Last season's Copper & Blue Roundtable didn't have very high hopes for the Oilers, with many of them predicting an unimaginable amount of luck just to get out of the lottery. That luck never came and the Oilers finished 30th. The Roundtable was wise. This year's installment has already been tagged as no better than the 22nd-best team in the NHL by Oilers' employee Bob Stauffer, so even the team's expectations are tempered, to say the least.
Our 'sphere roundtable returns for the 2011-12 preseason, and today's question focuses on the Edmonton Oilers' 2011-12 expectations.
Our lineup this time includes Pat, from Black Dog Hates Skunks, the blogosphere's version of David Mamet, Jeff Chapman, the big brain behind Oil On Whyte, Shepso and BCB, the philosopher kings from Bringing Back The Glory, Jerconjake, the insightful man behind Oil Acumen, Smokin' Ray, the only man covering the Oilers, Barons and Thunder and he does it all at Oilers Jambalaya, dawgbone98, 'sphere regular and resident lacrosse and hockey tactics expert, and sumoil, Copper & Blue's resident CHL tracker, the only man breaking down the top CHL prospects through detailed statistical tracking.
Today's Roundtable Question: What expectations should fans have of the Oilers this year?
BDHS Pat: If the team can stay relatively healthy I think they should expect an improvement over last season. If miracles happen then maybe they can compete for a playoff spot but I do mean miracles – complete health, all of the kids taking big leaps, veterans rebounding, good luck for them and poor luck for others. The reality I think will be another top ten pick with a good possibility they will be in the lottery. I like Dubnyk but expecting him to carry the team behind this defence is asking too much.
I think what they really should hope for is improvement by the kids – Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark, Hartikainen, Peckham, Smid, Petry, Dubnyk – as well as good development of whatever kids start on the farm.
Jeff Chapman: Fans should expect the Oilers to score more goals this year. In a perfect world - if the defence stays healthy, they won't finish last. We might even be having fun come December or January. What fun it would be to say 'playoffs' in January and not have it be a total laugh. If Ryan Whitney isn't available long-term, or Khabibulin gets the lion's share of the duties in net, or if the stars aren't perfectly aligned, get the lottery balls popping.
Jerconjake: Fans should expect the Oilers to be a lot like they were in 2010-11. They will be ridiculously good at times, and ridiculously bad as well. There will be nights when the Oilers catch teams off guard when they aren't taken seriously, and there is enough offensive firepower to do some damage to the unprepared. Still, the Oilers will be digging a lot of pucks out of their own net this season unless the goaltending is outstanding. If the team stays healthy they should hover a few games below .500 for much of the year, but that's nowhere near good enough to get a sniff of the playoffs. On the other hand, it's good enough to keep things interesting into February and it should be a season where the fans don't want to claw their own eyes out quite so much of the time.
Smokin' Ray: I think the fans should expect a better team than the last two years. With all the stock piled talent that we have now, there's no way the Oilers should finish last. I'd expect, at best, a 10th place team in the west. As far as player expectations go, Taylor Hall will lead this team in goals and points. This will be a huge year for that young man. He is, and will be the go to guy.
BCB: Should we have expectations at all vis-à-vis the Oilers? That is a better question. If the Oilers do not finish in the bottom ten teams (with the porous holes on the defensive ledger) then I would consider this season to be a resounding achievement. My expectation is that we make the playoffs or at least are in the dog fight until the last game of the season . . . but this might be unrealistic.
Shepso: Brendan’s question is remarkably astute here. Should we bother having expectations? My answer, however, is a little bit more cynical. If we don’t have any expectations, either high or low, then no matter what happens the end results won’t cause the anguish of the last few years. I just hope that by the time I am on the other side of the world and have to wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning to stream the games, that the games might actually mean something. Otherwise, it is unlikely I will bother getting out of bed.
Dawgbone: Oiler fans should expect the playoffs every year. There are enough quality players that you can turn around your franchise, especially when you`ve got some of the fine young talent the Oilers have.
In terms of what we should expect based on this roster, I think Oiler fans should be happy with an 85 point team. That`s the high end I expect from this team. One thing I`d like to see is the number of 2+ goal losses reduced significantly. If the Oilers can get that number to around 20 or less, that would represent a solid improvement.
I still expect the Oilers to be near the bottom of the conference, and they may not move up too much in the standings because of how far back they were. I`d be looking at point improvement more than standings improvement.
Under 70 points would be a disaster. 70-75 would be disappointing. 75-80 should be the goal. 80+ is gravy.
SumOil: Standings: Well, I think after two straight 30th place finishes, it is fair to expect a rise in the standings. I expect the Oilers to finish 13th or 14th in the west and around 25th overall. I think until about March the Oilers will be somewhere close to the last playoff spot as if an 8 or 9 game win streak vault them into playoff position; only for it to never come. I am expecting at least 30 wins this season and anything less will be disappointing.
Gameplay: For close to 18 months, we have seen the Oilers play listless, uninteresting hockey as if they know that even with their best, they are not going to achieve anything. I think this should change. In my opinion fans should expect their team to be far more competitive game in and game out, regardless of the opposition or the score. I expect the team to play as though the goal is to get to the playoffs rather than drafting Yakupov. We should expect improvement in the penalty kill department and hope that the coaches work hard on the power play. Furthermore, I think Renney will be more interested in line matching as he actually has more diversity among the forward lines.