Turn the light out say goodnight, no thinking for a little while
Let's not try to figure out everything at once
--The National, "Fake Empire"
The terrible goaltender contract. The goaltender getting hurt, just like everyone predicted he would. The star defenseman being eliminated for months via a dirty hit from the team's biggest rival. The captain getting rag-dolled as he tried to stand up for the star defenseman. The number one center tearing his labrum. The superstar taking the business end of a terribly dirty hit, finishing his season. No one, not even hired knuckles, attempting to avenge the hit. The captain's game swirling down the drain, not slowly, but fast like the flushing of a toilet. The old war horse trying to play through concussions. The maddening inconsistency of young players. The maddening consistency of really awful coaching. The shift. The goaltender's extreme DUI.
The Oilers' 2009-2010 season was the hockey equivalent of Jacob's Ladder -- nightmarish, full of hallucinations and death (of careers). We've also analyzed it to death and with the team recently putting the wraps on development camp, this is a good time to look towards next year. I asked each the writers here to give me the two things they are most looking forward to in 2010-2011. Check out our answers below the fold.
Ben: You may not believe it coming from me, but I actually have quite a bit to look forward to in the coming season. While I'm pretty outspoken in thinking this team's going to be just awful, there are a lot of individual factors that interest me. The new kids, of course: if Paajarvi-Svensson, Eberle, or Hall show their potential at the NHL level that could be worth the price of admission alone. If two of them start to turn out, we might actually have something to cheer about. And Devan Dubnyk, who showed signs of rallying towards the end of last year and at times - just often enough to get me excited - looked like he might have an NHL goaltender hiding inside of him.
Bruce: I'm curious about the make-up of the roster, and specifically about how many of the youngsters make the team, and where they slot in. Will all of the Big Three crack the line-up? Where does Linus Omark fit?
The other big questions for me concern the goaltending situation. Can Nikolai Khabibulin bounce back from a disastrous first year as an Oiler? Can Devan Dubnyk win the #2 job and prove himself a legitimate NHL goaltender? Can Jeff Deslauriers? Will Steve Tambellini acquire some veteran insurance?
Derek: I'm most looking forward to seeing a tactician and strategist behind the bench again, especially a sane one. The team hasn't had strong coaching for a couple of years and it's been really terrible to watch. I know that there are a number of fans concerned that Tom Renney is going to suck the life out of the building and win with a trapping style, but I'll be happy if he gets back to the cat-and-mouse game that he played in New York. I want to see line matching, pairings matching and attention to zone starts, like Craig MacTavish before Kevin Lowe broke his brain.
I'm also looking forward to the arrival/return of the European contingent. Ales Hemsky is healthy again and he's got his left-winger, though he's had him all along. After investing so much time in tracking Teemu Hartikainen, I certainly want to see him do well in Oklahoma City, and I'd like to see him hang on to the end in training camp. He brings a style and a game that no one else in the organization can play. Pääjärvi is breathtakingly fast, but probably doesn't have the all-zones game that Renney would like. In my estimation, the key European is Linus Omark. If he can show up to camp and show that he belongs in the NHL, his presence can make the decision to send Jordan Eberle or Pääjärvi down a much easier one. I really hope that Omark's NHLE is accurate. If he can bring 44 points at a bargain price and give one of the younger kids a chance to beat up the AHL, all the better for the Oilers in the long run.
Jonathan: I'd be very surprised if this team contended for a playoff spot, so now I'm looking forward to the performance of individual players. I'm hoping for a healthy Hemsky, a resurgent Horcoff, and some sustain from Dustin Penner. I'm excited to see how Hall, Paajarvi-Svensson and Eberle adapt to the NHL, and I'm almost equally curious about Linus Omark's performance on North American soil. It's a roster full of question marks, and I just want to know the answers.
Scott: I'm most looking forward to seeing the character of the team emerge. I'm interested to see which players end up taking on a leadership role on the team and in the community. With guys like Steve Staios, Ethan Moreau and Fernando Pisani now gone, there's a definite void to fill both on and off the ice. It will be fun to see which players go from being Oilers to being Edmontonians. One player I think might step into a leadership role is Ryan Whitney who has the necessary skills and age to demand the best out of the other players. I'm also excited to watch Ales Hemsky find himself on this team again. He was once the young player that the team was building around, but that lot probably moved to Taylor Hall the second he was drafted. Where there were once a lot of long-time Oilers hanging around, Hemsky suddenly has the second longest tenure, one of only two players left from the run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. He may end up being one of the older players on the team - or at least one of the older players with serious skills - and may well have several very talented young forwards looking up to him. How will he interact with a group of players with obvious but immature talent? Will he be distant, knowing that he's going to leave, or will he embrace the group, stay with the Oilers beyond his current contract and become one of the more significant players in Oilers' history?
There you have it. We're looking forward to a variety of individual performances and what those may mean to the future of the franchise. What is it that you, dear reader, are looking forward to in the upcoming season?