Today we are on the dozenth. Edmonton is the 12th team on OGA's Season Preview Report calendar. Brought directly to you with a bag of Old Dutch Salt and Vinegar potato chips (one of our favorites!) and a beer or pop.
Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called at Tee Time – out of the Playoffs – after Game 77 /1 April 2009. They played roughly average and a bit above or below The Curve through Game 70. But when it mattered most, in the game 71 – 82 stretch, the wheels came off the cart that is Oiler momentum and they only won four of their last 12 games. Edmonton finished the season a 4.25 for the No. 11 slot out West. This was a slight decline over the 2007/8 season when they failed to make the Playoffs for the second straight year.
Post-Lockout average PQC and what to expect this season: Edmonton has averaged a 4.2 against the PQC over the last four seasons with one of their four years including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The 2006/7 campaign – the year following their foray into the Finals – was their worst performance against the PQC. While they actually finished only a bit below the 2007/8 campaign, they hung in the longest with a chance at Chasing Stanley in 2008/9. An additional 3.5 Wins in their last 12 would have been all that was required to earn a Playoff berth, proving how close it really is every year to making, or not making, the Playoffs. All Oiler fans remember last season’s kick off with 12-of-15 games on the road and many blame that starting schedule for their woes. But Edmonton finished that stretch above The Curve just as they traditionally sit close to or on the PQC early in the season. It is at the Game 40 point – somewhere right around the New Year – where they traditionally tend to start slipping gears. So your indicators that this team is going to compete for a Playoff berth are at least status quo play through the Holidays and a strong entry into January. Once they get past that annual hurdle, they need to play better than .550 Hockey in their last 12 games.
How do we assess the NHL’s northern-most team heading into the 2009/10 season?
Team Play: ISSUE – The Buffalo Sabres’ Twin. No offense intended, Oiler fans. But off-season acquisition-wise, Edmonton made a nearly unnoticeable number of changes just like Buffalo has done. Edmonton’s big difference, however, is the coming of an entirely new coaching staff. If, as it has been said, that the team’s issue was that MacTavish wasn’t listening to the team and vice-versa, there is a good chance it might just be all the Oil needs. Also of note was the trading of Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Roy and Dany Sabourin for Nikolai Khabibulin in return. The Bulin Wall will have to stand strong as there were departures in the forward and defensive ranks that secured only Mike Comrie and two prospects with a combined 35 games and five points’ NHL experience.
The early CBS Sports page for the Oilers projects a line pairing of Moreau-Horcoff-Hemsky from left to right on No. 1, and Jacques-Gagne-Penner on No. 2. The team will see if Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson, Patrick O’Sullivan or the newly acquired Mike Comrie, have anything to say about positions on the top two lines during training camp. Three of the top four defenders were good for more than 30 points last season and Sheldon Souray wound up tied with Shawn Horcoff as the second leading scorer on the team. Both Souray’s and Visnovsky’s scoring are crucial to team success, so both must remain healthy this season. And with Khabibulin as Goalie No. 1, number two seems to fall to Jeff Drouin-Deslaurie. He should be asked to get between the pipes for 20 or so games, and while he had a decent save percentage at .901 in last year’s contests, he will need to improve in that department AND his goals against to steal some of that 20.
Fantasy Value: The top forward on this team is Ales Hemsky. Many say they know he could do GREAT things if he had the proper supporting cast. Based on last year’s average output, Hemsky would have finished 26-49-75 or almost a point per game. That’s a quality 3rd or 4th round draft pick in most Fantasy Leagues. Relative to their position, Sheldon Souray was the eighth highest scoring defenseman, tied with Nashville’s Shea Weber. He is a solid recommendation on defense. Had he been healthy for all 82 games, Lubomir Visnovsky would have projected at 13-38-51 or, with Souray, as the second leading defensive pair in terms of scoring behind the Red Wings’ Lidstrom and Rafalski. And Khabibulin is another solid recommendation as a Top 10 goalie based on last season. Expect a bit of a drop off in his stats this season in front of a team the coach is going to force to ‘use their skill’ because that sometimes equals mistakes. But he is at least a solid Number 2 Goalie for your lineup. Alas, we cannot help but think if they had the 2009 NHL Entry Draft’s Number 1 Pick, there’d be saying “…Heatley who?” But no Oiler fan is ready to settle for what it takes to naturally land at that number one spot.
Schedule Analysis: ISSUE – Games 51 – 70 call for 12-of-the-20 as road games and 11 tilts against Playoff teams from last year. For a primary analysis of the team’s overall 2009/10 regular season schedule, go to this link.
Next up tomorrow is the Florida Panthers’ 2009/10 SPR…
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