It’s that time of year, where everyone makes their predictions about the upcoming hockey season, no one cares, no one remembers what was said, nor gives enough of a shit to go back and check and we spend a few days arguing about inconsequential opinion pieces. NOW IT’S MY TURN!
1. The Oilers Will Miss The Playoffs
I don’t know if you guys heard, but the Edmonton Oilers are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THIS YEAR! Something about culture, and tougher to play against, and Connor’s team! This is the year they finally take the next step! What’s that? The only real difference on offense is the swapping of Taylor Hall for Milan Lucic, and they’re still missing any semblance of offense from the backend, let alone a legit top pairing defenseman? HMMMMM…
Look, this team HAS to be better this season. And I realize that this is the exact same thing I’ve said for 6 or 7 years now (right around the time they drafted Yak and the rebuild was FINALLY COMING TO AN END!) but despite my better judgement I still think it will happen. And it will have everything to do with Connor McDavid, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom being healthy. Now, this being the Oilers at least 2 of these guys will be out with 4 to 6 month long injuries before training camp has wrapped up, BUT if and when the Oilers do improve it will be because of that, NOT because of team chemistry or leadership or the fact that they get to put their skates on in a dressing room that has more wood panelling than an entire fleet of station wagons. I mean, hell, they gave up THIRTY less goals last season, both the powerplay and the penalty kill improved, they got actual NHL goaltending for the first time since Devan Dubnyk had to share the crease with Nik Khabibulin and Yann Danis and they won 30 games for the first time in 4 seasons, yet they STILL finished one point ahead of the last place team in the entire league! The evidence is there that despite their place in the standings, the team IS trending upwards.
But they’re still gonna miss the playoffs.
The three California teams are going to be fighting for the top of the Pacific once again. Then you’ve got Arizona who is has just as good of a chance of fighting for a wild card spot as they do at finishing in the bottom 5. Calgary finally got some actual goalies (and a new coach) so they’re going to be better. Colorado has had the foundation to be good for a while, and with a new coach they should at least be much more competitive this year than they have the last two seasons. So already we’ve got 5 teams competing for those 5 spots, ON TOP OF having to fight it out with whichever poor souls wash out of the Central (Winnipeg, Minnesota and one of St. Louis, Dallas or Nashville) looking for a wildcard spot. That’s……. not great.
TL;DR the Oilers will take SOLE POSSESSION of the longest drought between post-season appearances, with 11 straight seasons of playoff-less hockey. SUCK IT FLORIDA, HOCKEY IS CANADA’S GAME!
2. Oiler Fans Will Become Frustrated With Milan Lucic
I have had an unrequited man-crush on Milan Lucic since he entered the league, and I’m very stoked to watch him don an Oilers jersey for the next 11 years or whatever. But Oiler fans are going to get pissed off at him before the shine of having “Someone Who Was Good For Another Team” has worn off. Milan Lucic is an emotional player/person; it’s part of his charm. But it seems to spill over A LOT. Weather he’s wasting HUNDREDS of dollars in a fit of rage, calling out his home city in a fit of rage, threatening the entire Montreal Canadiens in a fit of rage, or getting suspended for sucker punching an opponent in a fit of rage, it’s only a matter of time before Lucic does something that has us all going “Ugh, COME ON man!”
And it’s going to happen this season Oiler fans. I can already picture the scenario; It’s February, the Oilers are 11 points back of a playoff spot and in the middle of a 4 game losing streak. Down 2-1 to, I don’t know, the Wild or something? Third period, they’re starting to gain some momentum and look like they could tie this one up. [Insert whoever the fuck plays for the Minnesota Wild] gives Lucic a light tap on the back of the legs as they’re staking up ice, Lucic turns around and crosschecks him in the face, gets 5 and a game, the Wild score SEVEN goals on the ensuing powerplay and the Oilers are officially eliminated from the playoffs for the 11th straight year. IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN GANG, TRUST ME!
I mean, either that or people are going to expect him to put up 70 points just by virtue of being near Connor McDavid, and then are going to be angry when he only puts up 50, despite the fact that it’s been 5 years since he’s broken 60 points and it’s unrealistic to think that at 28 years old he’s going to have some kind of career resurgence where he becomes an ELITE offensive player, rather than just a solidly consistent top 6 producer. And if the Oilers fall back into the pit again and are out of the playoffs by January you can move all this up by about 6 weeks.
3. Adam Larsson Will Be Very Good But Very Unspectacular
We’ve already talked about this way too much, so all I will say is this; Adam Larsson’s ceiling will be right around where Andrej Sekera’s is. And that’s fine! Andrej Sekera was the most sought after defensive free agent on a the market a few years ago, and his first season with the Oilers was perfectly fine. I mean, yes we all got frustrated with his ability to fire the puck into defenders shin pads with alarming accuracy, but for all intents and purposes he was the Oilers best defensemen last year (one of only two D-men to hit 30 points for the Oilers since 2010.) He’s steady in his own zone, he’s competent enough to get the puck up to his forwards on a regular basis and while it’s not ideal he is able to handle the top minutes on the Oilers back end. Which is basically the exact same thing that has been said about Adam Larsson (in between proclamations about how much POTENTIAL he has).
Adam Larsson is not going to be the player that finally pushes this team out of the ditch and into relevancy once again, BUT he will play a big part in it. People are VERY wrapped up in the idea of how much potential he has (no one loves potential more than the Oilers and their fans) and while, yes, he IS only 23, going on 24, I doubt he’s going to suddenly become the next Erik Karlsson in a year or two. Much like with Milan Lucic, I think fan’s expectations are way too high (HE JUST NEEDS TO PASS THE PUCK TO CONNOR AND HE’LL GET 45 POINTS EASILY). Realistically I think a season of 30 points, combined with consistent, solid play in his own zone is what we can expect this year. Will that be enough to satiate both fans with exceedingly high expectations AND those who feel that the trade for Larsson is arguably the worst one for one trade in NHL history? NO OF COURSE NOT BECAUSE OILER FANS ARE ALL INSANE MASOCHISTS AND WE CAN NEVER HAVE NICE THINGS! But Adam Larsson will be very good for the Oilers. Not great, but very good, and with this team that’s basically the best you can hope for at this point.
4. Connor McDavid Will Be In The Hart Trophy Conversation
I think that’s enough gloomy for now, HOW ABOUT THE FUN COOL STUFF LIKE CONNOR MCDAVID GRABBING THE LEAGUE BY THE THROAT AND NEVER LETTING GO!
We’ve already been through this plenty; McDavid was BY FAR the best rookie in the NHL last year (despite what hackneyed hockey writers think), so much so that had he played a full 82 games, and kept up his blistering 1.07 points per game pace, he would have finished with roughly 87 points, AHEAD of Sidney Crosby and behind only Jamie Benn and Patrick Kane. That’s pretty good!
He’s got (kind of) his first pro season under his belt, he looks like he’s gotten bigger over the summer (BECOMING A MAN) and with the absence of Taylor Hall his ice time is sure to go up. As long as he’s able to stay healthy (and I’ve been assured that Milan Lucic will somehow ward off any and all injuries) he’s going to wreck opposing teams left and right, and he should easily be in the top 10, if not the top 5 of NHL scoring this year.
The Oilers are officially Connor McDavid’s team now, and they will go as he does. Will he be able to drag this lifeless corpse of a team into the playoffs? Again, I have my doubts, but if he puts up an 80+ point season and is one of the main reasons the Oilers are competitive on a consistent basis he’ll easily be in the conversation for the league’s MVP. Missing the post-season will probably put an end to any realistic chances of winning (please refer to earlier “hackneyed hockey writers” comment) but potentially watching him force himself into the conversation as one of the best players in the world is going to be super fun to watch. I CAN’T WAIT!
5. Rogers Place Will Bankrupt Us All
The cheapest tickets you can find start at $50, beers are $11 a piece, and a god damn burger and fries will run you over $20. BUT HOLY SHIT WILL IT BE WORTH IT TO GO DESTITUTE IN THAT BEAUTIFUL NEW BUILDING! If you’ve gotten a chance to check out Rogers Place then you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t all your expectations will probably be blown away. It’s a god damn beautiful building, the sight lines in the place are incredible no matter where you’re sitting, that new scoreboard/screen is so massive that it will honestly distract me from what’s happening on the ice, and just the idea of being able to drink something other than a Canadian or a Coors Light has me scoping out the best corners to turn tricks on so I can afford more than one beer at a game.
Rexall Place had history and charm, and we all have plenty of fun memories of that old barn. But I guarantee none of us will miss it after our first Oiler game at Rogers Place. I mean, the hockey may not be great (or even good for that matter) but at least we can finally sulk in a world class facility with good food and a wide selection of beer to drown our sorrows. I CAN’T WAIT!