THN: OILERS FINISH LAST AGAIN?

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.

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  • jimmycrackcorn

    Prediction: All the way to the second round. Lose in 6 to the Canucks. We are all happy but the hate for Vancouver boils over into the streets. 79 arrests, 13 injured!

    Book it! Pack of gloomy guses! For shame!

  • jimmycrackcorn

    It’s all about goal differential.

    You need a positive goal differential to make the playoffs.

    The Ducks were the worst GD team in the WC last season with a +4.

    The Oilers were -76 and finished 37 points behind the Ducks.

    Since the Oilers defense is almost as putrid as it was a year ago, the Oilers would need to score an additional 80 goals to squeak into the playoffs.

    Given that they traded away their leading point producer, it’s unlikely they can score a significant amount more than they did a year ago even with the progression of the youngsters.

  • Mantastic

    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!

  • Lofty

    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.

  • O.C.

    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.

  • O.C.

    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.

  • 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.

  • shau_co

    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.

  • stevezie

    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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    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.

    • 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.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        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.

  • OutDoorRink

    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.

    • 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).

  • Clay

    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.

  • 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.

  • positivebrontefan

    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.

  • 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.

  • positivebrontefan

    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.