmup hockey.

    It’s fun, but it’s a bad idea to read anything into it.

    Also, that 6-2-1 start last season was a mirage – the Oilers were getting outshot by an average of eight shots per game, and it was only a matter of time before the bubble burst. They were bad from the get go, it just took a while to regress to the mean. (I’m not arguing that injuries didn’t matter, just that they wouldn’t have been a good team anyway).

    • Eddie Shore

      You should remind the Flamers fan on Flamesnation.ca about this, Willis.

      I work in Calgary and everyone already thinks they are winning the cup here from their 3-0 start to the season… lol.

      At least Oilers fans KNOW we are finishing bottom 5 this year. Flames fans are stupid enough to think they’ll make the playoffs this year.

    • SumOil

      That what I was just gonna write. Oilers were getting outshot badly in the preseason and that trenf continued in the regular season. Soon we were out of puck luck and started losing.

  • Cervantes

    Willis, why you gotta poop in my cheerios? Can we at least wait for ReKhabbyBoozin to be annointed the starter before we start getting depressed about the possibilities?

    Also, to be fair, we were on a tear the first 10 games of the season, too. I still contend that without the 540 mangames lost (plus how many more played at less than 100%?) we were set up to rock our way into the playoffs. Some things are just beyond control.

    And, Comrie turned his great preseason and season start into a spot on Crosbys wing. Gilbert put in solid boxcars overall, on a horrid team. And JD… well, with Struds and Chorney in front of you, even MechaGodzilla couldn’t stop all those pucks.

    Yes, it’s not the best indicator of performance… but it’s still a good way to get a glimpse of things to come. Like MPS and the Calder trophy…