This morning I sat down at my desk, gazed into my crystal ball and saw the future. Allow me to share with you a few of the news stories that are in our not too distant future.
Draisaitl Earned His Spot on the Oilers
Spoiler alert: when training camp concludes Leon Draisaitl will have made the Oilers. And the official party line will be that he wasn't given a spot on the team, but rather that he earned it. And somewhere I will be sitting thinking of the first episode of the ninth season of M*A*S*H - The Best of Enemies. In that episode Colonel Potter and Major Winchester get into an argument about who is the better bridge player; Potter says that he and Mrs. Potter are "the best mixed-doubles bridge team in the entire Show-Me State" to which Winchester replies, "That is roughly the equivalent of being the finest hockey player in all of Ecuador."
Now I don't want to speak badly of Ecuadorian hockey players (or bridge players from Missouri) but having to do little more than beat out Anton Lander for a NHL job isn't the most monumental of tasks. Yes, Draisaitl may well be the best option that the Oilers have when training camp comes to an end, and if you tilt your head, squint, and look at it in just the right light then you can see that he obviously earned his spot, but the deck was stacked in his favour all along too.
Follow-up story: Struggles for Rookie Centre Not Unexpected
Oilers New Downtown Arena Update: On Schedule, On Budget, and Amazing
The crystal ball wasn't too clear on when we should expect this story, but I got the feeling it was at a time of turmoil around the team, perhaps during a lengthy losing streak. Sooner or later though there will be another it's-all-good update on the arena. These updates strike me as odd considering the project is still two years from completion and even if things were coming off the rails in terms of budget or timelines a) the public would not be told yet and b) changes can be made to get both back on track. But then I picture John Hammond walking around the site explaining that "we spared no expense," which of course is much easier when it's not your money, and I smile.
Follow-up story: Scoreboard Still Huge; Biggest ad Best in the NHL
Follow-up follow-up story: Flames to Build New Arena With Biggest Scoreboard in the NHL
Follow-up follow-up follow-up story: Katz Group Asks City Council for Funds to Bring Arena up to Current Standards
Looking Ahead to Next Season
Hall Turning Heads and Establishing Himself As One of the NHL's Best
Looks like the crystal ball isn't completely cynical. In his fifth season in the NHL, and with a completely healthy centre to play with (the crystal ball predicted it so it must be true), Taylor Hall will go from being considered a very good player to one of the league's elite; a 40 goal, 90 point season will do that. This transition will be most noticeable in the cities than make up the NHL's Eastern Conference, and rumour will being to spring up about an imminent trade with the Maple Leafs. People will ask, "How did he get left off Team Canada last year?" and fans in Edmonton will just shake their heads.
Follow-up story: Taylor Hall Named First Team All-Star
Oilers Struggles Prove More Than Stats Needed To Build A Team
With the signings of facystat favourites Benoit Pouliot and Mark Fayne, not to mention the team's addition of Tyler Dellow, the Oilers are going to be looked at by some in a very different light this season. And when the team goes on an extended losing streak, or either of Pouliot or Fayne gets off to a slow start, those who think that the eyes are all that matter when it comes to hockey knowledge will come out in full force. They'll ignore sample sizes and basic concepts like PDO, and will frame their argument as "there is more to hockey than just stats" which nobody using stats disputes, but straw man arguments are fun and facts just get in the way.
Follow-up story: Nikitin's Contributions Go Beyond the Numbers