Ever look at a park full of children playing on a beautiful, sunny day and think "What's the point? We are all just going to die and turn into dust..."? Welcome to A Pessimist's Guide to the Oilers' Upcoming Season*.
As an Oilers fan, I expect the worse, am surprised by success, and thus completely prepared for the mediocrity that often lies between. The one thing I especially try to keep the reigns on is runaway optimism at the beginning of the season, no matter how much I'm champing at the bit by training camp (that's right, three horse-related metaphors in one sentence, muchachos).
As a kid I didn't know any better, so I'd gobble up every morsel of Oilers news in the summer, spending precious good-weather moments indoors listening to radio reports from training camp, wildly projecting Peter White or Ralph Intranuovo's breakout year based on intra-squad games. And hell, even last year I let some excitement slip after Edmonton beat San Jose 3-2 in the shootout opener, that is, until the suck hammer came down to knock my expectations back into place.
Not this year! I'm fully expecting that something will go seriously wrong, like Conkkanen wrong. A player will play well below expectations as they often do, whether it be Garon crumpling as a true number one for the first time, Steve Staios losing a step, or the kid line not lasting more than two weeks. I'm not even going to mention what might happen to Penner's numbers with the arrival of Erik Cole. Throw in the inevitable 200 man games lost to injury and we're really cooking with gas. Oh, and if I'm wrong, I still win... in here [thumps the part of his chest where his heart is].
Based on last year's league average, the Oilers will need to score about 228 GF and keep their GF at around 210 if they want to make the playoffs. I don't have to wheel out Pythagorean projections to tell you that at GF 220/GA 247, the Oilers were decidedly not a playoff-worthy team last year, which is also why you won't hear me complaining about Matt's latest post about his secretly-favourite team.
To make this exercise easier, I'm simply going to assume that the defence is better this year, with a better job from the top 4 and enough depth in Ladislav Smid, Jason Strudwick, Theo Peckham and Mathieu Roy to fill in the 7th and 8th spots reasonably well. I'll even spot them a miraculous 37GA improvement in 2008-09, mostly because it's easier for me. That just leaves GF, which could very easily fall short of 228 GF, looking like this: - I tried to not lowball the numbers just to prove a point. Except for maybe Penner, I've kept the totals within a range that makes sense compared to the previous three years. Why'd I pick on Penner? Because I'm not convinced he's magically changed his personality or lost about 10 per cent of McNugget body fat in the last 150 days.
- Assume that goals are somewhat interchangeable with callups and injuries.
- By assuming that Cogliano, Horcoff, Pisani and Gilbert's shooting percentage will return closer to average NHL levels, they take a cut in goals. Horcoff's predicted 22 goals is actually fairly reasonable based on the last three years.
- at some point Steve Staios will take off his skate after blocking a shot and his foot will actually pour out.
- Erik Cole in game 2 of the regular season. Seems appropriate somehow...
- Ethan Moreau, tearing an erector spinae from the bone while reaching for a SpongeBob SquarePants tumbler for one of his kids.
Depressed yet? Good, I've done my job. See you at the bar, scum bags.