Sunday, July 27, 2008

Getting There Is Half The Fun

The last two summers the Oilers had to worry about a lack of actual NHL players on their roster going to camp. Laddy Smid in the second pair on the back end two years ago. Rookies and castoffs scattered everywhere last season.
Things are looking up and if things work out for the Oilers then a playoff spot may be in the offing next spring. They will need Calgary and Colorado to take a step back, which seems possible, and they will need the kids to take another step forward.
The problem for the Oilers (its a nice problem to have) is that they have a whack of kids and kids are kids. They're learning on the job and that is going to cost the Oilers points in the standings.
In the last thread Riversq wondered whether Horcoff and Hemsky would be deployed in a power vs. power role and who amongst the Oilers' D would be sent out for defensive zone draws.
The problem for the Oilers remains that they are still inexperienced. Will MacT send Horcoff out when Iginla is on the ice? Likely, seeing as the pivot for the Pisani line will be Brodziak or Pouliot or Cogliano. A nice trio to be sure but any of them would get eaten alive by Datsyuk or Thornton, even with Pisani and Cole on their wings. They are not ready yet.
As for the D its going to be Gilbert and Grebs getting a ton of minutes, at least to start the season, I would say. Its going to cost them games but this year is about next year. Souray and Staios are going to get some of those defensive zone draws but watch for the kids to get the lion's share.
This team is built for runs in 2010, 2011 and 2012. They are not there yet.


Gord said...

Why do you keep worrying about Datsyk? If my analysis is correct, Datsyk had 1 goal & 0 assists in four games against Edmonton last year.

All of the Oiler kids had one less season under their belt than they do now; if Datsyk could not hurt Gilbert / Grebs / Smid a year ago, I am very comfortable this upcoming season...

Black Dog said...

gord - Datsyuk is an example of the type of player who the Oilers may not presently have a match for - pick your poison - Iginla, the Sedins, Stastny or Sakic, Gaborik, Thornton, Getzlaf, Crosby and so on. Presently who do the Oilers run out against those guys?

And while they had success against Pavel in the past the road to the Cup runs through Michigan until Lidstrom retires so they better have somebody to handle Pavel and Hank come the spring or all of thi spromise will mean nothing.

Gord said...

Don't nitpick the specifics but last year (in general) we had:

Pillsbury Dough Boy - Penner is now supposedly in better shape

Hemsky playing with a busted wrist

Horcoff missing 1/2 the season

Moreau missing 1/2 the season

Pisani missing 1/4 of the season then playing at about 80% health

Stortini had 30 NHL games experience

Gagner with 0 NHL games experience

Cogliano with 0 NHL games experience

Nilsson with one season experience

Souray missing 1/2 the season

Smid (age 21) with one year experience

Grebeshkov with less than a season experience

Gilbert with 12 games experience

Garon sitting while Roloson earned his paycheck

Facing all those superstars you are worried about, we only missed the playoffs by three points.

I admit things always look better during the summer, but I would put money down the Oilers make the playoffs this upcoming season.

Black Dog said...

Gord - I think they are in the playoff mix this year. A lot of folks think that a lot of last year's success may have been misleading, a lot of it based on SO points, which may not be replicable.

While I agree with that I also felt that as the team turned the corner they were picking up a lot more regulation wins.

I think this year will see more of the same, less SO wins for sure but a lot more wins in regulation. Nothing to back it up except on paper things look a lot better. They may not have a true #1 Dman but they have a lot of guys who fit into the 2-4 slots. Last year they had mostly 5-7s to start the year.

Similarily up front we know that the kids can play and Cole is a legitimate guy as well.

So, I would say this team looks better and of course they had a lot of bad luck last year as well to go along with the SO wins.

I feel really good about this team. I'll feel a whole lot better once the kids have some more experience under their collective belts.

David S said...

I'd agree with your timeline of '10, '11, '12.

Young athletes tend to have plateau years during the course of their development. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see Sam have one of those plateaus this season as he grows into his adult frame. So I am not betting he's gonna set the house on fire quite yet.

I did run into Pisani last night, and I can tell you he's looking fit and ripped. I bet he's put on another 20 pounds since the end of last season. If the other guys are working as hard as he is and we don't have another Greek Tragedy of injuries, my bet is second round next spring. That would be cool with me.

mike w said...

One reason to temper expectations:

1) everyone expects that the Oilers won't face major injuries, but one should easily assume there will be, because there always are.

2) experience doesn't always translate into success and kids often take a step back.

3) The Oilers record last year is deceptive because they were badly outshot and fell ass backwards into wins late last year. A ridiculous number of wins came off the shootout.

4) Garon merely has to slide a few SVP points from being a pretty good goalie to a subpar one. He played well last year, but not for long enough to bank on him just yet.

But uh, yes: GOIL. The team looks better on paper than last year.

PDO said...

One reason to have expectations:

Colorado, Minnesota and Calgary all took significant steps back.

Vancouver may or may not have taken significant steps back depending on what happens with Sundin.

Either way, we're a playoff team.

mike w said...

Either way, we're a playoff team.

Yikes! I prefer to plan for the worst as usual.

Black Dog said...

pdo comes flat out and says it

I think that the Oilers are better and that the rest of the division has taken a step back

as to your points Mr. Winters:

1) major injuries may happen but this team is deeper then its been for a while and major injuries can happen to any club

2) this is a possible problem; having said that its not like these kids all had an easy ride last year, they all had their ups and downs which leads me to believe they will come prepared mentally

3) I actually thought there were three parts to last year; the first saw this club outplay and outshoot a lot of opponents but come away empty handed, the second saw the greatest amount of bonus points, the final stretch saw a few of those (the San Jose game comes to mind) but imo they were full value for a lot of their record down the stretch

They lived off the shootout for a while and overall I think they would say they got their share of the breaks but this was a club that also had their share of injuries, so did they?

4) I'm more worried about Garon getting hurt then busting. I think he will be fine.

Of course my problem is that I tend to not only hope for the best but expect it. Ignorance is bliss, I always say!

Jonathan said...

1) major injuries may happen but this team is deeper then its been for a while and major injuries can happen to any club

I think this team can handle some injury problems on the wings, but if Horcoff goes down, there is no end to how far this team could plummet. I thought that last year, but at least last year Reasoner/Stoll were facing the nasty minutes and Gagner providing offense. There is no veteran centre to pick up the slack if Horcoff gets hurt.

On defense, I think the team has reasonable depth, but trying to replace Tom Gilbert or Steve Staios could get pretty ugly pretty fast too, since I don't know who else could cover tough minutes.

grease trap said...

Yes, and they could all contract syphillis.

Vic Ferrari said...

I'm bullish on this team too, Pat, but all Mike's points are valid I think.

Point number 4 hasn't been discussed much. Garon merely has to slide a few SVP points from being a pretty good goalie to a subpar one. He played well last year, but not for long enough to bank on him just yet.

Garon is the real wild card, he's a lot like Salo in that he looks better than his numbers because of his style. I mean we know damn well that at even strength that pucks will just keep on hitting Giguere next year. Because they have been hitting him for years, long before Niedermayer and Pronger, hell only the guy who sharpens the skates and one of the cleaning ladies has a longer tenure with the Ducks.

But Garon? I'm busting with confidence in the shootouts, but as Mike says, it just takes a few extra bad goals and a few extra shooters to make their shots and the playoff spot will be hard to get.

A playoff spot is far from a certainty. As MacTavish said in a rare moment of candour during the late seasin winning streak ... "we probably won't win games if we get a bad break". Tis true methinks. True for about 25 other NHL teams as well.

They should be in a position to compete most every night though.

Black Dog said...

Yeah I'm with greasetrap on the whole injuries thing. They could absolutely crush the Oilers. They could also crush everyone else. If Luongo tweaks a groin, if Iginla goes down etc etc.

I'll argue with Mike but his points are valid ones for sure and I know that this team got a lot of help from the SO last year.

And Garon is a wildcard although I think betting on him isn't a bad idea. He put up decent numbers in LA, iirc.

I'm not on board with extending him yet - there are a ton of goalies available next summer and he has to do well this year. And if they sign him it would have to be reasonable.

I do think that they wil be fine in net though.

Me DeBakey said...

How much better to start this season than last?
- Cole & Visnovsky are significant upgrades over Torres & Pitkanen
- Pisani & Moreau will be in the line-up
- Nilsson, Grebeshkov, Stortini, Smid, Cogliano, Gagner, Brodziak & Gilbert all have a, or another, year under their belts
- Penner too, plus hopefully some fitness
- Staios was coming off the bad knee and was a disaster until Xmas
- And, the enigmatic Pouliot - whether or not he’s Carbonneau or Beliveau - if he duplicates the last 10 games is an upgrade over Stoll.

That should be enough to get a better start [schedule notwithstanding] and get into the playoffs.

PDO said...

I think one of the biggest obstacles for this team is the first 16 games.

Which is essentially a 16 game road trip, as we never once play in Edmonton back-to-back games over that time. That's a helluva way to start off the seaosn, and there's a lot of B2B's in there as well. I tend to believe in luck more than Hockey Magick™ but if the team starts off 4-12, some battered confidence could hurt us when we're playing all those home games in January and guys second guess themselves....

If we pull out of the first 16 games with 16 points, I'll be one happy camper.

But again, they're a playoff team.

And Calgary isn't.