Since we’re well into the dog days of summer as far as hockey news is concerned, the least we can do is offer a quick look ahead to what’s coming for the seven Canadian NHL teams this season.
With a month to go until training camp, I’ve asked a blogger from each city to weigh in on how their team has changed since last season and where they believe they rank in their conference. We’ll run one team every weekday, with today the second of our series in the Edmoton Oilers.
Who's in? Ryan Smyth, Cam Barker, Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Andy Sutton, Yann Danis
Who's out? Andrew Cogliano, Kurtis Foster, Colin Fraser, Jim Vandermeer, Jeff Deslauriers, Steve MacIntyre, Zack Stortini, Jason Strudwick
The Oilers finished dead last in the Western Conference and dead last in the NHL for a second straight season last year, continuing to bottom out on the ice. Edmonton tied for the third fewest goals scored, was 28th in goals against and had both special teams units in the bottom four of the league.
They also tied for the third worst team save percentage in the league, despite a solid season from backup Devan Dubnyk, as starter Nikolai Khabibulin finished last in the NHL among regular starters in the category.
It was all ugly – and they got the first overall pick out of it once again. After five years in a row out of the postseason, there's nowhere to go but up.
For a few thoughts on what’s in store for the Oilers this coming season, here’s the ever optimistic Tyler Dellow from mc79hockey.com with reasons for optimism, pessimism and a midsummer prediction as to how they’ll finish.
Reasons for optimism:
"Optimism? Well, every day when I wake up, Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe are another day closer to no longer working for the Edmonton Oilers. Hopefully this comes to pass before all of the young talent that they've gathered needs new contracts, as making judicious contractual decisions has not proven to be a strong point for the management team that has assembled the two time defending holders of the first overall pick in the NHL draft. There sure are a lot of young players with potential though, which is a positive. Aside from the more famous ones, Linus Omark seems like he'll be a fun player to support and a real hockey player too."
Causes for concern:
"There doesn't seem to be any plan to cut ties with Nikolai Khabibulin, who, all jokes about his time in Tent City aside, hasn't been an NHL level goaltender for a while now, one year in Chicago excepted. The defence is a combination of really young players, really bad players, really injured players and Tom Gilbert, who doesn't slot comfortably into any of those categories but sure makes a lot of money. We learned a bit about Tom Renney's motivational style through the Oil Change propaganda pieces last year and it seems likely that guys will start tuning him out soon, although that may not matter as a lot of what he says seems to be corporate pap."
Predicted finish in the West:
"It's probably going to be another long year in Edmonton. Young players will, to paraphrase Earl Weaver, break your heart and they always take longer to turn into players who help you win games than people think they reasonably should. I am, unreasonably, hopeful that someone with some authority will notice that the goaltending is atrocious 20 games into the season or so and that Khabibulin will stop getting starts. Unfortunately, the Oilers will be in the deep weeds at that point. An actual last place finish seems unlikely, so we'll call it 13th."
Now I'll turn it over to you in the comments section: How do you think the Oilers and their rebuild will do this season?
Monday: The Montreal Canadiens