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The Way I See It: Fearless Predictions

I could tell you I’ve spent untold hours compiling statistics and running numbers to come up with exactly what I think will happen during the 2017-18 NHL season, specifically with the Edmonton Oilers, but that would be a damn lie and it would hurt my brain, so, well, no. That’s better left to somebody else.

Let’s face it, when it comes to making NHL predictions, nobody has a crystal ball or a sure shot way of peering 82 games into the future. One way or another, we’re all guessing, no matter how complicated we try to make that guessing game appear. If we could get it right most of the time ahead of time, we’d be pulling so much cake out of the gambling end of the game we wouldn’t have time to do anything else. I’ve yet to have that problem.

For me, it’s fun. I look at where teams finished the previous season and how they got there. Did they over-achieve, under-achieve or perform about as expected? Who has come and gone since then? Any big additions or key personnel losses? Is the core, are the go-to guys, getting long in the tooth? Are the kids ready to deliver? Probably not a lot different than you do it. If I get it mostly right, I crow about it. If I get it mostly wrong, well, nevermind. Just like you do it. So, with the Oilers getting started against the Calgary Flames tonight, let’s go . . .

ORDER OF CHOICE

Here’s how I see the divisions lining up (playoff teams in bold):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ATLANTIC/METROPOLITAN

Tampa Bay Pittsburgh

Toronto Washington

Buffalo Columbus

Montreal New York Islanders

Boston Carolina

Florida New York Rangers

Ottawa Philadelphia

Detroit New Jersey

The Lightning are due for a bounce with a healthy Steven Stamkos and I think Nikita Kucherov (40 goals in 74 games last season) takes a run at the Rocket Richard Trophy . . . the Maple Leafs have as talented a young core as anybody and I like all that talent up front despite a questionable blueline . . . Jack Eichel will look like he’s worth all that money when the Sabres surge . . . Doug Weight and the steady hand he provided behind the bench last season gives the Islanders the slightest of edges over an improved Carolina outfit . . . the Blue Jackets were no fluke last season and Artemi Panarin leads the encore . . . still see Pittsburgh as the class of the East and I won’t be surprised if they end up in the Cup final again.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Apr 1, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate an overtime goal by forward Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

CENTRAL/PACIFIC

Minnesota Anaheim

Winnipeg Edmonton

Nashville Calgary

Dallas San Jose

Chicago Los Angeles

St. Louis Arizona

Colorado Vancouver

Las Vegas

While I see Minnesota as the class of the Central, there’s not a lot of separation between the next four teams . . . I might be reaching here, but I see Chicago dropping off substantially with Panarin and Marian Hossa out of the mix and I’ve got them missing the playoffs  . . . if the Sharks falter at all, and they might with Patrick Marleau gone and Joe Thornton 38 and coming off knee surgery, Chicago might still get in . . . I might like the Flames more than some people do, but the addition of Jaromir Jagr to all that young talent looks like a great pick-up to me and Calgary’s blueline is stacked . . . if the Oilers start fast and put the Ducks in a chase position out of the gate we’re going to have a helluva race atop the Pacific, but I’m sticking with the more experienced Ducks by a hair, at least during the regular season.

STANLEY CUP FINAL

Pittsburgh-Edmonton

THE SILVERWARE

Art Ross Trophy – Connor McDavid

Hart Memorial Trophy – Connor McDavid

Calder Trophy – Mikhail Sergachev

Norris Trophy – Victor Hedman

Vezina Trophy – Braden Holtby

Jack Adams – Todd McLellan

THE OILERS

Sep 23, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a third period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

For me, the road to the Stanley Cup final for the Oilers leads through Anaheim . . . I believe the Oilers have more room to grow with the experience that will come from being in the race again to bolster the taste of success they got last spring . . . McDavid and Draisaitl, whether they play together or apart, will combine for 185 points this season . . . Cam Talbot likely won’t play as many games this season as last, so while his wins will likely dip into the high-30s, I think his save-percentage and goals-against average will improve over last season . . . Oscar Klefbom takes an even bigger offensive role with Andrej Sekera out to start the season and finishes with 40-something points . . . rookie Kailer Yamamoto proves the doubters wrong and sticks for the balance of the season.

There, you have it.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • Tonto

    west will be the same as last year with either Dallas or Kings in and Flames out.
    East will be the same as last year with either Tampa Bay or NYI in and Leafs out.

  • OriginalPouzar

    So may experts have the Oilers winning the division, some the conference, some the Cup – its great to read/hear.

    For me, some of this is a bit aggressive – while I do think the Oilers could very well win the division, the conference, even the cup, with a bit of bad luck, I also think they could be battling for a wild card spot and even miss the playoffs.

    A huge key to the season is the ability of Matt Benning to handle the 2RD spot or the ability of Chiarelli to find a solid stop-gap very early in the season.

    As of right now, Benning has been gifted that spot and has had an uneven camp – thankfully Russell looks like a much better transition player on his natural left side but we need Benning to grab this opportunity – we can’t rely on Kris Russell to carry a 2nd pairing.

    Benning on the 2nd pairing also puts additional pressure on Nurse as he’s lost his reliable and calm puck moving partner – I love Gryba but he has trouble when asked to play game over game.

    I’d feel much more comfortable with an acquisition like Colin Miller to handle some 2RD minutes and bump Benning and Gryba down a spot on the depth chart.

    Anyways – if the bottom 4 D can at least tread water until Sekera is back and up to speed then, yes, this team should be a true contender.

  • Clayton

    One thing that may be a challenge for the Oilers finishing atop the division will be early season points they could lose due to Sekara’s injury. The D won’t match teams like Nashville, Anaheim and Calgary, but depth at forward should balance this out. The only question is how many games with the Oil lose in the first weeks of the year before the D finds their way. It could be too big of a hole for the Oil to climb out of to win the division.

    As for Todd McLellan winning coach of the year…not likely. Not often a team with a superstar like Connor wins coach of the year. Todd will not get the credit he deserves for oiler accomplishments…it will always be Connor’s team. That said…Todd will get all the blame if the Oil don’t win! Welcome to coaching!

  • The Rookie

    The one thing that I question with the oilers is injuries. Last year was by far their healthiest season in ages, even tho Andrew Ference makes that number even out a little. If last year was a one off, they could stumble a bit. If last year was the gods begining to even things out for the last 8 years of injuries, (41 stitches to Halls face, revolving door to the shoulder surgery clinic, officials taking out ankles, the list of weird injuries is long) things should be good.

    • Big Boss

      I’m on the side that thinks the new found toughness and size in the Oilers line up is the biggest reason the skilled guys were so healthy last year. No reason why that should change this year.

      • The Rookie

        I agree to that point, but the injuries that have occurred during the decade of darkness had nothing to do with toughness, unless u think someone shoulda taken a run at the ref that took down yak, or at Cory cross during pregame skate

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    The changing of the guard is upon us and it wasn’t near as gradual as I thought it would be. Chicago, St.Louis, San Jose and L.A are fighting gravity. The conference is wide open for everyone else.

  • Rock11

    Here is what makes me nervous. Well pretty much everything. But specifically in relation to the Oilers I see a bunch of teams in the west that are going to make big points leaps and not nearly as many about to come down. Colorado may finish last again but will still be 20 points better. You simply can’t be that bad again, it isn’t possible. Dallas looks poised to get back in the playoffs. That means +15-20 points. Arizona is improved. At least 10 points IMO. Nashville, LA, and Winnipeg all figure to be at least a little better. That is a lot of points that have to come from somewhere. They can’t all be from Vegas, Chic, and SJ. I expect the Oilers to be good but without Sekera it could be a dogfight for the playoffs. Its like the old poker saying, if you look around the table and don’t see the fish then the fish is you.

    • MrBung

      Agreed. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think the Oilers finish as high as last year. There is parity in the league. We will see how they start the season tonight. Those Flames points last season were HUGE.

    • Joy S. Lee

      Some excellent points on the share and distribution of points… it may even “point to” lower totals at the top, bigger totals at the bottom, and a bigger mishmash in the middle. Which, as McLellan has suggested, makes every game that much more important. It should be great for all of us fans of hockey!

  • madjam

    Well done Robin , even going further with your fearless predictions beyond Gregor’s or mine . So I will play catchup and give my playoff matchups with awaeds as you have done .
    Wash. over NYR , Columbus over Pitt . = Wash over Columbus Eastern
    Toronto over Montreal , Tampa over Boston = Tampa over Toronto Atlantic .
    Minn. over Calgary (crossover ) , Chicago over Dallas = Chicago over Minn. Central. Nashville loses in tie breaker to the Flames .
    Edmonton over L.A. , San Jose over Anaheim , Edmonton over San Jose . Pacific .
    Semi finals Washington over Tampa , Edmonton over Chicago , Washington in 7 over Edmonton ( politics playing a significant part ? )
    Awards : Art Ross and Hart to McDavid , Calder – To McAvoy , Vezina to Holtby and J.Adams – to Washington coach .
    Nice to see your liking for Yamamoto being a season type of addition .