Friday, September 29, 2006

Why Edmonton Is In For A Letdown

I posted my predictions for the season in thew past few days. Here is the east conference and here is the west conference. The prediction most disputed in the comments was that of Edmonton finishing last in the Northwest Division. Edmonton is a team coming off of a game seven loss in the Stanley Cup finals. That dropoff is a huge one - except that it isn't. Edmonton barely qualified for the playoffs last year. They were the last place qualifier in the west conference. They were only tenth in wins in the east conference. Were it not for the annoying point for an overtime loss Edmonton would have missed the playoffs entirely. Sure they had a good playoff run, but they did it with a team that barely made the playoffs.

Due to an active trade deadline where Edmonton made a bunch of moves designed to win now costing their future, Edmonton had a stronger team at playoff time then they had most of the season. Of course most of those players added for that run are now gone. Sergei Samsonov, Jaroslav Spacek, Dick Tarnstrom and off season additions Chris Pronger and Mike Peca are gone. Sure Dwayne Roloson remains and had a good cup run but he has never proven himself to be an elite goalie over the longterm. He is 37 and on the downside of his career.

Most troubling in Edmonton is the defence. Three of the best defensive players in the cup run are gone. This leaves Edmonton with Jason Smith, Steve Staios and Marc-Andre Bergeron to attempt to carry the load - if they can. That is a huge step downward. Edmonton went through much of last season with a good defence and poor goaltending. They had a very good shots against and a poor goals against. This year they will not have a good defence. Roloson at age 37 may be better than Conklin and Markkanen in goal - but he wont likely be an all star. He will likely decline from his level last season. Edmonton won't be very good in their own zone and they will likely have goaltending that is approximately average to try to bail them out. That is a bad situation.

They are not a truly awful team. They have a relatively deep group of solid forwards in Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky, Fernando Pisani, Jarrett Stoll etc. None are likely top be superstars, but all are better than average.

This team could have an adequate offence and a horrible defence. That isn't likely a very good team.

In the end, I am predicting the team that finished 10th in wins in the west and then lost some players to drop to 11th in the west. Its not a huge drop. I don't think its an off the wall prediction. Its not one Oiler fans want to hear. They want to believe that after a trip to game seven in the finals the Oilers are back and here to stay. I think they were beneficiaries of a mediocre playoff year.

I think they'll make the playoffs, but are making things hard for themselves by not addressing the blueline.
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