Monday, October 3, 2005

Fishing for compliments

Mike's meatheaded Canuck fan got me thinking about what others who are actually in the know are thinking about the Oilers this year. We all have our predictions and our hand-wringing and stuff, but we're probably all far too involved to give anything resembling a truly objective glance. But hey, if we have enough outside voices, it's almost like objectivity. Anyway, here's what I found.

CBS Sportsline had this to say: “Pronger and Peca will add leadership along with their considerable talents and the Oilers are a team that plays to its strengths as well as anyone, but they still have enough holes to make them a few years away from taking the next step.” Most of their experts did have us finishing at third in the Northwest Division, which would presumably be good enough for a low-ranked playoff spot.

SportsNetwork, a sports wire service in the States, felt more or less the same way: “The Oilers have certainly made upgrades with the addition of Pronger and Peca, but the team's attack still lacks that big-time pure goal scorer. In addition, the inexperience in net may cause of concern until Conklin shows he can handle a full-time workload. All this being said, the Oilers have enough in the stable to earn a playoff berth. However, anything more than a seventh or eighth seed might be asking too much.”

Ditto Spector, over at Spector's Hockey: "Made eye-popping signings of Chris Pronger and Mike Peca, whose presence should provide the key veteran experience needed to put them into the playoffs. That being said, they'll need forwards like Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Jarrett Stoll to step up as well as goalie Ty Conklin to prove himself a quality starter.”

TSN has more of the same, too: "GM Kevin Lowe doesn't have an established scoring centre, while Ty Conklin and Jussi Maarkanen will have a lot to prove in net. While the blueline looks rock steady (with Steve Staios and Jason Smith), the team will need Dvorak, Horcoff, Torres and Hemsky to bring their offensive game up a level.”

The general consensus so far seems to be that, while the double Ps have added something, they haven't added enough to get us better than seventh, tops, especially with the questionable goaltending. But now, let's get into the fun ones.

From Maddux Sports: "Taking everything into consideration, the addition of Pronger may just make the Edmonton club 'the can’t miss team' of the NHL.” Now, it's worth noting that Maddux Sports appears to more or less be a front for some online betting things, so it's entirely possible they're trying to sucker a few naïve un-hockey fans into dropping a bet on the Oil that won't ever get paid back. I mean, I'm usually hopelessly optimistic when it comes to the Oilers, but hell, about the only thing we definitely can't miss is the end boards on an icing call.

Although, that optimism might not be totally unfounded; Sports Illustrated , though never one to be entirely known for the accuracy of their hockey predictions, has the Oilers ranked ninth overall in the league (between San Jose and the Panthers), and wrote a glowing piece about Chris Pronger. Now, to put that in perspective, they've also ranked Pittsburgh and Columbus 13th and 14th, respectively, but yeah—optimism.

Just as a counterpoint, though, ESPN has us picked to finish 11th in the West: "The big question for the Oilers is their goaltending. If it is very good, they should score enough goals to make the playoffs. They also have cap room to add talent at the deadline. Like every team, it's about injuries and young players improving and not taking a step backward.” I agree with the assessment, for the most part, but my opinion of ESPN's ability to pick things is mitigated somewhat by the fact they pick San Jose, Anaheim, Dallas and Phoenix to all make the playoffs. Now, obviously, it's a virtual guarantee that two of those teams will (San Jose is a no-brainer, and I think the other will probably be the Ducks, if Giguere holds up), but all four is ridiculously naïve, especially given the new schedule. Plus I disagree entirely that the Coyotes, a team with almost no goaltending and pretty much everything-by-committee, and the Stars, who are old, slow, probably trapless and weak on the back end (though their goaltending is solid) are going to challenge that seriously for a playoff spot (the Stars maybe, but not the 'Yotes). But, hey, It'd be interesting to see what Edmonton fans would do if we actually finished eleventh in our precious "new NHL."

Anyway, just thought I'd throw in some perspective from the outside, yo.


mike w said...

Markkanen save us!!

To be honest, I'm gonna have to step out on a limb and pick the Oilers to be anywhere between 7th and 15th in the West.

Why is that the Oilers haven't been able to develop a natural pure-skilled 1st liner, even by accident? I'm not saying our young guys won't get better, but just imagine telling Oiler fans of 2002 that our hopes rested on the scoring of Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Hm.

And within the span of a few preseason games our defence suddenly seems a bit thin, but I still expect Bergeron and Semenov to play better once the season gets underway.

The good news is that if things don't go well we have the budget to acquire a big name, a luxury the Oilers haven't had before. Here's hoping Conks bounces back!