Credit to Lowetide for his article that mentioned this (must give credit where due): the new Hockey News issue is out, complete with predictions for the standings. They predict another bleak year for Edmonton, finishing last.
Agree, or disagree?
I honestly have a tough time seeing a bunch of kids coming in making an impact in year one. But I think the season’s success (or lack of) really relies on some factors:
Goaltending: I really think that Nikolai Khabibulin getting most of the starts is the biggest factor here. Our goaltending without him is very inconsistent. With him in net, I think we stand a much better chance. He’s made some bonehead plays on and off the ice, but I think this could be one of those years where he tries to prove himself to people. I think that if he doesn’t see much action though, we’re pretty much guaranteed a non-playoff finish. I’m sorry, I just don’t have faith that Jeff Deslauriers or Devan Dubnyk can carry this team.
Team health: Hemsky is definitely the straw that stirs the drink on offense. If he’s out for most of the season, prepare to break out the paper bags. The same goes if we lose too many key players. It will afford more ice time to the young kids, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to rush them into action. Expectations for them around the Oilogosphere generally border on ludicrous. If any one of these guys come in and change the makeup of our team, I’ll eat my hat (speaking of which, I lost my favorite hat on vacation… *sobs*).
Defense, defense, defense: are we ready to play defense yet? This team has huge holes in our own zone that I wish would have been addressed. But we did bring in a few new guys, and with some luck in the health-department, things could get better. I’m not just talking about the back-end either. The team as a whole needs to play better defense. We need more than just Shawn Horcoff on forward to help out. I have high hopes/expectations for Colin Fraser in this regard.
Those are pretty much the main factors, in my mind. If all 3 work out (Khabi plays most of the games, Hemsky is healthy, our team shows up ready to defend), this team could surprise. However if any one of those DON’T work out… I think it will be another tough season to watch, until draft day.