This is Jessica Biel. She isn't Scarlette Jo, Jessica Alba or Jennifer Aniston. She isn't even blonde. She's not an A-list celebrity. However, she's still smoking hot, gorgeous and rich. Any guy would kill to take her home, but no one would confuse her with Scarlette Jo. It's the end of the long weekend for most, but mine is just beginning, as I had today off and have the next two days off as well. Drunken debauchery will certainly take place at some point over this time, but for now, I'm just thinking about the Oilers and blue skying about next season. I'm making sure that we're not bringing home Scarlette Jo, but I can't help but think we have a shot at Jessica Biel, especially if we buy her a few glasses of an expensive wine she's never heard of.
I'll start off with some boxcar numbers. The first dead giveaway that I'm blueskying is that I'm assuming we have no injuries, no benchings, and no suspensions. However, as LT was criticized for averaging the last 3 seasons for each player, I'll just assume that they're all in the best shape of their lives and don't suffer any bad luck what so ever this season.
Last Name, Goals-Points
Cole (42-80) - Horcoff (30-82) - Hemsky (30-94)
Nilsson (24-50) - Gagner (20-70) - Cogliano (26-50)
Penner (32-56) - Brodziak (15-40) - Pisani (21-45)
Moreau (12-25) - Pouliot (12-24) - Stortini (7-14)
Visnovsky (18-70) - Staios (7-19)
Gilbert (10-35) - Grebeshkov (5-25)
Smid (2-10) - Souray (22-38)
Garon (.910 SV%)
Roloson (.900 SV%)
There. Now, that team would score 335 goals. That's not happening, and everyone here knows it. What is interesting though, is that if I threw those numbers out towards anyone, the only one I may get called on is Pouliot. Anything else there isn't all that outlandish to say. My guess is the one that's furthest from the truth is Cole at 42, however I can't help but think a line with Horcoff, Hemsky and Cole on it just has too much speed and too much skill to not be dominant. Ales Hemsky is that good, and Cole and Horcoff are both excellent options for him to hit on the fly and both are willing to crash the net and score the ugly ones.
I'm of the opinion that Ales Hemsky is an elite player in this league. He is without a doubt a top 10 RW, and I think he's going to get the bounces this year, finish in the top 5 in his position for scoring, and finally be considered just as good as he is - because right now he very well could be the most underrated player in the league. Last season, after a slow start, he took off, finishing the last 60 games at a PPG pace. There was a 30 game period in there where he was dominant, followed by another 30 games where he continued to score despite playing most games with an anchor like Jarret Stoll. Desjardin's likes him, his PPP/60 numbers are disgusting, and with the edition of Visnvosky and a "healthy" Souray to his utilization, I can only imagine that it's going to improve. I expect Hemsky, along with Cole and Horcoff, to take the toughest minutes. I also expect career seasons for the trio. In a blueskying role, I hope that Cole takes to loving the atmosphere and the players here, and signs an identical extension to his last one - $12,000,000/3 years. Frontloaded, just so he gets a few more bucks from Mr. Daryl Katz.
Moving on to the kids, the most likely one for a fall back to Earth is Andrew Cogliano. His shooting % was out of this world, and many of us can still imagine several 5 star chances he had where he looked much more Todd Marchant than Butch Goring. That said, I think all of the kids are in a good position moving forward. They all have at least one aspect of the game that they absolutely excel in (Nilsson - Hands, Gagner - Vision, Cogliano - Speed), and they're around a group of veterans that will instill a work ethic into them, and hopefully keep them from getting into too much trouble. All three will force their way onto the PP at one point or another, and you have to imagine that Gagner could very well force himself onto the #1 unit if he can keep up his play from last season. Again, I can't help but continually picture a PP that involves one of Horcoff/Cole/Penner in the high slot ready to crash the net, Gagner in the corner, Hemsky on the halfboards, Souray in the Spacek spot and Visnovsky in the Pronger spot. It's just disgusting on paper, and there's no reason the PP shouldn't be top 5 in the league this season. One of the kids will most likely falter, but to pick any one of them to build upon what they did last year surely isn't out of this world insane.
Down to the 3rd line... that's where the question of just how good this team can be really needs to be answered. How will Penner react to playing with Brodziak and Pisani? What kind of shape will he show up in? Will he have been given the Clockwork Orange treatment, while being forced to get into the kind of shape that guys like Horcoff, Staios and Moreau are known and praised for? Will he have found that extra stride and that extra glare? If he does, all bets for this season are off immeadiately, because players like that come around to an organization once in a generation, and if he can be anywhere near what Bertuzzi was for the Canucks from '98-'02, we're in for one hell of a treat. That's not the only question though, what can we expect from Pisani? Can he continue to play the game despite his illness? Will he remain an outscorer, able to play against anyone and put up results? And if both of these players show up, how good does Brodziak have to be to pass as the 3rd line C? Clearly the organization loves him - he was at the Indy party and the Katz presser. If he's in shape and can find an extra gear, will he be good enough to be on the ice against Iginla? Gaborik? You have to imagine the organization believes it, and if he does he'll have a $3,000,000/2 year extension in his future.
The fourth line is also very interesting. Stortini, that beautiful man, took all kinds of strides forward next year, and sometimes he even did it without falling! He played a very simple game that allowed him to be on the ice against quality, he got under the other teams skin, and he laid a few monstrous hits along the way as well. He's never a guy you'll want to play more than 10 minutes, but he's a guy who can give you 7-9 very, very, good minutes where he leaves everything on the ice. Captain Moreau had all kinds of bad luck last season, and despite his track record I honestly do expect him to be around for most of the season. If he is around, we know he'll be a rock on the PK, we know he can play against quality players, we know he brings a physical edge to his game and we know he is absolutely fantastic in the room. Finally, we have Poo. What a terrible nick name. However, he has shown, time and time again, that he can be on the ice and have very few pucks end up in the back of his net. This is a very good thing, and something that is going to be extremely useful, as with the kid line intact, we're going to need to be able to rely on our fourth line to survive against some decent players. Hopefully they can, at least in short spurts, as they certainly all have the pedigree to.
The Oilers have the least amount of question marks coming into this season that they've had in as long as I can remember. We're not asking who the #1 C is. We're not asking where the goals will come from. We're not asking who can play defense. We're not asking who will be in net.
One thing we are asking though, is how good can Denis Grebeshkov be? Will he be the guy who showed up in the first half of the season or the second half? The guy called Garbagekov, or the guy who appeared to be a dominant force, and had many saying he was at least one of the top 3 Oillers in terms of raw talent? I'm not positive just how good he can be, but after seeing what he did for 40 straight games, who he did it with and who he did it against, I am convinced that he can be a player this season. He'll be able to play at both ends of the rink, eat 20 minutes of ice, and chip in offensively. Along with Tommy Gilbert, he is an absolutely huge part of the future of the Edmonton Oilers, and if he can show some consistency this season I have every bit of belief he'll receive a contract identical to the one that Tommy Gilbert has, and the Oilers will be much better for it moving forward.
Still though, I haven't mentioned the Oilers biggest acquisition of the Summer - Mr. Visnovsky. He's coming off of an extremely disappointing season, with only 41 points and a whopping -. However, his shooting % dropped into the toilet, and Crawford was recently on the Team suggesting that his scoring chances were nearly identical to the two previous years; he just had shit luck. If he can regain the 20 goal, 70 point prowess that he's shown the previous two years, the Oilers have added an absolute stud to their blueline. Compounding the matter is Sheldon Souray. He's a one trick pony, I don't think many will argue that... but man, it is one helluva trick. He's going to get a lot of PP time, and he should be able to score a boatload with said PP time. We also know that he's fairly good on the PK, and should help out with the physicality as well. If he can stay healthy, he certainly adds value to the team. $5,400,000 value? Not a chance, but we're a better team with him in the lineup than out of the lineup. His health is certainly a legitimate question as we enter camp...
Finally, we have Steady Steve and Laddy Smid. Steve will do what he always does... play the majority of the games, give a solid 20 minutes, help a boatload on the PK and play against quality players on the other team. Smid though, is again, a bit of a card. Will he look lost, as he has so many times over the past two years, or will he be the pitbull that seemed like he was on the verge of grasping his positioning down the stretch? Will he ever find the Tommy Albelin in him, or is he going to become a guy who was pushed too fast into this league? Time will tell, but I think as a bottom pairing defenseman, especially if he keeps on the grimace that helped him steal a job from Matt Greene, he'll be another guy who can add to the roster, and hopefully set himself up to be a future top 4 defender.
Finally, we have the two guys in net. The signing of Matty Garon was widely complimented around the Oilogosphere and HFBoards, and he lived up to it last season, posting a .913 SV% along with being absolutely dominant in the SO. You have to imagine Edmonton management would be very happy if he could simply show a repeat performance while starting 60 games instead of 47. I imagine if he does repeat a similar season, he'll get a contract very similar to the one that Dwayne Roloson inked just over 2 years ago. Speaking of Roloson, he had one hell of an up and down season last year. Going from starter, to being supplanted by Garon, to having to go back in net, and doing well, when Garon was injured late in the season and the Oilers were making a legitimate push for a playoff seed. I'd assume that if he can pull off an average SV% and be a calming factor in the room the Oilers would be very happy with that, and it would show in the standings as well.
On the whole, there's a lot to be positive about. We have a lot of guys who are just entering the prime of their careers, and we have a few guys around to do the real heavy lifting and ensure the kids have good role models as they move forward in their hockey careers. We're not a team built to win the cup today, but we very well could be a team thats built to win a cup in a year, depending on what we do this year. Ideally, we'll win the division and have a heated playoff series against a rival - Anaheim, Calgary, Vancouver, Dallas. Pick your poison, but either way, so long as the Oilers pulled it off and then fell to a superior team the following round, there would be all kinds of things to be optimistic about moving forward. A young team that wins a playoff round, has a brand new owner, and has players like Horcoff committing the heart of their career there is going to grab UFA attention, and maybe we're not so far off from being the guys that sign Hossa to a one year deal well below market value.