Training Camp Predictions

It feels like fall today. I love it.

In just a few short weeks we can see what MacT is going to do with the D pairings, we can see if Marc Pouliot really did improve his strength and conditioning, we can begin to get an idea about which of the young forwards will emerge from the pack and score some goals for a team badly needing a Calder candidate.

Here’s a list of things I think we’ll see this fall in Oilers camp:

  1. The goaltending will look as good as it has in many years because the Oilers have two guys who can play well in the NHL.
  2. The D pairings will be Souray-Staios, Pitkanen-Greene and Smid-Tarnstrom on opening night.
  3. Denis Grebeshkov will be the 7D.
  4. Mathieu Roy will end up in New Jersey on waivers.
  5. Tom Gilbert will have a terrific training camp but will be a victim of numbers and play over 50 games in the AHL.
  6. The Oilers powerplay will be so good we won’t recognize it. Hemsky to Souray will be the most quoted refrain in camp and give hope to Oiler fans for 07-08.
  7. Robert Nilsson will not hold on to the 2line job through the end of camp.
  8. The most impressive kids in camp will be (in no specific order) Andrew Cogliano, Ryan O’Marra, Tyler Spurgeon and Devan Dubnyk.
  9. Opening night forward lines will be (c-lw-rw): Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky, Stoll-Torres-Pisani, Pouliot-Moreau-Sanderson and Reasoner-Thoresen-Stortini.
  10. Pressbox forwards opening night: Kyle Brodziak, Robert Nilsson.

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48 Responses to "Training Camp Predictions"

  1. Santa Merda says:

    I think that Nillson will most likely make the 3rd or 4th line, but you’re right, he just doesn’t have the skill level or the experience to play on the 2nd.

  2. SweatyO says:

    My opening night lineup:

    Penner-Stoll-Hemsky
    Torres-Horcoff-Pisani
    Moreau-Pouliot-M.Johnson (yes, you read that right)
    Sanderson-Reasoner-Nilsson
    EXT: Thoresen, Stortini

    (Line 1 gets Selanne-type protection, as the 2nd line goes power vs power with the 3rd line drawing the 2nd toughest matchups)

    Staios-Pitkanen
    Souray-Grebeshkov
    Greene-Smid
    EXT: Tarnstrom

    Roloson
    Garon

    Roy is the victim of waivers, Brodziak is the victim of below average skating, Schremp is the victim of last spring’s injury (among other things), Jacques is the victim of numbers (but is back here to stay by Christmas) and Gilbert is the victory of Grebeshkov having a one-way deal (but will be back at some point as well).

    Wildcard prediction: Gagner makes the team and gets a nine-game tryout as the 4C between Nilsson and Sanderson.

    The team will be better than expected at ES, but will continue to struggle on the PP due to deploying the “same old crap” system that hasn’t really worked at all for the last five years (save the Pronger experience). The PK remains solid.

  3. Lowetide says:

    sweatyo: I love the Mike Johnson signing, and the Stoll on top line option is excellent too.

    One thing I do think we need to discuss though is the PP. MacT and the coaching staff have zero choice imo but to make that thing hum and in the Oilers case it might mean just handing it over to one coach and not getting involved.

    Looking at this roster makeup, an elite level PP is vital. Jobs depend on it.

  4. SweatyO says:

    One thing I do think we need to discuss though is the PP. MacT and the coaching staff have zero choice imo but to make that thing hum and in the Oilers case it might mean just handing it over to one coach and not getting involved.

    Looking at this roster makeup, an elite level PP is vital. Jobs depend on it.

    I agree 100% that this team is going to have its struggles at ES this season (the top line is going to experience some growing pains which could pay off in 2009-10, and the lack of experienced depth on the blueline is still a concern, although I do think that Staios/Pitkanen will become a capable pairing that can play against the opposition’s big time forward lines), so a robust, top-ten PP would enhance their chances of sneaking in somewhere between 6th and 8th.

    That is only going to happen if they throw everything they’ve been doing since July 1, 2001 out the window and start from scratch. I would have loved to have seen them take a different direction with their coaching hires lately to help make this happen:

    - Hire an experienced NHL assistant (aka Habscheid) and give him the special teams.

    - Make Truitt the HC in Springfield, and hire Buchberger and Daum as his assistants.

    Instead, Daum’s with the big team doing advance scouting work, Buchberger is overemployed, Habscheid is wasting away somewhere in the Boston organization, and Moores/MacT are going to be the ones deploying the same old power-play tactics as we have seen since Doug Weight left town.

  5. Lowetide says:

    sweatyo:

    The one thing I think we can be encouraged about is that Simpson is out of the equation. As fans the tendency is to say “well Simpson could stand in front of the net and goals would pour in so he’ll help the PP” but in actual fact it helped not at all.

    So maybe they give the PP to Moores, the least impressive pedigree of the bunch but a guy who is a career coach and must have something going on to hold down a spot the organization usually hands out to guys who played for the Oildrop 79-90.

  6. doritogrande says:

    LT, I’m under the impression that Mathieu Roy’s contract for this year is a two-way deal, with the second year of his contract being one-way. I’m looking for a source on this, I’m 95% sure it’s out there somewhere. It’s been around the oilers.com messageboards also that his contract this year is two-way.

  7. Lowetide says:

    doritogrande: I’ve read that too, but I think they still have to get him through waivers though.

    Right? He’s on the NHL roster right now, and if they try to send him down before the start of the season I believe he has to clear waivers.

  8. doritogrande says:

    I think you’re right LT, but it also depends on how much Roy would be making at the AHL level. I remember an incident two years ago with my hometown Manitoba Moose. When Dan Cloutier went down to injury in Vancouver, Wade Flaherty was the likely candidate to be recalled to fill his roster spot and platoon with Alex Auld. However, because he was making over 100K in Manitoba, he would have been exposed to recall waivers, and Atlanta was raring to make a claim on him. Instead, they left Flaherty to us (much appreciated by the way) and recalled Rob McVicar on a temporary basis until they traded for Mika Noronen from Buffalo.

    From what I remember about this situation, if Roy is making less than 75K in the minors, he is exempt from re-entry waivers. But maybe the increase in the salary cap has an effect on this number, similar to what happened to the numbers for offer sheets of restricted free agents. Could we be on to something here?

  9. theoil says:

    Penner-Stoll-Hemsky
    Torres-Horcoff-Pisani
    Moreau-Pouliot-M.Johnson (yes, you read that right)
    Sanderson-Reasoner-Nilsson
    EXT: Thoresen, Stortini

    Staios-Pitkanen

    Sweatyo – finally took the plunge and got a google account because of this post.

    Everybody seems to assume that the ‘fist’ line will be

    Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky

    but imo this line will have a lot of trouble going head to head with other team’s top lines.

    Our three best defensive players up front are, imo, Moreau, Horcoff and Pisani. If they are used as the line that gets the most even strength time on ice we might have a chance of negating some of our division rival’s top lines.

    Torres-Stoll-Sanderson, while not ideal, probably stand the next best chance at even strength.

    This leaves Penner-Pouliot-Hemsky with the third toughest minutes at even strength and a good bet to be outscorers. I have no idea what the fourth line will look like or be able to do but Thoreson might progress enough to take some minutes away from Sanderson as the season goes along. IMO these 9-10 forwards will get to the end of the year with total minutes because Pisani and Moreau will see a lot of PK time and Penner and Hemsky will see the most PP time with all the rest getting their share of special teams along with Nillson on the 2nd PP.

    I know this goes against the usual view but putting lines together this year is going to take up a major part of the coach’s time in TC from what I can see because there doesn’t seem to be much balance between experience and talent on the offensive/defensive divide.

    I also think that barring a trade we will see Pitkanen-Staios as our top d pairing as even strength on opening night. Souray will play big minutes on both the PP and PK from what the fans on the Montreal board at HF have to say.

  10. James L. says:

    The one thing I think we can be encouraged about is that Simpson is out of the equation. As fans the tendency is to say “well Simpson could stand in front of the net and goals would pour in so he’ll help the PP” but in actual fact it helped not at all.

    Um. I’m assuming you meant Smyth instead of Simpson in the second sentence, as Simpson was always stuck behind the bench last year, but what of the first sentence? Did you really mean that having Smyth off the Oilers line-up is a plus to Edmonton’s PP?? Or were you talking about Simpson??

  11. Lowetide says:

    james: During Simpson’s career he had tremendous success as a screen on the PP and was a very good PP man.

    When he was hired, I thought he would bring his knowledge (he’s a really bright guy, his instructional stuff is excellent) to the PP since he had been on hundreds of them (unlike MacT, for instance).

    That’s what I was talking about, but didn’t dp a very good job of it.

  12. Santa Merda says:

    The South Smythian Rolo-Gator has a very informative look at Simpson’s ability as a powerplay coach.

  13. Asiaoil says:

    The sweatyo lines (with Johnson) are pretty much what I was pumping a few weeks ago – with the Horcoff line doing the heavy lifting. I like the Horcoff line because they are not pure defense – just really balanced and capable at ES. Johnson also improves our RW at ES – and if we get him – I cant for the life of me see how people believe we will not be a decent ES team. Add the improved PP and a bit of luck opposite of last season and the playoffs are not unreasonable.

    As for the defense:

    Souray Staios
    Pitkanen Greene
    Smid ???

    ….and someone (Roy, Tarnstrom, Grebs) is getting traded. Actually trading Dick to anywhere he likes for peanuts is OK just to free up salary space.

  14. Lowetide says:

    santa: I loved that Simpson diagram thingy SSRG did. My favorite part of the diagram was “pass to the point!” like there was some urgency. Classic stuff.

    Asia: I can’t for the life of me imagine a league where this bunch will be a decent EV team. Maybe if Pouliot was 25, Smid was 25 and Greene was good.

  15. Asiaoil says:

    LT you are being negative to the point of being totally unreasonable. Let’s compare the top 3 lines from opening day 2005 (clearly a good ES team) and 2007.

    Smyth Horcoff Hemsky
    Torres Peca Dvorak
    Moreau Stoll Pisani

    Torres Horcoff Pisani
    Penner Stoll Hemsky
    Moreau MAP Johnson (lets assume he’s here)

    Now you cant assume the young guys are at the level they are now – all of Hemsky, Torres and Stoll were 2 years younger and totally unproven. Horcoff and Pisani were also largely unproven. The only guys with any real track record were Smyth, Dvorak and Peca – and the last two guys had sub-par seasons. This is not murderer’s row but any stretch of the imagination but they played very well at ES.

    Let’s look at 2007. Hemsky, Stoll, Torres are all older, better and starting into the prime of their careers. They are FAR BETTER players than they were 2 years ago and this represents a big upgrade. Horcoff and Pisani are also better and now have a solid track record of ES performance that they did not have in 2005 – another upgrade. Penner 2007 is a big upgrade from Torres 2005 – but Torres 2007 is a downgrade from Smyth 2005 – let’s say downgrade here. Moreau is equal and let’s say Johnson – Dvorak is a wash. Peca 2005 vs Stoll 2007 is likely an upgrade and MAP 2007 vs Stoll 2005 could be a wash.

    If we sign a Mike Johnson the only place I see us significantly weaker than in 2005 in the top 3 lines is the loss of Smyth – and even this is offset by the development of Torres and the addition of Penner.

    I think this team will surprise in 2007 through decent ES play, a very good PP, and solid goaltending. The defense has some question marks – but name me a decent defenseman who came to EDM, worked with Huddy, and didn’t become a better player.

  16. Lowetide says:

    Asia: Unreasonable? Come on, Asia. We’re putting together lines here and the main problem is finding a combination that won’t get killed against the 12 forwards in the NW who hurt you.

    THEN we get to the defense where the best thing we can say is that they’re offensive.

    1. Staios is going to have to play on the top pairing where we know from history he can be overexposed.

    2. Pitkanen has issues with consistency and one suspects a “period of adjustment”.

    3. Souray is 30 and talking about improving his defensive game.

    4. Smid’s a nice young player who will not be a difference maker this season.

    5. Greene to my eye has not developed and although these stay-at-home types can sometimes turn things around at Greene’s age that’s certainly not anything you can count on.

    6. Tarnstrom isn’t likely to be a better coverage player than he was before he went home.

    7. Grebeshkov might be something or he might be less than that.

    Unreasonable? I’ve been positive consdering the clusterfuck before us.

  17. speeds says:

    No Trukhno predictions LT?

  18. Lowetide says:

    speeds: I’ve decided not to jinx him. :-)

  19. doritogrande says:

    And the award for greatest use of the word “clusterfuck” goes to…

    Honestly I don’t see the Northwest being as powerful as it has in recent years. Besides the Oilers, only Colorado took a step forward this year in terms of increasing their quality of players. Calgary got older, Minnesota lost goaltending depth, and Vancouver did nothing to improve their horrible offense. We were on par with these teams for 3/4 of the season, then tanked. They haven’t gotten better and we have, what’s with the negativity?

    There weren’t many teams in the West that got significantly better during this offseason. Lets take non-playoff teams under the microscope here. Phoenix, Columbus and Chicago did very little to help themselves out this offseason, so they should realistically be non-factors again this year. St Louis got better up front with the addition of Kariya, Colorado definately improved, as did LA. I still don’t see St Louis as a playoff team yet, but they could surprise me. LA needs goaltending before I take them seriously, and we stole the best of theirs already. As much as they got better, they’re still not playoff-bound. This leaves Edmonton, Colorado and potentially St Louis as teams that should move up from their positions last year.

    Nashville’s gonna tank. You know it’ll happen, so there’s one spot from the top-8. Also, the way I look at it Vancouver and Calgary didn’t do enough to solidify themselves in their respective spots. They’re candidates to fall back. If Backstrom goes down in Minni, they’re screwed. So there’s 3, potentially 4 spots in the playoffs up for grabs between those 7 teams (Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota, Colorado, St Louis and Nashville.)

    Edmonton may have done enough this offseason to move up and grab 8th place again if the stars align.

  20. Santa Merda says:

    LT: My favourite was in the list “maybe turn it over”.

    Also, I posted my prediction for the line-up on my blog.

  21. Devin says:

    DAL is going to need to win every shootout they play this year, again, to not fall a few notches. They have a very old D group and underwhelming F depth. Turco is not the goalie he’s made out to be, either – extremely average SV% post-lockout.

    I think MC79 did a post a couple weeks back about our impossible position in the NW. As much as NSH, DAL, and others are question marks, it’s really not clear how EDM can overcome any of the teams within the division. We’d be lucky to be 4th in the NW at the halfway mark given current rosters.

    Count me in as a believer in Marc Pouliot. I am also going to say O’Marra impresses (on work ethic if nothing else) and Roy absolutely bosses the preseason circuit (to no avail). I pray Stortini finds no place on this team.

  22. Asiaoil says:

    LT – add a decent RW like Johnson and it’s easy to put together 3 lines that will be effective at ES. It’s also not unreasonable to suggest that our forwards AS A GROUP are better then what got us to the SCF given the development of our young guys and players like Pisani and Horcoff.

    As for the dmen – I agree it’s a dogs breakfast – but there are a lot of dmen who have come to EDM and played their best hockey under this mgmt team. A deal is likely necessary to get a shut down guy for the left side – but we do have the assets to get him.

    EVERY team has holes – but this year people seem to think the last 20 games of 06-07 where the team was devastated by injuries is normal – it’s not. The team will be better simply because the injury bug does not likely hot 2 years in a row, the young guys like Stoll, Torres and Hemsky are entering their prime and can be counted on to contribute, and the defense is far more talented.

    I’m not saying we win the NW or anything – just that a playoff spot is not out of the question.

  23. Mr DeBakey says:

    “add a decent RW like Johnson and it’s easy to put together 3 lines that will be effective at ES.’

    Agreed

    Problem is, there’s no indication they will be adding him.

  24. uni says:

    If Backstrom goes down in Minni, they’re screwed. So there’s 3, potentially 4 spots in the playoffs up for grabs.

    The problem with that logic is that you can say the same for just about any team, if Luongo goes down, if Kiprusoff goes down, if if if.

    By that same logic if Roloson goes down you think Garon can hold the fort for an extended period of time? And by the by, Minnie has this kid named Harding that doesn’t look too shabby by all accounts.

    Also Calgary may have gotten ‘older’ as you say but they still seemed to have improved a good bit this offseason, and gods to have Kipper in net.

  25. RiversQ says:

    It’s also not unreasonable to suggest that our forwards AS A GROUP are better then what got us to the SCF given the development of our young guys and players like Pisani and Horcoff.

    This is fucking crazy nevermind unreasonable.

    I can’t believe I just read this.

    The wings are worse. (No Smyth, no Dvorak, no Samsonov. BTW, there’s no Mike Johnson here and no sign of that happening.)

    The centres aren’t better. (Peca was a jerk in the RS, but Horcoff, Peca, Stoll is better than what the Oilers will ice this year. Just in experience alone.)

    The depth is worse. (Obviously being worse at every position will do that.)

    How hard is this?

    MacT is going to have to match lines like a fiend and LT is right – the PP will have to hum. Roloson and Garon will have to be strong and they need something from the kids.

    There’s a lot of negativity around this team given Lowe’s atrocious performance the past 14 months, but even the most rosy coloured glasses aren’t hiding that this team doesn’t look very good. They need a lot of things to go right and I still can’t see them beating anyone in this division.

    Alright, maybe Minnesota if Gaborik goes down for 35-40 games…

  26. RiversQ says:

    BTW, Calgary isn’t an old team. At their ages, those players just got one year BETTER in my mind.

    This ain’t the long haul, this is one 82 game season and Calgary isn’t close to being too old for a one year sprint.

  27. uni says:

    Agreed on Calgary, that’s why I put ‘older’ in like that.

    Word is that Mikhnov will play out next season in the RSL. *sigh* I guess this means he’s done with the Oil; doubtful he’ll be signed in Summer ’08 if he’s not playing in North America.

    I still had a glimmer of hope that he’d come to camp and surprise the hell out of everyone…I need to drink more beer; I don’t know about rose coloured glasses, but beer does makes the team and their prospects look better.

  28. oilerdiehard says:

    I am really excited to get camp started. I have a good feeling about Grebs and his ability to find a way into the top 6 to start the year.

    Though I said the same about Hejda last Summer when everyone had him penciled in as a press box guy. But sure enough he was in the press box to start the year. Then he proved me right and honestly exceeded my expectations being on the top pairing and flourishing. Not sure Grebs can manage that feat but I think he will make his way into regular rotation at some point and stick.

  29. Asiaoil says:

    No Riv it’s not “fucking crazy” as you suggest in your typical understated manner. As I’ve pointed out above – the start of the year lineup did not include Samsonov in the top 9 – but did include Dvorak and Peca (both of whom were largely crap all year long).

    Lets take this position by position iinstead of just throwing expletives around – and I’ll put up a reasonable case that you guys are being whiny little chicken littles:

    Center
    Horcoff in 2005 had a single 40 point season under his belt, Stoll was unproven and entering his 2nd NHL season, and Peca was a disgruntled vet who lost his offense but was still an elite defensive player. Compare this with Horcoff 2007 who has a couple of years of tough sledding and good results on the top line, Stoll who emerged as a serious player in 2006 and MAP who is pretty much at the same place Stoll was in 2005. I say we are better now

    Horcoff 2007 > Horcoff 2005
    Stoll 2007 > Peca 2005
    MAP 2007 = Stoll 2005

    RW
    OK amuse me and allow us to add a guy like Johnson since we have both the need and cap space. A trade for a similar guy also works for me – but indulge me here. Hemsky and Pisani are far better and more proven players now than in 2005 – it’s not even close. Add a Johnson to beef up the ES play on the 2nd or 3rd lines and we are better here with out a doubt.

    Hemsky 2007 > Hemsky 2005
    Pisani 2007 > Pisani 2005
    Johnson 2007 = Dvorak 2005

    LW
    Clearly we lost a very good ES player in Smyth so we will not be as good at this position. But as a group are we worse? Torres took some nice steps last season at ES and I think he is ready to take another this season. Penner is also a much better player than Raffi was in 2005. Moreau is Moreau. Can Torres score 30 and play solid at ES? If he does then the addition of Penner will offset a lot (but clearly not all) of Smyth’s contribution.

    Torres 2007 < Smyth 2005
    Penner 2007 > Torres 2005
    Moreau 2007 = Moreau 2005

    Hello Riv – count up the pluses and minuses and we are likely a bit stronger entering 2007 overall than we were entering 2005. The only major loss is Smyth and that has been countered by the development of Torres and the addition of Penner to some degree.

    This is long enough without going into the dmen – but suffice to say – if last fall the Oilers somehow traded Jason Smith and Shaggy for Souray, Pitkanen and Tarnstrom the board would have erupted in joy. Just losing Lupul will add 5 wins as well.

    I’m not sure how the lines and dmen pairings will work out – but a lot of usually open minded people are just being outright cynical for no particular reason. So no it’s not “fucking crazy” that the Oilers may be pretty decent at ES this season, and the PP is likely to be very good along with the goaltending.

  30. uni says:

    Asia, I think you’re blueskying a bit here.

    Stoll is not a Peca at defensive ability, but he’s better offensively. The argument still stands, however, as to the EV minutes; Stoll will have to prove he can go head to head with tough opposition like he did in his most recent play through an entire season and come out on top. Argue that Stoll and Horcoff are better, but Pouliot is the big question mark here. He hasn’t proven anything yet, even if good money is he’ll come through eventually. Remember Stoll had about 2 seasons and at least 1 full season under his belt in ’05, Pouliot has all but less than half a season and the questions of his conditioning are still there. Centre is weaker right now until Pouliot shows otherwise.

    You can stop with the Johnson slotting, until we actually GET a Johnson-Dvorak type we’re much weaker on RW. Pisani has progressed, but I really don’t see any largely significant amount from 2005 to 2007, to the point where we can all start celebrating. So essentially only Hemsky has stepped up, and well, he doesn’t offset the hole on RW.

    Penner had one good season, his first, but only one. Plus he was heavily sheltered on that freak line with Getzlaf & Perry. He may be better than Torres at the time, but it’s hard to say by how much. Also the Torres is going to step up thing is conjecture. He’s odd in that he seems to be flipping the light switch on and off, and can’t figure out how to keep them ON yet. Moreau is Moreau. So you got two guys that are static and one that isn’t even near a Smyth, hopefully he’ll get there but he isn’t right now. BIG minus on LW.

    And since you’re using 2005 comps here you really can’t compare the defence to the ’06 version, you have to use the ’05 version.

    Tarnstrom, Pitkanen, & Souray does not a Pronger, Smith, & Bergeron make. And say what you will, Pronger controls the flow of a game and the man is out there for damn near half of it.

    So what you have here is actually a drop in forward quality and defense quality from 2005 by my eye. Then again I’ve never been any good at analyzing, I just root for the team I like.

  31. Steve says:

    I’m in the camp that thinks that, if the stars align, the Oilers have an outside chance of still being within striking distance of eighth at the trade deadline (and how’s *that* for effusive praise?). But I still think some elements of AsiaOil’s analysis are optimistic:

    Horcoff 2007 > Horcoff 2005

    On paper, at the time, yes. Knowing what we know now, it’s entirely possible that Horcoff’s 2005 season was a flash in the pan, never to be repeated.

    MAP 2007 = Stoll 2005

    I know people are high on MAP around here, and I kind of like him too. But I can’t see Pouliot scoring twenty this year (and I know we’re not just evaluating offensive output, here, but still). Again, this doesn’t take into account that Stoll 2005 exceeded expectations – for your equation to hold, Pouliot has to do the same, and I don’t (by definition) expect him to.

    Hemsky 2007 > Hemsky 2005

    Given that Hemsky regressed a little last year, I think returning to 2005 form might be the reasonable expectation. I’m a little more comfortable with this one, because Hemsky’s clearly just below the surface with the possibility of breaking out at any time, but saying that “it’s not even close” is optimistic.

    Pisani 2007 > Pisani 2005

    Ditto for Pisani – I like him better in 2007 than in 2005, but not by that much.

    Torres 2007 < Smyth 2005

    First, I don’t buy that Torres took some nice steps last year. Second, while Torres 2007 obviously < Smyth 2005, I think the sheer margin of that deficiency might overcome all of the positive margins put together (at least when weighted for the position's importance - a big improvement in (say) your third line left-winger comes nowhere near cancelling out an equal drop in your first liner. Try Torres 2007 <<<<< Smyth 2005.

    Penner 2007 > Torres 2005

    He’d better be for what he cost. And I’m not one of these people who thinks he could be another Lupul. But I think you’re being a little sneaky with this, since a more reflective LW setup might be

    Penner 2007 < Smyth 2005
    Torres 2007 = Torres 2005 (sorry – I didn’t see the steps that you apparently saw last year)
    Moreau 2007 = Moreau 2005

    And the defense? Overall it’s unquestionably better. But defensively I think it’s a lot worse – no Smith and no Hejda, who were probably two of our best three defensive guys last year. Unless Smid has improved much more than I think he has, I fear for our defense.

  32. Asiaoil says:

    You are missing the point – I’m talking about what these guys had proven at the START of the 05 season not the END. For Stoll, Torres, Hemsky, Horcoff and Pisani – what we all assumed they could deliver 2 years ago prior to TC was far far less than what we can assume they will deliver at the beginning of this season. That is 5 of 9 guys who are substantially better at the start of a season where they went to the SCF. In comparing the two teams we have one significant negative (loss of Smyth) and multiple smaller positives (development of Stoll, Hemsky, Torres, Pisani, Horcoff and addition of Penner)

    Point is? A lot of the confidence about how bad this team will finish is hot air and hubris – they are no where near as bad as the black cloud boys say they are. It’s easy to be pessimistic – but most folks last year were looking forward to watching an Oiler “scoring machine”. I didn’t hear the stats boys tone down that talk much – they just looked at what happened the last 20 games and the playoffs the season before and assumed it would pretty much continue…..just like what they are doing now.

    I’ll be contrarian when I feel it’s justified – be it optimism or pessimism. Just gets to be a drag watching a lot of people pick up on what used to be a pretty limited schtick…taking the easy road of being negative on EVERYTHING and then reminding us endlessly of their hits while conveniently forgetting all the misses on the positive side.

  33. Kyle Kosior says:

    Isn’t Gaborik hurt for 35 to 40 games every year?

  34. Steve says:

    You are missing the point – I’m talking about what these guys had proven at the START of the 05 season not the END.

    Okay then, your comparisons are mostly fair (except that several of those players have now proven an ability to regress, which most of them hadn’t in 2005). But the 2005 forward coprs didn’t look like it would be much good either, recall.

    To which I gather you’d respond “See? Players can surprise us.” Which they can, but the way Horcoff, Stoll, Hemsky, and Pisani all progressed that year was kind of a perfect storm – I’d be a little surprised to see all of those guys return to 2005 form this year, let alone also have Pouliot make a Stoll-esque breakthrough.

    Plus, then we had one guy whose bona fides as a first liner were beyond reproach.

  35. rickibear says:

    I prefer 2007-2008 pre camp team versus 2005-2006 pre camp team.

    http://battleofalberta.blogspot.com/2006/08/ill-take-whats-behind-door-2-monty.html

    Ulanov and Cross? Man!

  36. namflashback says:

    Asia,

    I’m glad you showed the difference between start of 05-06 roster and end of 05-06 roster — because mistaking early 05-06 Peca and Dvorak for playoff 05-06 Peca and Dvorak would be a “saw him good.” Both were low event players — but did not press + results.

    There has absolutely been a shitshow in the front office since the Pronger rumour began the Wednesday after the SCF G 7 June 2006.

    However, to characterize absololutely every decision as negative is just “saw him bad.”

  37. CM says:

    To all the people who are comparing this 07/08 Team to the 06 SCF team at even strength…

    Lets just pretend for a minute that this team is only margnially worse than the SCF team…that puts us what 5 – 7 points back of the 95 that they got that year…so The oilers would then be a 88 point team and finish tenth in the conference…

    Its going to be a long summer again…I just hope I’m Wrong

  38. danny says:

    A lot of the bickering here will play itself out contingent on how Jarret Stoll’s season goes. Using him as an example also hilites the curve we might see from new players this season.

    Prior to his injury last year, starting at about the 35th game mark, Stoll started a string of games that he really established himself as an emerging pivot. He was being played head to head against tough players by coach and was doing quite well.

    The year before, Stoll was on a soft parade and playing with linemates of the same ilk (Raffi). These guys are better after last year and should take a step forward by the time christmas is here this year.

    So, with Horcoff, Stoll, Torres, Pisani, Moreau, Reasoner, Sanderson, Hemsky all being reasonable ES players, I have a hard time categorizing the forwards as a ‘clusterfuck’ in the least. Hemmer and Thoresen arent babes in distress when it comes to ES at all. MAP may be a solid player, and IMO what we really need right now is for a young talent to be able to takle advantage of the soft minutes like NJ did… we need a Parise. Maybe Nilsson or Schremp can get 25 between them playing their split of 80 games?

    I think there are ‘ifs’ but reasonably speaking… Stoll should take a step forward. He’s not a boom or bust type, his path can be fairly reasonably expected. Torres can’t have a worse season than last year either, reasonable right?

    In regards to the defense, they should be able to handle a forecheck much better than last season, they will suffer in the turnover and transition aspects. Last years defense suffered in all 3… they had the trifecta in suck.

    The bright side is, you can teach transition defense… the ‘clusterfuck’ is when you have Jason Smith anchoring a shutdown pairing that is playing against a forechecking team like Calgary / Vancouver / San Jose. Hand grenades or hot potatoes anyone?

    Pessimism should be rightfully entrenched in out outlook towards the upcoming season, but I don’t buy a lot of what people are selling. Yet.

    We won’t finish 5th in the NW. We’re closer to the pack than a lot of you think, and if any team stumbles more than us… question is, will 4th (NW) be enough for a playoff spot? Probably not, but we will be in the hunt by the deadline IMO.

  39. Ribs says:

    I really don’t know what to think about this team. The forwards are a mish-mash with no clear-set lines. Horcoff and Hemsky are the only top line forwards available and that sure didn’t work last year, I don’t know why it would work now.

    I can’t imagine Penner working out on the top line with those two as they play a completely different style of hockey. So who do you give 1st line minutes to? Sanderson? I think I just puked a little in my mouth. I think MacTavish tried just about every other possible combination of players last season.

    At least we don’t have to watch Lupul flop around on the ice I guess.

    The defense is just as mashed with Steve Staios looking like the best defensive guy out there (poor, poor, Staios). Smid is going to have to hit the boost button on his development jet-pack if this team doesn’t want to be the giveaway kings of the league.

    The goalie situation looks like the surest bet, but who knows what kind of help Roli and Garon will receive.

    MacTavish and crew have come up with some surprisingly effective methods in the past and they’re going to need their biggest bag of tricks to keep the team afloat this year.

    I’m still crossing my fingers for the chance of some of the young guys breaking out early. Pouliot, Nilsson, and Schremp have to be the ones to do it.

  40. IceDragoon says:

    If I could see the future… I’d make an informed prediction. The only thing I can see for sure, is that it’s all about IFS (good and bad)… until it happens. And by then, it’s the present or the past. ;-p

    MacT’s mishmash… what the **** can we make of it? Not much, imho… yet. We don’t have the power for PvP, and MacT is going to have to match like a maniac, but I think there is enough intelligence in the corps to get a decent team game established for a stretch run. ;-D

    sweatyo,
    btw, sorry for misspelling your moniker the other day. :-)

    imho, Stoll doesn’t have the offensive instincts to play on a top scoring line. He hasn’t shown the ability to read and react with Hemsky. His defensive instincts are coming along nicely, tho, and I think he could centre a #1 checking match-up with Moreau and Pisani. And, given his RFA status at year’s end, we may want to temper his counting #s.

    Horcoff has terrific defensive instincts, but he also has solid read and react anticipation with Hemsky, as he did with Smyth and with Samsonov. Playing him with other linemates is a waste of his, and Hemsky’s, offensive abilities. I think we’ll probably see them with Penner, mainly against opposing 2s & 3s. I’m sure MacT would like nothing better than to be able to send these guys out against #1s, but I think/hope he’ll ease them into the role when ready.

    Now… we need someone to clone Pisani so we can play him on a secondary scoring/checking line with Pouliot and Torres. Thoresen might fit into the checking aspect, but we’ll need some goals out of this line… so… until we get a Dvo/Pisani clone, or… I see something at TC that wins me over, I’m done trying to make sense of MacT’s mishmash. Mulling over the D hurt my head for a week.

    And, yes… the power play will have to be potent for a shot at the playoffs.

    L8r
    Louise

  41. rstahl says:

    I don’t buy all the EV strength doom and gloom. Since we’re looking backwards, I decided to look at the Oilers GF/GA at 5v5 since 2000.

    Year GF GA +/-
    06-07 124 161 -37
    05-06 133 148 -15
    03-04 148 121 27
    02-03 148 142 6
    01-02 132 112 20
    00-01 132 112 20

    The Oilers haven’t had a great 5v5 team since before the lockout, though that 2003-04 team looks like a real even strength heavy weight.

    Here’s some pre-season predictions from 2003:
    http://tinyurl.com/27fg2c
    http://tinyurl.com/2col8j
    http://tinyurl.com/yovvjc

    This was the season the Oilers lost Marchant, Niinimaa, and Comrie, and were hoping to replace their contributions by having Horcoff, Semenov, and Hemsky take steps forward, while adding Cross and Dvorak.

    A lot of the same criticisms were being raised about that team – too many unproven forwards, who’s going to score? – I hear being repeated here. Yes that team finished 9th in the west, but was a far cry from a lotto pick, and manged this with the 2nd worst PP in the league.

    Given that the 07 Oilers have lost less talent, and gained a hell of a lot more than the 03 Oilers had, why is it so outrageous to believe this team can improve by 37 goals and keep their heads above water at even strength?

  42. godot10 says:

    ribs wrote:
    //I can’t imagine Penner working out on the top line with those two as they play a completely different style of hockey.//

    Why not?
    Hemsky is a poor man’s Guy Lafleur.
    Horcoff is a poor man’s Jacques Lemaire.
    Penner is a really big Steve Shutt.

    By the time Hemsky’s has finished dangling, Penner can get to where he needs to be. Horcoff is pretty much the smartest player in the league.

    Penner’s offensive skills are far superior to Smyth’s. Smyth couldn’t shoot. Penner will be stronger in the corners than Smyth. He knows how to get into shooting position. He can shoot. He has hands. And although he isn’t as good as Smyth standing in front of the net and letting pucks hit him, he’s not bad.

  43. Ribs says:

    Neither Hemsky nor Horcoff like to play the puck in the corners godot10.

    For the last few years they have played in a fashion that relies on them gaining the zone and playing the sidewall to look for outlets. If there is no pass, they throw it to the net and Smyth might tip it in.
    You could train Horcoff to go to the net and look for passes from behind the goal line from Penner but I don’t think Hemmer’s going to play that game.

    Speed is also a factor here. Hemsky and Horcoff make their style of play possible by utilizing their speed to generate opportunity. Penner is slow and will probably resemble George Laraque on a line with those two.

    Maybe they can work something out, wilder things have happened. But it’s a longshot in my estimation.

  44. oilerdiehard says:

    Asia – I’ll be contrarian when I feel it’s justified – be it optimism or pessimism. Just gets to be a drag watching a lot of people pick up on what used to be a pretty limited schtick…taking the easy road of being negative on EVERYTHING and then reminding us endlessly of their hits while conveniently forgetting all the misses on the positive side.

    Well said Asia, I thought I was the only one who felt that way around here. No denying the division is a steep climb but there is a little too much doom and gloom and assuming the worst at every turn all the time for my out look.

  45. Doogie says:

    I’m not hugely confident this team will make it, because I think hoping for multiple teams in the division to have bad luck is a bit much to ask for, but this isn’t a terrible team. It does remind me, in a fashion, of the late-90s/early-2000s teams, which had a few interesting pieces, but never enough to be a danger to anyone other than their fellow 7th-10th place teams (and back then, they had some weak divisional sisters to beat up on — now they are the weak divisional sister, barring some serious regression by another team). If one of the other Northwest teams does have a bad year, there is an outside chance of making it, but not enough to get too excited over, not right now, anyway. I guess your coefficient of hope depends also on how many players you think will rebound from their ’07 slump, and whether you believe the ’06 version (or some reasonable projection thereof) or the ’07 version is closer to the truth for any given player.

    And Ribs, Penner was apparently practicing the shot-deflection gig towards the end of the season with Pronger. If he can get even halfway decent at it, it might be worth something. For all Smytty scored 10 goals a year off his ass, he also scored 10-15 with deflections that only a handful of players in the league could have managed.

  46. godot10 says:

    //And Ribs, Penner was apparently practicing the shot-deflection gig towards the end of the season with Pronger. If he can get even halfway decent at it, it might be worth something. For all Smytty scored 10 goals a year off his ass, he also scored 10-15 with deflections that only a handful of players in the league could have managed.//

    But how many goals did Smyth cost everybody else because that was all he was good at on the powerplay. His inability to be a shooting and puck movement threat limited the diversity of what the Oilers could do on the power play, so the Oilers powerplay because setting up the point man for a deflection off of Smyth’s ass.

  47. RiversQ says:

    But how many goals did Smyth cost everybody else because that was all he was good at on the powerplay.

    Uh, zero? It sure as heck was a lot less than all those deflections he scored.

    On what planet was Ryan Smyth hurting the Oilers’ PP anyway? When Smyth wasn’t in front of the net he was in the corners regaining puck possession.

    This totally contradicts the results and doesn’t jive with what I’ve seen on the ice.

    Smyth doesn’t have a slapper, but he can shoot in tight and he’s a vastly underrated puckmover IMHO. I will concede that the Oilers’ PP style has fit in well with his skillset in front of the net. Mind you, that skill set is valuable no matter how you run the PP, but the scoring opportunities are definitely there when you’re in front of the net and your team insists on the long bomb.

    I will say this for sure – Penner definitely handles the puck worse than Smyth and he’s not really a shooter either.

    Incidentally, the Oilers have done nothing to change their PP personnel commensurate with a change in strategy. They have downgraded the forward talent and acquired a bunch of pointshots. Simpson’s out, but if MacT’s in, that’s probably going to yield the same problem – low risk, low reward. None of these developments suggest this team will make a huge step forward on the PP, IMO. Being better at converting low percentage plays won’t make for a solid PP (assuming the better point shots are more important than Smyth’s screen).

  48. rstahl says:

    Simpson’s out, but if MacT’s in, that’s probably going to yield the same problem – low risk, low reward. None of these developments suggest this team will make a huge step forward on the PP

    As much as I believe the Oilers will be a decent even strength team because of their coaching, I agree with riversq that they will be mediocre at best on the PP for the same reason.

    I do have to wonder at how much of the wailing about the Oilers unimaginative PP was because it was built around Smyth. If the Oilers PP is a lot more fluid and dynamic, ie utilizing Pitkanen sneaking in from the point, will it be because of Simpson leaving, or because Hemsky is, without question, the go-to guy?

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