Below I outline a list of reasons that promote optimism of the 2008-2009 Edmonton Oilers franchise. I follow up with an outline of reasons to curb that enthusiasm.
REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC
- "Tone At The Top" – Daryl Katz vision, resources, and enthusiasm increase player morale, and promote competency.
- The Oilers got rid of players (Stoll and Pitkanen) who allegedly had:
- Desires to play elsewhere, and;
- Commitment issues surrounding them
- All opposition teams in the NW have on paper, got worse. This by itself, should marginally improve the Oilers by at least 2-3 points in the standings.
- The Oilers should, by virtue of experience gained in the past season, do better in terms of protecting late-game leads.
- Presumable improvement in the conditioning department for Dustin Penner. It would be unlikely that he doesn't improve on his 1.34EV/60 rate.
- Presumable improvement with age with respect to Ales Hemsky. He statistically had a great season, and that should continue as he's close to entering the prime of his career.
- Shawn Horcoff, arguably the Oilers best player, who has been virtually injury free in his career, should be expected to play 75+ games, as opposed to the 53 in 2007-2008.
- Erik Cole brings in size and speed to the top six. He was tied for 2nd in the league, with respect to number of penalties drawn (43). He only took 10 minor penalties himself.
- With respect to penalties taken and penalties drawn, gone are Stoll (25:21), Pitkanen (23:8), Reasoner (19:10), Greene (10:5) SOURCE: BEHINDTHENET.CA
- Lubomir Visnovsky fills Chris Pronger's skates on the point of the PP – a role inefficiently replaced over the past two seasons. This will presumably open room for Sheldon Souray on the other point, thus a case of utilizing resources to their strengths.
- Lubomir's 5.2% SH % last season was well below the 11.3% and 11.2% marks the two previous years.
- Fernando Pisani, arguably the Oilers best defensive forward, will have a training camp behind his belt and be ready on contribute at a high level in October, as opposed to January.
- Ethan "I-hate-Milk" Moreau should be expected to play and demonstrate leadership for more than 25 games.
- Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, Denis Grebeshkov, Kyle Brodziak, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Zach Stortini, and Ladislav Smid should on a collective basis, improve on the results of past season.
- The team's best goaltender, Garon, is expected to be a starter from opening day. It can be argued Craig MacTavish waited too long in the season before making a goaltending change, which effectively cost the team points.
CURB THAT ENTHUSIASM
- The jury is still out on Garon, whether he can deliver a high level of performance for a full NHL season.
- Ugly schedule to begin the season. For a young team, a poor start can be more difficult to recover
- Injury issues, like the past two seasons, may continue to arise.
- Shawn Horcoff is unlikely to duplicate his ~18% shooting percentage. Further consideration should be paid to the health of his shoulder.
- Have Souray's shoulder injuries made him a "damaged good?"
- Gilbert isn't going to duplicate his ~13% SH %. Just isn't.
- The Oilers lost key tough minute eaters and successful face-off contributors in Marty Reasoner and Jarrett Stoll. Will the Brodziak's and Pouliot's adequately replace them?
- The Western Conference should continue to be competitive, giving the Oilers little margin for error.
Please continue to remain optimistic.