AT RANDOM

Random

Fans and media types alike love making predictions. If we’re right, whether we’ve made your bold pick after running spreadsheets or reading tea leaves, the inclination is to crow, “I called it.” If we’re wrong, as we most often are, well, crickets and on to the next one.

In an off-season that’s generated more optimism about the Edmonton Oilers than I recall during nine straight years out of the playoffs, Hockey Night In Canada host Ron MacLean set the bar higher than anybody back in July when he was asked about the addition of Connor McDavid and what that might mean to Edmonton’s return to respectability after spending so many years stuck in the muck.

“Fantastic. I think for sure playoffs,” MacLean told Sportsnet. “I tell you who’s going to be lights-out this year is Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall . . . you watch Eberle take off. He’s already been great in international hockey, but I think this is going to be his year, Taylor Hall’s year.

“And Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse will fit in. Gimme a glass of wine or a beer, and I think in two years they win the Cup. That may be a little eager, but I don’t think more than four.”

Playoffs for sure? Stanley Cup within two years, no more than four? Even with four five glasses of wine or beer, I think MacLean is being even more optimistic than when I picked 11 Oilers to finish with at least 40 points several years ago in a hockey pool here at Oilersnation. That said, even if he’s wrong, it’s a welcome change-up from the doom, gloom and ineptitude fans around here have endured.

FIVE FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

BrownleeFortune

CONNOR MCDAVID. I’m not as bullish as a lot of people are about how many points McDavid will amass as a rookie. Over at The Hockey Writers, for instance, scribblers have McDavid pegged for 80 points and they have him winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. That’s here.

I wrote earlier this off-season that I see McDavid finishing with 69 points and I’m sticking with that. That’s based on scoring at a rate of .89 PPG with him playing 78 of 82 games. As for the Calder? Yes, McDavid wins it.

THE NEXT CAPTAIN. I don’t think who wears the C is nearly as important as a lot of people do. I’ve always believed leaders will lead regardless of who has the letter. That said, the optics of having Andrew Ference continue as captain, as good a pro and citizen as he is, aren’t great if he’s in and out of the line-up. If the change is made before the start of this season, it’ll go to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If it happens next season, the letter will go to McDavid.

LEADING SCORER. If Taylor Hall plays left wing with McDavid and the rookie performs as I think he will, I see Hall leading the Oilers in scoring and surpassing his career-high of 80 points (2013-14). Hall had that total in a season in which his centre, Nugent-Hopkins, had 56 points.

REINHART OR NURSE? What I’d like to see and what I think will happen are two different things. What I’d like to see is a job competition based solely on merit where Reinhart and Nurse could both start here if their performance dictated, but it doesn’t work that way. I think Reinhart gets the early push and starts the season here while Nurse goes to the minors.

PLAYOFFS? No. The Oilers had 62 points last season. I see a 20-point improvement as acceptable progress. I see a 30-point gain as the absolute upper limit if everything falls their way, which will still leave them short of the post-season. They’ll split the difference and be better by 25 points.

THOSE FLAMERS

Flames

On May 5, I wrote an item about the possibility of a return to the good old days when the Battle of Alberta really was a battle – when both the Oilers and Flames had terrific teams at the same time and went at each other like there was no tomorrow. The BOA has been anything but that in recent years.

I think we’ll see a big step toward a return to that this season, not just because the Oilers will be better but because I expect the Flames to be every bit as good as they were last season, when they finished eighth with 45 wins and 97 points, 35 points ahead of the Oilers.

The Flames fooled everybody last season – I had them finishing behind the Oilers in the Western Conference in my pre-season picks. Even when it was clear the Flames were better than most of us thought they were, a lot of the advanced stats crowd had them falling off because many of their underlying numbers were less-than-impressive. They didn’t. A lot of people predict that decline will come this season. I don’t see it.

GM Brad Treliving is a sharp guy. He was as aware as anybody that the Flames beat the odds to win as often as they did in 2014-15. Treliving couldn’t stand pat and expect the same results — a run to the second round accomplished without Mark Giordano – and he didn’t. Treliving has had as good an off-season as any of his peers, inking Giordano to a long-term extension, stealing Dougie Hamilton from Boston and adding forward Michael Frolik.

Barring an unforeseen calamity of injuries, I don’t see the Flames falling off a bit. I see them right in the 95-98 point range again – and I see the Oilers finishing within 15 points of them. The BOA is on its way back.

WHILE I’M AT IT

soapbox

  • A must-read item posted by Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy this morning: What NHL players are told about rape, domestic violence. Find the entire item here. There are several links within the story worth following, including the “Read the list” link.
  • Good to see former Oiler assistant Craig Ramsay land another NHL gig. Ramsay, fired along with Keith Acton in June, will be a coaching consultant with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs announced his appointment earlier this week.
  • Sorry to hear about the passing of Al Arbour. The Islanders were my favourite team as a kid because of all the players they drafted out of the WHL and Arbour was the man who made them what they were. A true leader of men. RIP. 

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

  • Omega4

    Any more Grim Reapers on ON Oilers fans with hopes that McDavid is not the next Gretzky , whose low thoughts and hopes would put this type talent far below the hype that surrounds him ? Are you so accustomed to losing you’ve lost that much hope and talk down any hope that he might be a player capable of challenging Gretzky’s records ? If any one is going to do it , he stands the best chance in over 30 years or 3 decades . It’s the offseason , let your hopes and aspirations fly upward , not downward on such a talent . Exhibition season hasn’t even started and it’s alarming and embarrassing how many fans have such low hopes and expectations for a talent like he appears to be . I can understand Flame and other fans , but not our own .

      • So, “well said” to “challenging Gretzky’s records?”

        So, people who post here without buying into that kind of kook talk, who understand Gretzky’s records came in a different era when the Oilers were scoring 400 goals a season and will NEVER EVER be challenged, are disappointing you?

        .

        • Omega4

          You seem to be challenging that Connor will not get 130 or more in his career. Significant shifts occur in point production when the league expands. Don’t we have a possible expansion about to happen? Will that not affect how many points he gets?

      • Joy S. Lee

        BRIGHT OUTLUCK for those not wallowing in GRIM REAPER MODE : The summit series did a lot as for hockey supremacy , as subsequent years Russia was taking it over until a young phenom called Gretzky came along and changed it back to Canada . I remember how he elevated our junior team to whip them and told my buddies at that time how this guy was going to revelutionize hockey in Canada and bring us to superiority again . He did exactly that and more . McDavid is first talent I have seen that impressive , ever since then , and I am pumped to see if it is going to happen again . So many things he does are reminisant of Gretzky when he broke into league . Scoring in league and defence are like cycles , and I believe a new wave of offence is in the making with McDavid . I wasn’t wrong about Gretzky and I do not believe I will be wrong about McDavid either . Like Gretzky he has that special skating skill above all others . PUMPED to see it might happen again .

        In retrospect of Gretzky’s first year he did not have superstars to play with , despite his scoring heroics . They were just good players like B.Callighen . B. Macdonald .a young and not very offensive player in Messier , Semenko , Stan Weir , and youth like D.Lumley and D.Hunter . I think McDavid has maybe an even better Oiler squad than Gretzky to start . Some odd stats from back then . Oilers scored 340 goals last season of WHA and 301 in first year of NHL . We were second last in goals against ( sound familiar) @322 while our Leafs were dead last @ 327 goals against .

        Oiler fans should be pumped with a talent like McDavid and what he might bring to them . If anyone is going to press Gretzky’s record it might be him , and is it not great that we could all witness it here in Edmonton as we did with Gretzky ? You bet it is !

          • MorningOwl

            Another prediction for you ! You better sit down for this one , wouldn’t want you to have an attack .

            TSN article (blog) today by MG heading “Champions In Waiting” about our Oilers and current state . Some interesting things in article . One of them is McLellan’s record the two years previous to last season as coach of San Jose . Those two years combined his team was 17 wins and only 3 losses in the first month . Obviously he likes to get the troops off to a fast start to season ! I expect we will as well as McDavid with an already “stocked to the rim with offensive power and less suspect defence than last decade ” . Add some of the new youth and acquisitions and you see where article and hopes are leaning toward . It’s enough to give Grim Reapers the shakes .

  • The Soup Fascist

    I disagree with the whole way you approach improvement philosophically.

    Eakins spoke a lot of crap, we can all agree on that. One thing I don’t think he was wrong about is how little difference there is between winning and losing in the NHL.

    Expecting incremental change is not really the way it tends to work in this league.

    Very rarely do teams get a little bit better, or a little bit worse in the standings. Confidence is one thing that I think messes around with this incremental change.

    Just like players, teams tend to break out. They don’t go from 30th place to 25th the next season to 20th the next and then make the playoffs in the following year. Teams often go from being bad to being good in a single season, and I think that all comes back to confidence. Success breeds success, unfortunately failure also breeds failure.

    Look at the Avs last year and the year before. They had a break out year and made the playoffs when everyone had them pegged as a bottom 10 team. This last year, they performed more to expectation.

    I don’t think the Oilers will go from 65 points to 85. I think they will likely go from 65-70 points to making the playoffs, in one shot. That is every bit or more likely to happen then gaining 20 more points in the season.

    I am not sure if this is the year that will happen, but if this team can win some games early, get some confidence going, I don’t think there is a ceiling based on their individual skill.

    A lot of the answers rest with Draisaitl, Nurse, Reinhart, Talbot and I am even going to throw Shultz in the mix. Actually thinking about it, Shultz may actually be one of the most important players on the team. And his performance is going to affect the Oilers performance greatly, seeing as I don’t know how you don’t put him in the top 4, with our current group. But he is a wild card for sure.

    • Omega4

      Colorado may be an outlier, or they can be explained with PDO.

      Check out Colorado’s five year points average. Last year they were just ahead of their average.

      I’m prepared to have McDavid wow, but Oilers needed to land Hamilton, another top four D in addition to Sekera (who is possibly a Petry replacement). Then if they could possibly get north of .920 save pct and they’d still need top ten shooting percentage (the most unpredictable of all stats), you could prepare for radical improvement in standings.

  • Train#97

    Reinhart or Nurse … While I have nothing against Reinhart and do hope one day he Fills a useful No.6 stay at home D role on this team, you simply cannot compare him to Nurse (I mean its literally not fair).

    THW top 100 prospects show Nurse at 14 behind Provarov and Reinhart at 39 behind a lot of other D.

    Provarov will likely play in Philly this year, much like Courtourier did his draft year, because Philly plays the players who can play at that level regardless of youth.

    If Nurse doesn’t play the majority of the year in the NHL and learn how to play the game there soon he will be miles behind others in his Draft or other comparables in other draft years — Trouba, Dumba, Lindholm, Murray, Matta, Reilly, Jones, and yes, Reinhart …

    Its way easier to learn and adjust to the speed of the NHL in October and November rather than March and April, and lets face it, easier to build chemistry as well.

    If the Nurse is ready better he learn against NHL opps rather than AHL opps. Same with Reinhart. But if there is only room for one of the two, take the one that has the most to offer, now. And be objective. Between the two outside of Edmonton, the consensus is Nurse is the better prospect with the higher upside, who has shown he can handle the learning curve and adapt faster than Rienhart can.

    No doubt both will end up on the main squad at some point, but why should one (either) get the “push” over the other — if they are ready and earn it give it to them, don’t “shelter” or “push” them — that doesn’t help the rest of the team.

  • Train#97

    Line one;
    Center – McDavid
    Left- Hall
    Right- pitlick/pakariinan

    Line two;
    Dr Drai @ centre
    Yak @ wing
    Line tre;
    Center – Nuge
    Left- pouliout (sp?) Line tre is pk,nuge eb pp
    Right- Eberle

    Four
    Korpo
    Letestu
    Hendricks

    *Nurse on the ice at same time as McDavid

  • Joy S. Lee

    Flames fall back and out of the playoffs this year. A lot of smoke and mirrors last season . Oilers also fall short, but much improved. Tough first six games on the sched. 5 of 6 on the road. I expect a slow start