Friday, September 10, 2010

2010-2011 Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton has enough problems without me tossing a cute line at them.
The most underrated player in the NHL
Previous Year's Team Stats

27 wins, 47 losses, 8 OTL, 62 points, 30th overall in the league.

Team Analysis

It's been a bizarre odyssey in the City of Champions as the Oilers have become the Charlie Browniest team in recent memory. The Oilers have largely in the basement since a miracle run to the finals in 2006. The wheels on the bus finally came off last season as antiquated relic Pat Quinn was dragged out of a local bar to coach the team in a bizarre tandem coaching deal with former Ranger head coach Tom Renney named as "associate" coach. The team finished last place in the league when encountering long-term injuries to several core players. However the night is darkest just before dawn and the Oilers finishing with the first overall pick last season hopefully signals a new day approaching in Edmonton. The Oilers are entering this season with a lot of positives going for it. The youth movement in Edmonton is starting to bear fruit with several promising prospects due to make their debut for the Oilers this season. This will be another season of hard knocks for the Oilers however it will be an entertaining one as a couple of future superstars take their steps in the NHL.

Leading the youth movement is hockey prodigy Taylor Hall who was the 2010 first overall pick. Hall has been labeled as a future superstar since he was 15 (I remember Don Cherry saying Hall was going first overall when he was 16) and looks to be the next great teenage hockey god to enter the league. Taylor Hall already has a world-class skill set and it will be interesting to watch him mature from game one to game 82. Some hockey pundits are even more excited for the debut of former 10th overall pick Swedish winger Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Paajarvi has a game likened to that of future hall of famer Jaromir Jagr and will debut this season in Edmonton after spending last year in the SEL. Jordan Eberle has already become one of the most accomplished international players in the world before legally being able to drink. The former Regina Pats' star has been praised for his vision and his ability to rise to the occasion in big games. Eberle will likely debut on the right wing for the Oilers this season.

The one good thing about the Oilers' campaign last season was the emergence of power forward Dustin Penner who's the most underrated player in the league right now. Penner was scoring two points a game and was arguably the best player in the game for the first quarter of the season. However his linemate Ales Hemsky suffered a season ending injury around the quarter mark which caused Penner to cool off. However the big man finished the season strong as the team's leading scorer. Ales Hemsky has developed into one of the finest playmakers in the NHL since being drafted in 2001 and has been the catalyst for Edmonton's offense for the last few years. Hemsky suffered a season ending injury last year after only 22 games but Hemsky will be entering this season healthy. Another key member of the youth movement is 21-year old former sixth overall pick Sam Gagner who already has three seasons in the NHL under his belt. Gagner has shown flashes of brilliance on largely woeful Edmonton squads and is being penciled as the future first line center of the Oilers. Look for Gagner to center a kid's line in Edmonton this season.

The 23-year old Gilbert Brule has had a rocky NHL career being drafted sixth overall with much fanfare by the Columbus Blue Jackets. However Brule had some issues adapting to professional hockey while having his development mismanaged by the Blue Jackets. Brule was traded to Edmonton for a much needed change of scenery and had to start over in the Oilers organization. However Brule has slowly developed putting his first respectable season in the NHL together last year while showing the flashes of brilliance that made him such a coveted prospect. Brule also found excellent chemistry with Penner until the duo was inexplicably broken up after about 15 games. Look for the bust jokes to end about Brule this season as he solidifies himself in the Oilers top nine. Likely competing for top six minutes at center with Brule will be the worst player in the NHL Shawn Horcoff who was awarded one of the fattest contracts in the NHL after the miracle run in 2006. Horcoff is a fair top six center, however his game imploded last season with 36 points and a -29 rating in 77 games. Despite being the Oilers' highest paid player signed for another four years look for Horcoff to begin falling down the depth chart this season. Yet another member of the youth movement in Edmonton is 23-year old former 25th overall pick Andrew Cogliano who's been praised as the fastest skater in the NHL. There's been some whispers in the past that Cogliano could be moved sometime in the near future as he's slowly becoming redundant in Edmonton and has regressed offensively each year since his impressive rookie debut. 

Filling out the offensive core this season will be depth power forward Ryan Jones who the Oilers acquired off of waivers last season. Heavyweight punching bag Zack Stortini put together a very respectable season for a pugilist last season and will again see a significant amount of games on the fourth line this year. The Oilers also traded for defensive center Colin Fraser sending a sixth round pick to Chicago for his services this season. Gritty banger Jean-Francois Jacques will also see a significant number of games for the Oilers this season. 

The Oilers have fallen pray to a series of ridiculous media driven dramas that this organization just can't seem to shake. One of most recent ones is marquee defenseman Sheldon Souray throwing a temper tantrum bad mouthing the team in the press this off-season and demanding a trade. Unfortunately for both parties, Souray's injury history, huge contract, and public displays of affection towards his employers have dissuaded any potential suitors for his services. At the time of this writing it appears that Souray will start the season with the Oilers but your guess is as good as ours to how this drama will play out. Souray is one of the best power play defensemen in the league owning perhaps the most powerful slapshot in the league. However Souray's future is very much in the air at the moment. 

The defense in Edmonton will largely be by committee this season. Leading the charge in Edmonton on the backend this season will be offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney who was acquired in a deadline deal with the Anaheim Ducks last season. Whitney has been chastised in the past for having holes in his defensive game however Whitney remains quietly one of the better blueline point collectors. Look for his role to expand in Edmonton this season. Also likely to get top minutes in Edmonton this season is minute eating defenseman Tom Gilbert who also has quietly become one of the better three zone defensemen in the game. Gilbert rode out the injury plagued Edmonton campaign as the Oilers' number one defenseman last season.

Ladislav Smid has blossomed into a very respectable defensive defenseman in his time with the Oilers. Smid unfortunately has run into a plague of injuries in his four years in the NHL. However, Smid is entering this season healthy and will get the bulk of defensive and penalty kill minutes for the Oilers this season. Likely playing with Smid on the second pairing will be recent UFA signing Kurtis Foster who cashed in on a monster season last year. Foster has bounced around professional hockey for nearly a decade before exploding for 42 points with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. Look for Foster to get the bulk of powerplay minutes in Edmonton this season. 

Filling out the defense will be gritty defensive defenseman Jim Vandermeer. 23-year old trainwreck Taylor Chorney. 22-year old defensive defenseman Theo Peckham. Gritty veteran depth defenseman Jason Strudwick will also likely play several games this year on the Oilers' backend. 

Speaking of ridiculous dramas... As if the Oilers' marquee defenseman committing one of the gravest sins in professional hockey wasn't enough, their starting goaltender might very well wind up on the MSNBC prison documentary "LockUp" to open the season. 37-year old former Stanley Cup winning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin only managed to play 18 games in an injury shortened campaign last season. However the bad got worse this off-season when Khabibulin was sentenced to 30 days in jail for a DUI conviction. There were rumors that the Oilers would try to nullify Khabibulin's contract however that hasn't come to fruitation. Once Khabibulin gets out of jail, he should the Oilers starting goaltender... that may be one of the funniest sentences I've ever written.

26-year old Jeff Deslauries got the bulk of games in net for the Oilers last season in Khabibulin's absence. Deslauries is a big positional goalie who did a respectable job last year but realistically will never be anything more then a backup in this league. Look for Deslauries to get a fair number of games this season as the drama in net shakes out. The Oilers also signed notable backup goaltender Martin Gerber who will also see a fair amount of games this season. 24-year old huge goaltender Devan Dubnyk will also likely see a few games this year.

Team Trending

There's finally some light at the end of the tunnel for the Edmonton Oilers as their forward group is really beginning to look promising with a steady collection of uber talented youngsters and a couple of seasoned vets leading the attack. However this team's defense and goaltending has got some serious problems and will likely lead to much frustration in Edmonton this season. However while this isn't a playoff team, this team is going to be enjoyable to watch for the crop of future superstars debuting with the Oilers this season. I see the Oilers coming in somewhere between 23rd and 27th overall in the league.

BVB Projected Opening Night Line-Up

Balls' note: This line-up is difficult to project with the influx of young talent and the scattered nature of this team at the moment. However at the time of this writing the Oilers training camp opens in a few days and we'll begin to get a more clear idea of how their lines will look.





Player Projections


Dustin Penner - 27 G/30 A 57 P

Gilbert Brule - 20 G/24 A 44 P
Ales Hemsky - 18 G/52 A 70 P

Taylor Hall - 30 G/32 A 62 P 
Sam Gagner - 17 G/36 A 53 P
Jordan Eberle - 23 G/24 A 47 P

Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson - 29 G/22 A 51 P
Shawn Horcoff - 10 G/18 A 28 P
Andrew Cogilano - 14 G/22 A 36 P

Jean-Francois Jacques - 5 G/9 A 14 P
Colin Fraser - 6 G/10 A 16 P
Zack Stortini - 5 G/9 A 14 P


Ryan Whitney - 6 G/34 A 40 P

Tom Gilbert - 6 G/25 A 31 P 
Ladislav Smid - 2 G/10 A 12 P
Kurtis Foster - 6 G/20 A 26 P
Jim Vandermeer - 0 G/6 A 6 P 
Jason Strudwick - 1 G/5 A 6 P


Jeff Deslauriers - 13-21-5 | 3.25 GAA | .900 

Martin Gerber - 10-16-4 | 3.37 GAA | .890
Nikolai Khabibulin - 7-5-1 | 3.10 GAA | .905

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