Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pool Outlook for Edmonton

I don't know if you can cut the 2010 season any way other than calling it a huge disappointment compared to some of the high expectations set towards the year. The Oilers had plenty of good pieces put together for a good run in 2010, but some massive injuries really devastated those chances and the whole picture began to crumble in front of everyone's eyes. If there was ever a really big plus to finishing last in the NHL, it's that the team gets a great shot at the Entry Draft and after the NHL Draft Lottery, which happened on April 13th, the Oilers ended up winning the lottery and will have the first pick overall in June. Now is the time for a proper rebuild in Edmonton and they should be able to drum up some real talent and move forward.

If it wasn't for injuries this past season, I'm not sure anyone was really picking Dustin Penner to be the team's leading point-getter in 2010, but that's pretty well exactly the way it all played out. Penner did get off to a screaming start, picking up 19 points in October alone, but he did tail off near the middle, only to pick it back up near the end of the season. Penner evenually finished off with 63 points (32 goals & 31 assists) in all 82 games this season, which was good enough to rank him 64th in pool scoring, which is far from being a 1st round pick in a fantasy draft.

The rest of the forwards were far from good, mostly because they were nowhere from being completely healthy. Besides Penner, the only other forward to play in all 82 games for the Oilers was Andrew Cogliano and he only managed to pick up 28 points (10 goals & 18 assists). Sam Gagner was the second-best scoring forward on the team and he only finished up with 41 points (15 goals & 26 assists) in 68 games. There was some pretty high expectations put on guys like Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Patrick O'Sullivan, but injuries and some pretty cold play was their downfall... mostly injuries though.

The defense for the Oilers was also stricken with some injury problems and some salary problems, so there were plenty of defensemen rolling over the bluelines at Rexall Place. Ryan Whitney was acquired at the deadline for Lubomir Visnovsky and between the Ducks and Oilers, Whitney had the best point totals out of all the Oilers defensemen, with 39 points (7 goals & 32 assists) in 81 games. The Oilers had another bright spot on the blueline in Tom Gilbert, who finished the year playing all 82 games and scoring 5 goals and 26 assists. Of course, there was some high expectations in Sheldon Souray in 2010, but injuries caught up to him as well and there have been confirmed reports that he wants out of Edmonton, so that will change the landscape of the team in training camp for sure.

No position was safe from injury in Edmonton during the 2010 season, even Nikolai Khabibulin suffered a season-ending injury in the middle of the season, which sent the team into a bit of a tailspin, as Jeff Delauriers tried to grab a hold of the reins and calm the team down from the back end. Well, that didn't get off to a great start, but he sure gave it his best go behind a team that was constantly changing on him. Deslauriers finished the year with 16 wins, 3 shutouts & 3 assists, giving him 41 points this season, ranking 190th in pool scoring. His efforts should be rewarded this summer, but how much stock is the team going to put on Khabibulin going forward, despite his $3.75 million cap hit?

2011 Season Outlook
Like it or not, the Oilers are going to be in full rebuild mode this summer, especially with some impending deals that will see Souray head out the door because of trade demands. Below is the list of signed players destined to play full-time next season for the Oilers... well, except for Souray of course, but he's signed and still an Oiler, so he stays on the list for now.

Dustin PennerRyan WhitneyNikolai Khabibulin
Shawn HorcoffTom Gilbert
Patrick O'SullivanSheldon Souray
Robert NilssonLadislav Smid
Ales HemskyTaylor Chorney
Ethan Moreau

Zach Stortini

Ryan Jones

That list of 14 players comes in at around $41.2 million against the cap and then when you figure that Souray's contract will be dealt away, the Oilers will make $5.4 million in more cap space work to their advantage or so you would think.

The Oilers will have their fair share of free agents to deal with this Summer, including Mike Comrie, Aaron Johnson and Fernando Pisani, who are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in July. I could see Johnson and Pisani re-join the club for the 2011 season, but I don't think the low scoring numbers that Comrie had in 2010 is going to help earn him the big bucks with a new deal. It's hard to say, but I can't see him back with the Oilers.

The restricted free agent list is quite long though, as Sam Gagner, Jeff Deslauriers, Gilbert Brule, Ryan Potulny, Andrew Cogliano, Marc Pouliot and Devan Dubnyk are all scheduled to negotiate new deals, most of which are new deals outside of their entry-level deals. A poor showing in 2010 might do well to keep the new cap hits low for the time being, so that should be good news for the Oilers management.

The Oilers have a pretty good looking stable of young talent coming up the ranks, including Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, who have shown some serious flashes of talent and skill in the World Junior tournaments in the past couple of years. There is plenty of hype surrounding Linus Omark, who has been playing in the KHL recently, so there should be plenty of scoring in the Oilers' future. Jeff Petry, Alex Plante and Johan Motin all headline the Hockey News' Future Watch as big defensemen in the Oilers' system, so they should have plenty of that coming as well. Frankly, since the Oilers have the first pick overall in the Entry Draft this year, they should have plenty of young talent to have them bounce back into the playoffs sooner rather than later.

What I said last year at this time... "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."

Well, I was somewhat right about Gagner last year, he went after the 10th round and he could have been a big bargain, if his numbers were not affected by how bad the Oilers suffered from their injuries. Hemsky and Souray were high on a lot of people's lists, Gilbert wasn't too badly drafted either. I don't think the outlook for next year's pool draft will be too good from the general collective, but it'll have to turn around sometime.

On to 2011... the inclusion of their first overall pick, be it Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, into their line-up should help the team out in their scoring woes, not to mention the return of Ales Hemsky from injury. As a whole, the Oilers do have a good framework to build from already, but they will still probably be another year or two from doing their fair share of winning. I would be discounting Hemsky and Khabibulin next season in their potential points, not wanting to draft them too soon, but maybe comfortable with drafting them late. I also think it would be fair to do the same to either Hall or Seguin, depending on who shows up, maybe giving them less potential points than some of the other rookies on better teams.

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