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.

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

  • justDOit

    Well, THN might not be far off, as others have suggested. The western conference teams have done much to improve, with Phoenix and Calgary being the exceptions.

    I still think the ‘core’ of the Flames is quite good, and if coach Sutter can get them going like they finished last season, they will compete for the post season.

    And never rule out a Tippet team.

    So that will mean another tough season – but that’s to be expected. I’ll be happy if we suffer fewer injuries, and I can actually watch this team compete for a season. If we still happen to end up in the bottom five, then lets all cross our fingers for a third-straight fist overall!

  • Feynman

    Now as for us I think we’ve done a whole heck of a lot. We’ve added to every problem that we’ve lacked. Needed faceoff and a defensive centre. We get Belanger who is a 50% faceoff guy, who can get you 15-20 goals and up to 40 points. Also he’s a battler and will go to the dirty areas also VERY reliable in his end. He opens up Horc to get to where he once was in the dot and in his end. Hors was simply a victim of being over worked. Eager, Hordy, and Sutton improve our grittyness and toughness without sacrificing playing time.

    Adding Smyth improves overall team attitude. Also adds scoring, improves PK, PP and is also reliable in his end. Barker is a wildcard as he can go either way. But he is an upgrade on the blueline. He’s a top 4 dman that should be able to regain his form he has all the tools to.

    Adding to that are hopefull healthy seasons from Hemsky and Whitney should help. Also I don’t see the kids having major sophmore slumps like Gagner, Cogs, Nilsson, and O’Sullivan had. Lets face it those players aren’t on the same level as Hall, Ebs, and Pajaarvi. Hall, and Ebs have already shown what they’re made of. Not only do Ebs and Hall have the skill, talent, and speed, but they also have the heart and hockey smarts and plain determination to not want to fail. As for Pajarvii he’s got all the raw ability just not sure where his mind is at. We saw glimpses of what he can be. I think for him it will be him just geting used to a new life here.

    The biggest question mark for us is in goal. To be honest I like what i see on the blueline going forward.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I don’t think that the people at THN really watch or follow hockey. I think with the additions and with a healty Hemsky and Whitney we could fight for 8th in west. Now realistically I see the Oilers finishing 22nd in the league and 10 in the west. First off in the east I see us being better than Isles, Sens, and Panthers that puts us at 27th right there. In the west I see us being better than Phx, Calgary, Columbus, Colorado, and the Blues. That puts us to 22nd in league and 10 in west.

    Now in the East the teams that can go either way for me are NJ and Carolina. Carolina seems to do really well one year then bad the next so who knows with them and what will happen with the departure of Cole. NJ I just don’t think adding Larsson will propell them to playoff contenders. If anything Marty B is one more year older and who knows what will happen with Parise this season.

    In the west there are question marks for some teams. Flames, yeah they just missed the playoffs BUT haven’t done anything to make their team better. Columbus yeah they got Wiz and Carter BUT what about in net? Will Steve Mason regain form or play similar to last year? Landeskog was a good Jr player but who knows how he’ll be in the NHL. Also I don’t see him propelling the Avs to a playoff spot. Yotes will not make the playoffs this year. They lost Bryz, JOVO, Fiddler, and Belanger. So in other words they lost their number one goalie and key figure in why they were in the playoffs past two seasons, They also lost top 4 dman, two of their best PK, faceoff men, and defensive forwards in Fiddler and Belanger.

    Post getting kinda long and I think you get where I am heading.

  • paul wodehouse

    sad news in the hockey world and for Southern Alberta. As per James Mirtle, Rick Ripken was found dead in his Alberta home. Condolences to the Ripken family.

  • Now that the Boozin-wall has his time in the clink behind him he could have a bounce back year. Not that he was playing well before the DUI. I doubt it will happen but one less distraction might be just what it takes for him to get it together. The power of Positive thinking!

  • Wow how creative and in-depth do you gotta be to predict that? A better idea than publishing “Guess what? The sky is blue” would be that they shut down over the summer.

    I’m not necessarily in disagreement with them, but seriously I would rather read a feature on any player or team than a “prediction” that the shaky teams last year will be the shaky teams this year.

    Thanks for coming out, THN.

    Stay tuned for their next article: “Detroit and San Jose should do well in the standings next season.”

  • Bar Qu

    Careful RB. If you keep saying things outside the Oiler management party line, you could end up blacklisted! 😉

    And those of you ‘hoping’ for another lottery placement, consider that as RB pointed out adding 20 points on top of what they did last season is a big job. Imagine pushing that improvement back another year! There is no way the Oilers go from lottery pick to playoff contender in one season. I personally hope they pick up the pace by 15-20 points this season, end up in 13th (20-24th overall), but I’m not sure how they do it (maybe Petry emerges? Dubnyk outperforms?).

    The bright side of not accomplishing this feat is it probably costs ST his job.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Hockey News. Are they even still relavant? I for one never read that NHL propaganda rag.As far as the Oilers finishing last in the Western conference. We’ll see.Alot of things have changed in the Western Conference this past offseason. Have the Flames really gotten any better? Pheonix? Has Columbus found a goaltender yet? How is L.A. going to be with the addition of Penner? Colorado has a giant elephant in the room in the guise of Stastny. Is he going to play his way out of town or is he going to buy into the new rebuild strategy. There are alot of what ifs going into this season. I won’t be holding my breath waiting for the Oilers to make the playoffs but again we’ll see where the chips fall.Gonna be a incredible camp with the return of Smyth and the addition of Barker and the rest. This should be a team that will be more willing to get dirty than lasts years squad. Penticton is going to be fun. Are you going to Penticton for the camp Robin? and great job on Saturday. what a way to start a show. SMB. Wow.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    [quote] 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. [quote]

    Doesn’t say much for the veterans on this hockey club when THN speaks of only the kids progressing. After 3 difficult lottery seasons our basket only has 3 players in which to build around. Tambellini needs to pick up the pace so this doesn’t continue to emulate an Infinity rebuild.

  • book¡e

    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.

    • Mantastic

      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.

  • geoilersgist

    Plan for failure and we shall surely find it. Can we all quit rubbing our hands in glee as we plan for another top pick that might not even make the NHL. Let’s turn it around with the draft picks we got, the free agents we can get and the players who figure in the plans. Screw blowing for another year

  • My prognostication for the bottom 5 in the NHL:

    30th – COL
    29th – EDM
    28th – WIN
    27th – OTT
    26th – NYI

    Book it!

    Like Archie Oogly says, if Khabby plays north of 40 shine up the 30th place spot again.

    The biggest weaknesses on the Oilers are G and Top 4 D and they did nothing to address this.

    If they add a top 4 dman through trade and Khabby hits the IR early then all bets are off.

    • Mason Storm

      How do you see Winnipeg in the bottom 5? If you look at their roster, they should be pushing for a playoff spot. The travel won’t be an issue early in the year, but might make them tail off towards the end of the season. Still good enough to be outside the top ten.

      • They finished 25th last year and did not make any significant improvements on the team.

        NYI have improved somewhat and will have Okposo, Streit and Wishart for a full year. If they didn’t have Dipetro I think they might be a dark horse for the playoffs.

        FLA has also improved considerably.

        Anderson is enough to make OTT finish ahead of them…maybe..

        I still have them finishing ahead of EDM and COL.

        • Mason Storm

          With Florida minus Vokoun they are toast. Toronto are relying on Reimer far too much and will implode. The Islanders always screw everything up. Phoenix is finished without Bryzgalov. New Jersey will continue their decline, especially after they trade Parise. Ottawa are in the midst of a re-build and plan look like they’ll bottom out. Dallas minus Richards can’t compete in the Pacific. Calgary are a year older and a year worse. Throw in Edmonton and Colorado and that’s how I see Winnipeg out of the bottom ten.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            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.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            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.

          • 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 ?

          • 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.

  • paul wodehouse

    while the Oilers have improved slightly this offseason, the phoenix coyotes have gotten significantly worse. between losing bryzgalov, belanger, and upshall that’s nearly 30 goals and a lot of wins that just disappeared from that roster. i could see them plummet in the standings and end up below the Oil.

    • Phoenix should finish with about 36 wins.

      – Dave Tippett is still a solid coach.

      – Shane Doan is in a UFA season.

      – Eckman-Larsson, Boedker, and Turris should be better.

      Will the Oilers be 12 wins better than last season?

      The Over/Under for Oiler wins should be 31.5 (not that I’m a math guy)

      • jimmycrackcorn

        while I agree Dave Tippet is a solid coach and their young players should be better, I can’t see them winning with that goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Jason Labarbera.

        • Death Metal Nightmare

          As I tell my wife when we’re camping…

          “If a bear attacks…run”.

          She says “you can’t outrun a bear.”

          I say I don’t have to outrun the bear…I just need to outrun you.

          The Oilers are my wife.

    • Ya, Thats the one or two teams RB was talking about I think.

      Arch also has it right playing Khabby more will put the Oilers right at the bottom.

      As an Oiler fan the THN item sucks, but it’s hard to argue it, not to mention the upgrades on the back end might not be any better then last year.

      Prediction-Oilers are a lotto pick again.

  • Talbot17

    Ya, you’re pretty much right on in my estimation Rubin. It’s hard to muster much angst at naysayers these days. Improvement for sure, but overtaking anyone other than Colorado will take a miracle on ice, and Herb Brooks is long gone.
    Reaonable Expectations. Sounds like a very boring movie title, hahahaha.

  • paul wodehouse

    Robin,

    I think you’re right Robin, and in all honesty, I think it would be for the best in terms of the long term rebuild that they do finish in the bottom 5. I hate the losing too, but the rebuild is not over and their are a lot of holes to fill and development needed for most of our young studs. We need a stud D-man (either by trade or draft). I hope major progress is made, but am not overly confident with this crew. Much depends on the play of Duby. They are not there yet, but I love the direction the team is headed. Let’s hope contracts (once the entry-levels have expired)don’t effect this group. Trading Hemmer for a bonfied young D-man is on my wish list right now.

  • stevezie

    After Tambellini’s bold, televised proclamation that we won’t be a lottery team again this year, to what degree does his job security rely on making good on that promise?

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Don’t you think with the grit we added, teams will be a little less inclined to take liberties at our young guns. As well can Horcoff and Hemmers really have another injury riddled season?

    Last…. I don’t think so.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Your Edmonton Oilers: Setting low standards and failing to achieve them.

    Last in the Western Conference seems pretty reasonable. But, man it sure would be nice if the Oilers exceeded expectations for the first time since the Cup run.

  • Talbot17

    Still feel if they hadn’t had so many injuries they would have done a lot better. the Leastern conference will for sure have picks 1 through 4 this year i believe