Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Western Conference
Your early picks

Part 2 of the two-part series.

The West is, in my opinion, a bit more easy to predict this go-round than the East, as teams like Detroit, San Jose and Dallas are sure to be on everyone's "playoff team" list while St. Louis and Los Angeles likely aren't.

The no-so-clear part? Who makes the playoffs from the Northwest Division and where do potential up and comers like Chicago, Phoenix, Edmonton and Columbus fit in?

FYI: Back to regular programming come Monday, honest.


At 10:59 a.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

My top eight lined up exactly with the top eight chosen so far
San Jose

I really hope my Oil can take the division - I honestly believe they have a good shot at it this year - because if they, and they get home ice advantage, I think it could be a huge boost for the team in the playoffs. Imagine opening the playoffs at Rexall this year? Wow.

At 11:27 a.m., September 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little surprised by how many people think Calgary will make the playoffs. I guess there's kind of a morass of mid-level teams in Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, maybe Vancouver, and so forth. Is Calgary the best of that bunch?

At 11:32 a.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Doogie2K said...

Both Calgary and Vancouver look very shallow up front, while Colorado's goaltending looks horrendous, so I'm not particularly inclined to believe in any of them, though to counter, the D in Edmonton won't strike fear into anyone's hearts, and without a veteran checking centre, it's going to be a very, ah, entertaining early few months while that question's settled.

At 11:53 a.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Calgary generally gets a pass amongst people because they have an elite forward, defencman, and goaltender. Or at least, they should be elite. Phaneuf is still young and prone to error, and Kipper has been prone to incredibly bad starts.

I don't know who will make it in the Northwest, or how many teams. There are no elite teams there, which both works for and against that division in terms of teams advancing to the playoffs.

I actually hope teams like Chicago, Phoenix and Columbus improve so that only one Northwest team makes the playoffs (or Nashville maintain a spot). Not likely to all happen, though.

At 12:28 p.m., September 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I'm the only one who thinks that Nasville is going to be back in the post season?

I don't follow the west as closely, but Ithink that Ellis is the real deal.

At 1:24 p.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Kent W. said...

So I'm the only one who thinks that Nasville is going to be back in the post season?

Number one, the Preds made the play-offs last year as the 8th seed. Number two, they lost more than they gained this off-season with the Radulov defection.

I wouldn't bet on NSH seeing the post-season again this year.

At 2:59 p.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

Darren - Calgary has just enough to make the playoffs. They (like the 'nucks) still haven't addressed their glaring need for offence. Defensively both teams are solid. Great goalies, great defence - but subpar offence. However, Calgary's offence is better than Vancouver's, which gives them the nod.
I would argue the Oilers are a better team than Calgary this year. It remains to be seen how Bert and FriedSquid fare under Keenan - but I have a feeling (and I called this last year) that Keenan won't be able to maximize either player's potential, and Calgary will back into the playoffs again in the 7th or 8th seed.

Colorado and Vancouver have no chance. Even if Sundin goes to Vancouver they're still really weak up front - and with his age, I don't think he'd handle the Western Conference travel very well at all, considering he'd be travelling over twice as much as what he's used to...

At 3:01 p.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

Doogie - Our d won't strike fear into anyone's hearts (check my blog for our hit stats compared to calgary's), but we're banking on the idea that we will be playing significantly fewer minutes in our zone this year. If Lubo, Gilbert, and Grebby can make those great first passes, then our lack of physical play on the back-end shouldn't play into our season too much.

At 5:56 p.m., September 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lack of fear in Edmonton's defence, I think, has far less to do with hitting stats as it does the fact that that is one incredibly mediocre defensive unit.

We saw this a couple years ago when Oiler fans and media were proclaiming that Edmonton would have a top three offence in the west, if not the entire league. The end result was that Edmonton was near the bottom, possibly dead last, in offence. A ridiculous string of injuries certainly helped that, but the fact that Edmonton's defence was poor, and the goaltending average meant Edmonton was usually battling just to get the puck, let alone do something wtih it.

When I look at Edmonton's defence, I do not see a unit that is going to shut down the opposition.

Simply put, the Oilers will not win 16 shootouts this year. They are a better team than last year overall though, but I think the end result is that many of those shootout wins turn into real wins, but it doesn't really reflect on the final standings.

I don't see them in the playoffs this year. And though I expect some of the young kids to fall into sophomore slumps, overall, the Oilers will take a step forward. But it is only a step towards an emergence in 2009-10.

At 7:36 p.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

Does Detroit's defense strike fear into you? It doesn't for me. I respect the hell out of their D, but it doesn't scare me.
They're defense is simple. Move the puck.

I'm not saying the Oilers defense is anything close to Detroit's puck moving abilities- but it's in a similar model - less time in your own zone likely means less goals/shots/chances against.

With three decent puck movers in Grebby, Lubo and Gilbert, and solid 2-way centers in Horcoff, Cogs, and Brodziak, the Oilers won't be relying on their D nearly as much, and won't be playing in their own zone nearly as much.

Smid, and Staois will likely have their games tailored more towards being the steady stay-at-home types. With a healthy Souray and Lubo, I don't think you'll Staois and Gilbert leading the team in ice time.

The Oilers are simply trying to create a team and system that is purely geared towards puck possession.

In terms of puck moving I'd say the Oilers defense is far from mediocre - especially when you take into context the lack of scoring in our division.

At 7:59 p.m., September 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Oilers are simply trying to create a team and system that is purely geared towards puck possession."

Absolutely agreed. But the Oilers aren't going to create that system overnight. There will be learning curves, and frankly, I don't think the right pieces are there yet. Certainly not Souray, who's defensive gaffes overshadow his offensive production.

The other big thing that stands out wrt the Oilers is that they are soft Other than Huggybear Stortini, there really isn't anyone that strikes fear in the opposition from a physical standpoint. Certainly guys who will play the body, but there really is no intimidation factor with the Oilers.

Most importantly, I don't see the Oilers really moving forward as fast as Chicago, Phoenix, etc are. Especially Chicago, though I expect they will replace Nashville in the playoffs.

Colorado is a bubble team, I think, but I don't see Edmonton as better than the Avs, yet.

At 9:00 p.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:01 p.m., September 04, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

Looking at Souray's stats, his 5v5 numbers are pretty terrible. However his special teams numbers are fantastic. If he either a) works on his 5v5 or b) has his 5v5 ice time limited, and plays more PP and PK time, I think his defensive game will improve greatly.
Pitkanen was terrible on the back-end last year - in terms of defensive gaffes - and his numbers show it. Lubo will be a huge improvement on him.

I think this year Staois will have a lot less pressure on him, play fewer minutes, and we'll see his defensive game pick up as well.

In regards to a 'true enforcer' - do we need one? Look at Dallas and Detroit. Do you fear Downey or Barch? Not exactly heavyweights. I do understand that the NW has some of the toughest enforcers in the West, but I think that could hurt teams if they play them against the Oil. We have such a quick mobile team on all 4 lines that if you throw a goon out there who can't skate - he will likely get beat - helping our offensive chances.
You don't need to have a goon to be successful in the NHL. The numbers show that.
Team toughness can be just as effective.
Sure it would have been nice to see Laroque come back to beat up on some of the newcomers to the West, but with the young talent trying to break through on the team, I wouldn't want to see a roster spot eaten up by someone who can't produce.

We'll see how the first 10-15 games go. I'm sure if we're getting beat up K-lowe and Tambilini will try to fix that. But to start the season, I see no reason to take away a roster spot from someone with potential like Schremp, or Brule.

Also, I think you're the only person who has the Avs ranked higher than the Oilers...

At 12:18 a.m., September 08, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Pitkanen was terrible on the back-end last year - in terms of defensive gaffes - and his numbers show it. Lubo will be a huge improvement on him."

Any numbers in particular?

At 10:46 a.m., September 08, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

Hey Anonymous. I figured I'd do a blog post comparing Lubo and Pitkanen, seeing as how Lubo is essentially going to be replacing Pitkanen in all aspects of the game. I have the raw numbers right now, but figured I'd put them into a bit more of an informative light, as some of my stats are a bit cumbersome to deal with. I should have it done by the end of the day, so check back here or on my blog.

At 2:13 p.m., September 08, 2008, Blogger Addicted-to-oil said...

Hey anonymous. I posted stuff on my blog in response to your comment here about the numbers. Take a look, and let me know what you think.


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