I believe this Edmonton Oilers team will be better than we’ve seen in some time, but the question surrounding ‘how much better?’ is extremely difficult to answer. Last year’s team was terrible and this year’s has to be better. Reasons? A few:
- Connor McDavid
- Cam Talbot
- Todd McLellan
- Andrej Sekera
- The Hall cluster reaches its prime
I can see Edmonton getting past Arizona again, and Colorado seems as wobbly as last season. San Jose? I think they’ll be stronger this season and Dallas should be too. Vancouver and Calgary are both in the conversation—speak now or forever hold your peace—meaning the Edmonton Oilers (by my arcane ciphering) will finish ahead of (No. 14) Arizona, (No. 13) Colorado, (No. 12) Vancouver and (No. 11) Calgary. Thoughts?
THE HALL CLUSTER
Although we’ll hear a lot about McDavid (with good reason) this is the heart of the team and a big reason why we should see a spike. Three quality offensive players (some of whom are emerging as complete forwards) along with a defensive pairing who may be developing as a pairing. Anton Lander is a nice bonus for the cluster.
One thing you should know about this cluster? A lot of hockey people are going to come up shy on giving them their due when the wins roll in.
- Kelly Hrudey: “I think Connor McDavid is in a good spot simply because his coach will make him a great pro. More than the people surrounding him in the dressing room. It’s important the organization supports him in the proper ways because, like I said, what they have in the dressing room isn’t good. Individually they’re great players but not a great team and they need to get on the right track. They need to make a big U-Turn.” Source
The years of losing have impacted Hall’s reputation and there exists the general idea that youngsters in Edmonton run the show. Andrew Ference’s comments last winter seemed to confirm it, we’ll see how this rolls. I do believe we were maybe a year or less from MacT trading the heart of the cluster, believe that risk has been reduced mightily but we shall see.
Crosby scored over 100 points and his Penguins didn’t improve much, suspect McDavid’s Oilers will spike more but a lot of it will have to do with other elements. This is the future though—the five names here represent the future in a very big way. My goodness that’s a lot of talent.
I think Craig MacTavish added some nice pieces (Pouliot, Fayne, Hendricks) but there’s some real problems here and one suspects Scott Howson may have to answer for Nikitin if the Russian doesn’t turn it around this season. I have Ference playing 28 games, maybe he surprises, but it’s also possible Eric Gryba becomes an everyday player.
If you want to find out where the improvement is going to come from, run last year’s numbers alongside these projections. It WAS the goaltending, stupid. We’ll see how this goes, but I’m absolutely certain Peter Chiarelli won’t piss away a season watching the goalies burn in October and November. Good Christ what a bollocks last season.
UPSTARTS, ALSO-RANS AND NEVER WERES
Lots of wildly random in here, you could just as easily have seen Greg Chase and Kyle Kessy at the bottom. I do think we’re about to see a season-long audition among several wingers, represented here by Pakarinen, Miller, Pitlick and Klinkhammer. Hell, maybe Slepyshev beats them all to do the job, or Leon does. One more thing: McLellan will eventually have to decide between Davidson and Musil for “value deal” at the end of the defensive group. Edmonton has about $8 million tied up in that spot now, incredibly.
LOWDOWN WITH LOWETIDE
10 this morning, TSN 1260. Scheduled to appear:
- Alex Thomas, Oilers Rig. We get ready for the rookie camp by touching base with Alex on some of the more interesting storylines.
- Brian King, NonStop Sports Picks. The Eskimos added about 800 pounds of O-Line yesterday and addressed a massive need. Huge item. We’ll talk to Brian about it.
- Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report. NFL opening night! For God sakes weigh the balls!
- Dennis King, Oilogosphere Icon. Blue Jays, Brady, the first Boston album and McDavid changes everything.
10-1260 text, @Lowetide twitter. See you on the radio!