Back in the summer I wrote several posts attempting to peg “reasonable” for this edition of the Edmonton Oilers. Let’s have a look and see how things are progressing.
Going into year 2 of his Oilers coaching career, we expected coach Tom Renney to line match more and to have more bullets every night. I estimated a solid improvement in GF/GA:
- 2010-11 actual: 193-269 (-76 goal diff)
- 2011-12 my projection: 223-247 (-24 goal diff)
- 2011-12 current: 100-104 (-4 goal diff)
- 2011-12 projected: 222-230 (-8 projected)
So the overall goals for target I placed on the team remains reasonable, and the goaltending is better than reasonable. Seems fair, right? The 8-2-2 start and the Hawks blowout skewed things but they were part of the first half. Oilers are on pact to have a much improved season based on the first 37 games. They may finish in the lottery but another 37 games like this should also be proof of real improvement season over season.
- Jordan Eberle 37, 16-23-39 (proj: 82, 22-30-52) Eberle is blowing the projection out of the water. Seriously, this kid is sensational. He’s one (of several) who are kicking reasonable’s ass.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 37, 13-22-35 (proj: 63, 11-23-34) He’s actually passed his projection before the halfway point of the season. RNH is slowing currently but clearly this is a monster rookie season and he’s a strong Calder candidate. His PP work is stunning, like the first time you heard Exile on Main Street.
- Ryan Smyth 37, 14-16-30 (proj: 70, 18-19-37) I didn’t think he’d get much PP time (he’s 3-3-6) but even considering that Smyth has been quality in the first half. I can’t recall the last trade that benefited the Oilers this heavily but would guess it was Pronger arrival. Well above expectations.
- Taylor Hall 29, 10-14-24 (proj: 70, 32-28-60) Hall is off his projection but should clear 50 points if he continues at this scoring rate. The number of sorties that have finished with posts and crossbars tells us lady luck should bless him in the second half.
- Shawn Horcoff 37, 8-13-21 (proj: 62, 13-18-31) Playing a prominent PP role was something I didn’t think he’d do (Gagner has been demoted) and that PP time (4-4-8) makes his season beyond what I’d estimated. One of the actual NHL players on the roster.
- Ryan Jones 37, 12-7-19 (proj: 64, 5-11-16) Passed his projection with ease and has 9 EV goals already. I don’t know how badly he’s hurt, but Ryan Jones has made a believer out of me this season. Sold, solid year.
- Sam Gagner 30, 4-11-15 (proj: 70, 15-35-50) Injuries and changing role have impacted his season, but there’s a lot to like here. He’s rescued his 5×5 numbers and is having a good run here. I don’t know how much longer he’ll be on the club, but wish him useful linemates for 2012.
- Ales Hemsky 24, 3-8-11 (proj: 57, 17-37-54) God I’m going to miss him. I may cry. He’s been like Red was to Andy Dufresne all these years–a friend in deed. Without his wonderful creativity I don’t know how we would have survived. I hope he gets traded to Detroit and shoves it up everyone’s ass for a decade. Lagging numbers due to injury and lack of PP time.
- Eric Belanger 37, 1-9-10 (proj: 68, 13-23-36) He’s off offensively which is strange because he’s the new Toby Petersen on the PP. I would suggest this has been a very disappointing first half, but the Oilers should stay the course with him. Belanger has been a strong player for years, the Oilers need to solve this riddle.
- Lennart Petrell 30, 3-3-6 (proj: 10, 1-1-2) On pace for his projection, but I estimated he’d be in the minors by now. I love Finns, but by Corsi and by number he’s not getting it done despite reaching reasonable.
- Ben Eager 26, 2-2-4 (proj: 69, 8-8-16) Slightly off reasonable projection, but the real concern is that Eager is not displaying the discipline required to own an NHL job. I expect coach Renney will screw with his playing time–which is fine he’s playing too much–but as with Belanger I believe Eager can fill a role on a Renney team.
- Anton Lander 33, 1-2-3 (proj: 16, 1-3-4) I’m astounded he’s still here. Seriously. What development handbook suggests this?
- Magnus Paajarvi 25, 0-3-3 (proj: 82, 20-20-40) Clearly off the rails, I’m going to blame the coach slightly more than the player on this one but the real item is getting him back to last season’s levels. Suspect he’ll get top 6 minutes when Hemsky is flushed.
- Darcy Hordichuk 16, 0-1-1 (proj: 44, 0-3-3) Unlike many others who can’t stand his performance, I’m fine with Hordichuk. He plays 4 minutes a night, the coach pays a massive price when he’s on but is clearly smart enough to play him sparingly. The late third period shifts of tie games aren’t his fault and he’s a much better player than Steve MacIntyre.
- Ryan O’Marra 3, 0-1-1 (proj: none) I didn’t have him playing in the NHL this season. Good on him, maybe he’ll get a recall if and when the Lander experiment ends.
- Linus Omark, 5, 0-0-0 (proj: 70, 13-27-40) This is where the Tambellin-Renney team lost me. I can’t defend an NHL team sending this guy out and keeping Lander, Hordichuk, Eager and Petrell. Mind-numbing.
Overall, this team has performed about as well as projected offensively and were superior defensively. Will they have an 8-2-2 run in the second half? So far, this team has shown marked improvement over last season. The big concern for me is the number of kids who are getting left behind, specifically Paajarvi and Omark. You’re going to lose players along the way, but not this way. The Oilers need to put these young men in a position to succeed, especially in the second half when winning isn’t job one.
I’ve decided to take a different route with the G & D, they’ll be along in the next few hours or days.