Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pool Outlook for Edmonton

Being out in the West, there is always a number of hopeful Oilers fans in the Draft that may take an extra gamble or two on the Oilers, which rarely works out, but happens nonetheless. It was another tough year for the Oilers, who had a lot of expectations placed upon them, since their youth was really starting to get their legs underneath them by the end of the 2008 season. Unfortunately for them, none of that came to pass and the team found themselves on the outside looking into the playoffs this Spring. The times are changing in Edmonton, however, since there is a coaching change still to be named, but a good core of players to work from.

In 2009, the Oilers finished with two players in the top 100 of pool scoring, which could be the largest factor as to why the team failed to reach the post-season. Ales Hemsky led the way for the Oilers, despite missing 10 games due to injury. Those 10 games seem to cost Hemsky 10 spots in the pool rankings from last season, this year finishing 60th with 66 points in 72 GP. There is little doubt that Hemsky has a lot of talent and one year, he could very well be the breakout player that everyone thinks he is. The question is, what kind of linemate does he need to be that guy?

In terms of other forwards, Shawn Horcoff improved upon his rankings from the season previous with 53 points in 80 games, while there was a lot of drops in the rankings from new arrivals Ales Kotalik & Patrick O'Sullivan, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner. The latter trio had the entire season with the Oilers, while the first two only arrived at the trade deadline. There is plenty of upside here and maybe some real optimism for success for 2010, but there will have to be a solid commitment from the new coaching staff to ensure that the young kids are in line.

With Lubomir Visnovsky missing 32 games, the defense of the Oilers was hit pretty hard, especially since Visnovsky can really move the puck. Sheldon Souray and Tom Gilbert quietly went about their business offensively and did fairly well, when it was all said and done. Souray finished with 53 points in 81 GP, including 23 goals, while Gilbert did well with 45 points in all 82 GP. Both blueliners are solid prospects for your pool team and should be picked within reason. Souray proved that his injury was nothing but a fluke by playing in 81 of 82 games this year.

In goal, it was a pretty solid finish to the year for Dwayne Roloson, but it was too little, too late for him and the Oilers. Roloson went on a long stretch of starts, really trying to will himself and the team into the playoffs, but it just wasn't to be. The future UFA finished the year with 28 wins, 1 shuout and 1 assist for 59 points this season, seating him 91st in the pool rankings. The real question in Edmonton's crease will be, is there enough faith in Jeff Deslauriers to let him have the top job? Deslauriers finished with 4 wins and an assist in 539 minutes of work.

2010 Season Outlook
The Oilers road map to 23 active players has been filled in a great deal already, with some longer-term signings already looked after, before and during this season. When you look at the core of the 2010 team, it does look like there is some potential for a bounce back year, possibly bouncing themselves into the eighth spot in the West.

Ales HemskySheldon SourayJeff Deslauriers
Shawn HorcoffTom Gilbert
Patrick O'SullivanLubomir Visnovsky
Sam GagnerSteve Staios
Andrew CoglianoSteve MacIntyre
Dustin Penner
Robert Nilsson
Ethan Moreau
Marc Pouliot
Fernando Pisani
Zach Stortini

The 11 forwards, 5 defensemen and 1 goalie have a approximate cap hit of $46.1 million, which gives them about $10 million for the remaining 6 players they need to sign to fulfill their 23-man roster. There will be some questions as to what to sure up first, but the way the team looks, it might just be goaltending right now.

This summer's agenda for RFA's include Denis Grebeshkov, Kyle Brodziak and Ladislav Smid, as top level free agents. There are a number of RFAs also on the list that the Oilers have on their list, but those three put in a lot of time for the Oilers this past season and will likely be looked upon to do the same for 2010.

On the UFA side of the ledger, Dwayne Roloson and Ales Kotalik head the list, while Dany Sabourin is also on the Oilers' list of players that they have rights to before July 1st. Two of these three could put a sizable dent into the remaining cap space under the Oilers' belt, especially with the RFA's above, so there could be some dancing around the subject, especially if the cap shrinks a little.

I would imagine that the Oilers were pleased with what they saw out of Taylor Chorney's brief appearance with the team near the end of the season and he does come with the potential to crack the team, especially if it comes down to cap issues. Jordan Eberle has signed his new deal and will likely get a long look in camp, hopefully to add some speed and skill up front, to an already fast team. If cap issues do become apparent with some of their RFA's, then the Oilers might go straight for Devan Dubnyk in the AHL to help their goaltending situation. The Oilers are blessed with young kids in their system, so the cap could be a passing thought.

Season three for Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano will be very telling. Both these players were 10th round picks in my Draft this year and should likely remain about that low for the time being. This could make them big bargains, if their maturity level in scoring has improved over the summer. They will have to play a big role as second-line scorers with any new coach that comes into the fold. Hopefully, a new coaching system will help the secondary scoring of the Oilers and they can continue to move forward into the playoffs. It should be only a matter of time. Do remain high on Hemsky, Souray and Gilbert, as they are sure things in their points bracket.

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