Tell Me Something Good

There are some outstanding futures on the Edmonton Oilers roster. If you’re young enough to enjoy the next 15 years of Oilers hockey, this fall should be the beginning of something very special.

Every summer I spend some time looking at what "reasonable" might look like for the Edmonton Oilers. The idea of the exercise is to pull back the bias, deny your personal favorites, factor in things like injuries and sucktastic months ending in y. Reasonable is the midpoint between "they’re going to save most of the leg" and "where do you want your gold bricks stored, sir?"

The idea of reasonable expectations isn’t to pick favourites or push some obscure agenda, it is genuine attempt to find the reasonable expectation. If your player does better than expected, we can be more certain the player delivered a quality season.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS

Here are my reasonable expectations for the Oilers top 12 forwards. I only ask that you enter the numbers and notes with an open mind and understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  • Line OneSam Gagner (70gp, 15-35-50); Taylor Hall (70gp, 32-28-60); Jordan Eberle (82gp, 22-30-52). The idea behind this line is that the Oilers will probably try to give their gifted youngsters a chance to romp through the easier opposition (especially at home). Gagner is the best (until RNH establishes himself) offensive center on the roster and this frees up Shawn Horcoff for the tough minutes. I’m estimating that this line scores 69 goals, and RNH is probably going to get some time later in the season with Hall-Eberle.
  • Line Two: Shawn Horcoff (62gp, 13-18-31); Ryan Smyth (70gp, 18-19-37); Ales Hemsky (57gp, 17-37-54). I think coach Renney will default to a "tough opposition" line and this trio played well together during 94’s last swing through Edmonton. The numbers for Horcoff and especially Smyth may seem low, but I don’t see either playing much on the powerplay. Hemsky will definitely get huge PP time and that is reflected in his numbers.
  • Line Three: Eric Belanger (68gp, 13-23-36); Magnus Paajarvi (82gp, 20-20-40); Linus Omark (70gp, 13-27-40). The one thing this team should be able to do is cobble together three lines capable of scoring goals. I don’t remember the last time the club had this kind of depth but it probably rhymes with 2006. I think all three will get PP time, and Belanger will be a key player on the PK as well.
  • Line FourRyan Nugent-Hopkins (63gp, 11-23-34); Ben Eager (69gp, 8-8-16); Ryan Jones (64gp, 5-11-16). My theory is that RNH will get time with all of the wingers on the top three lines plus PP time, but his overall TOI will rank 4th behind Gagner, Horcoff and Belanger. Eager and Jones will see very little time on the PP and their numbers also reflect that, although I do think Jones will play a lot on the penalty-kill.

Other forwards include Teemu Hartikainen (45gp, 7-8-15), Darcy Hordichuk (44gp, 0-3-3) and Gilbert Brule (10gp, 2-1-3). The 10-11 Oiler forwards scored 167 goals, I’m suggesting this edition scores an even 200 goals. A 33 goal improvement is a monster step in the right direction, but it pales in comparison to the improvement year over year for the Boys on the Bus forwards. In 80-81, the Gretzky Oilers posted 264 goals among forwards. In 81-82, the number increased to 351. I don’t think the Oilers current forwards will improve by 87 goals, but 33 is a tremendous increase for this era.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

The Oilers are going to score more goals and be even more exciting than they were a year ago. However, the improvement will fall shy of a playoff spot because the defense and goaltending is lagging behind the exceptional group of young forwards (and their now solid veteran support).

It’s a theme we’re likely to repeat one summer from now: this team needs a goaltender and defensemen. Badly.

    • Lowetide

      Louise: He has to or I’m going to go crazy. Not a far trip, mind you. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I keep thinking he didn’t have the horses a year ago but with Smyth and Belanger he has some room.

      I surely hope he does.

  • paul wodehouse

    Does Gilbert Brule start in OKC? On my depth chart he does. Also how does Anton Lander fit? I see a trade in the Oilers future if Lander performs up to expectations in OKC.If Bulin falters this season will be a wash.Again. I see a trip to OKC in Bulins future sooner then later. He has a short leash? How Short? Also I see another dman in the Oilers future. back up plan in case whitney falters or is unable to play.

    • Lowetide

      Michael: I think we’ll know soon about Brule. The Oilers can’t trade him (tried at the draft) so a trip to the LTIR followed by a conditioning stint and then a trade is my guess.

      I don’t think he’s going to be much of a factor. Too bad, too. Columbus sure brought him along well. Not.

      • Greg Stink | ESPN

        This sounds like a pretty accurate prediction for Brule this year. Too bad, I liked him as a player, especially the year he scored 17 goals. There is just too much going on to keep revisting guys like him. And he has been much less useful than Cogliano was, so what does that say. He’s done.

        Also,
        I always appreciate a good Wayne’s World reference.

  • IceDragoon

    Great post Lowtide,

    I think a playoff run isnt far fetched at all, these kids are gonna bring us lots of exciting hockey for at least the next 10-15. Cant wait till they drop the puck!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    At least we can stop saying the team needs a third line centre.

    Or I hope that we can. Finally.

    I also see Vande Velde in the mix. I liked his game during his stint in Edmonton.

  • IceDragoon

    Oh, and…

    I’m sure we’ll see all kinds of line combinations during TC and preseason, but when the points count, I think RNH should be stapled to Horcoff’s left hip for at least the first few games. It wouldn’t hurt Eberle to start on his right side, either.

    Hemsky trusts Gagner now, so I’d like to see them start the year together, and I think Hall could thrive with them.

    Then Belanger with Smyth, and I’m intrigued by Paajarvi on his off-wing, though this displaces Omark. Oh well… someone will get injured, and the rest will get sorted out soon enough.

  • paul wodehouse

    …LT off topic if i may ask

    … is it today that our goalie has paid in full his debt to society in Arizona?

    outta jail on the 14th and 15 days at home with the bracelet makes it the 29th no?

    …now the hard work starts

  • paul wodehouse

    Up-to-the-minute hockey news, views and analysis by Brian Stubits and Adam Gretz. For even more NHL facts, rumors and breaking news follow on Twitter @EyeOnHockey.

    …does Wanye know where his twin brother has surfaced after all these years?

  • YFC Prez

    hmmmm a 30 goal increase from the forwards would move the oilers up ten spots in the standings for team goals for. These reasonable expectations are making me gitty.

  • CanaDave

    I was actually thinking the same thing about having RNH playing between Jones and Eager at the start of the season, with some PP time and occasional moving up to play with Smyth and Hemsky. Of course, I do want to see RNH make the team based on having a phenomenal training camp and earning a spot on the 23 man roster as opposed to having it handed to him, but I’m hopeful that’s the case.

    • The Real Scuba Steve

      I’d also love to see rnh in, but it would be a big-time waste to burn a contract year and have him play 10 min /night with the pluggers. He’s an offensive player and he won’t learn much grinding it out with eager and jones.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    So you say the only player with even an ounce of courage to go to the net for screens and rebounds (Smyth) won’t get much PP time, but that the crappiest center on the team (Gagner) will play on the first line? That lineup has lottery pick written all over it.

    I can understand the argument that we can get a lot out of the “skill” players by sheltering them from the tough competition, but if that strategy applies to Gagner, Omark and Barker, then Renney is going to exhaust Horcoff, Belanger and Whitney and increase the risk of injuries to the few players that seem to have any clue how to play a complete game. If anything, I think Renney should start benching any player who shows the cowardice, laziness or outright incompetence that we saw last year.

      • Drew - Team no more tanking

        I want to see an Oiler forward other than Smyth or Jones standing in front of the net to screen the goalie, or battling along the boards to win the puck, or bodychecking a defenceman while on the forecheck or on a dump and chase. Maybe it wasn’t cowardice that I saw last year… maybe it was one of the other two options that I mentioned. In any event, I hope some of the spirit and intensity that Smyth brings to the game (at least in his younger days) sets an example for the next generation, because losing becomes too easy for players who have never been on a winning team.

        • Lowetide

          I think Hartikainen will help in that area and I also think Taylor Hall is going to be a load for any defenseman. And if Paajarvi ever realizes how big he is, there’s another option. Oilers have guys like Pitlick coming too, this team should be able to win in a lot of ways soon.

          At least up front.

        • longbottom/P.Biglow

          Well my friend you obviously don’t watch the Oilers by your comments. Did you see Hall absolutely demolish Dougherty last year along the boards? Did you see Eberle get demolished and pop right up. Yes we Lost Penner in return we also got Smyth. Hartikanien will hit as will Eager(not a plugger who can’t play). Yes this team does look rough at the edges but toughness isn’t always hitting its going into the tough areas. Omark though small was one of the toughest players on the puck last year. A healthy Hemsky will go where no one should go to get a play finished. But of course you are entitled to your opinion I for one don’t agree.

          GO OILERS GO.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    I think one could argue the D is, likely, more in need of external improvement than the F.

    But how sure are you, LT, that the D is lagging right now? The Oilers were much better, relative to the league, in terms of SA than SF last season, even without Whitney for the majority of the season.

    • Lowetide

      speeds: I don’t think the Oilers have enough quality on defense even if Whitney is healthy. Gilbert and Whitney can handle the difficult minutes, but after that everyone is either unproven or unlikely to prove able in a feature role.

      They need a stud D in the worst way, even if Barker works out as a PP option and Sutton improves the PK.

      • Lowetide

        They don’t have enough quality at any position – I’m certainly not saying the Oilers have a top 5 D in the NHL or anything.

        People look at the D as the problem, but that’s because of the future projected improvement of the F’s already in the NHL.

        On D, there’s some reason to think Smid, Peckham, Barker, and Petry will get better based on age, with neither Gilbert or Whitney likely to be past their prime any time soon, based on age.

  • Lowetide

    Unless they pull a rabbit out of the hat a trade for a quality D, it’s ridiculous that Hannan signed in Cowtown for $1M. He would have eased all kinds of pressure…and if that means someone scoops Chorney on waivers so what? There’s always a handful of guys his caliber kicking about. It’s not as if they’re protecting a future top 4.

  • Drew - Team no more tanking

    For the first time in a while these lines look alright.
    As for the D, its no better than last year. Maybe worse. Whitney injured already. Nobody can win with a D like that.

    • IceDragoon

      Defence dependent on how the new additions fair and whether Teubert and Musil surprise and make team ? Does Peckham become more effective and reliable ? On the forward front Oilers appear to have done far more than rest of league to improve . To flounder like they have past 2 years seems very unlikely despite whether Whitby plays or not . I see little to suggest we will be any where near as bad as last 2 seasons . If d works out , we just might see a powerhouse develop here .

  • Jaggedstream

    It looks good, except if RNH isn’t #1 or #2 center he doesn’t stick with the team … it’s a wasted year of his entry level contract to sit in the press box for 20 games and play less than 10 minutes a night when he is in the lineup

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    I believe Barker will surprise alot of people this year. He is hungry and was embarrased when he was bought out. No players likes haveing back to back bad seasons, but no player wants to be bought out and be embarrased infront of his peers. I personally think the defensive scheme of minnesota didn’t fit Barker. Chicago hasn’t been wrong on too many defensemen and picking Barker 3rd overall may have been alot more pressure than the kid could handle. But now he has the reason to prove people wrong. I like the odds for a hungry defenseman makeing it.

  • IceDragoon

    The numbers don’t add up. With the amount of assumed man games lost to injury for the 4 lines, other than Harki, Hordi and Brule, who’s going to play the other games?

    • Lowetide

      I didn’t list all of the forwards here, just the top 12 and a couple of others. The entire group includes about 20 forwards that I’ve projected to play at least some this season iirc.