2008/09: 38-35-9 – 85 pts (4th in Northwest, 11th in West)
Arrived: Nikolai Khabibulin (CHI), Mike Comrie (OTT)
Departed: Dwayne Roloson (NYI), Kyle Brodziak (MIN), Ales Kotalik (NYR)
The only thing worse than a disappointing 2008-09 campaign for the Edmonton Oilers was an even worse 2009 off-season. They swapped team MVP Roloson for another aging goaltender in Khabibulin, shipped fourth line grinder Kyle Brodziak to Minnesota, but other than that made no significant roster changes to a team that missed the playoffs by six points. Brodziak’s departure will open up a roster spot for a young forward like Gilbert Brule to make an impact, but the Oilers still lack a top-notch face-off man and a legitimate first-line threat to play alongside Ales Hemsky. They are hoping that young stars Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner will take a leap forward this year and seize that role.
It was off the ice that the Oilers made the most news this summer. They canned long-time and less than beloved coach Craig MacTavish and replaced him with the duo of Pat Quinn and Tom Renney. These two will hopefully bring a more offensive system to Edmonton that is more suited to the teams speed and skill. They also struck a deal with the Ottawa Senators to bring disgruntled perennial 50 goal scorer Dany Heatley to Oil Country. However, Heatley had a no-trade clause and refused to become the most talented goal-scorer to wear blue and orange in almost twenty years. Thanks to this stagnant off-season, expect another mediocre year with a late season playoff push from the Oilers. Also known as business as usual.
FANTASY WORTHY FORWARDS
Ales Hemsky (RW) – Hemsky almost became an elite fantasy right winger when the Oilers thought they had added sniper Dany Heatley to their roster. Instead, Hemsky will be stuck with Shawn Horcoff as his “first line center” and a carousel of underachievers at left wing. Expect 25 goals, 50 assists and 35 PPP. Hemsky is a non-factor in terms of penalty minutes and plus minus, so is very much a one-dimensional fantasy asset.
Shawn Horcoff (C) – Coming off a breakout campaign in 2007-08 in which he put up 50 points in 53 games and made the All-Star Team, Horcoff showed the effects of the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his coming out party. Last year, Horcoff managed only 53 points in 80 games, including 21 on the PP, as the Oilers first line center. If Horcoff regains his mojo he could put up 75 points playing alongside Hemsky, but if he falters, he could lose his job to one of the Oilers young guns. Proceed with caution. At least he will always have his $33 million.
Keep an eye on: Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner, Patrick O’Sullivan
DRAFT WORTHY DEFENCEMEN
Sheldon Souray – After a disappointing and injury riddled first season in Edmonton, Souray bounced back in a big way with 53 points, 23 on the PP, and 98 PIMS. While he is not the same powerplay threat he was in Montreal, he has tightened up his game in his own zone and brought his plus minus up to +1. I expect a big year under the new coaching staff and would mark Souray down for 25 goals, 35 assists and close to 100 penalty minutes.
Lubomir Visnovsky – Visnovsky put up 31 points in 50 games before becoming another Oiler to succumb to a shoulder injury over the last two years. He is the puck moving defenceman that is a focal point of the Oilers attack, and is instrumental to five on five hockey as well as the powerplay. Barring injury, Lubo could put up 50 points and +10 rating, but do not expect to find any penalty minutes here.
Tom Gilbert – This American defenceman that the Oilers received from Colorado in return for Tommy Salo has blossomed into a solid young player. He stepped up big time last year after Visnovsky went down with a shoulder injury, and filled the void on the Oilers top powerplay unit. This year, he will lead the second unit and see plenty of even strength ice time. His lack of penalty minutes hurts his fantasy value, but he should score 40 points. Gilbert should be on your fantasy radar, and is a must have if Visnovsky or Souray get injured.
Denis Grebeshkov – Grebeshkov is often forgotten as the number four defenceman but he took great strides last year, tabulating 39 points and a +12 rating. He is the real deal and could be a solid fantasy defenceman if he gets enough ice time
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Nikolai Khabibulin – Khabibulin was fantastic last year in Chicago, going 25-8-7 with a 2.33 GAA and .919 SV%. However, he only started 40 games. He will be expected to shoulder a heavier load with only the inexperienced Jeff Deslauriers backing him up. It is uncertain how an increased workload will affect the 36 year old Khabibulin, who has not started more than 60 games since 2002-03. I would expect solid numbers from Khabibulin but only 55 starts, making him a borderline second goalie on your squad.
Bonus: If your leauge counts “bonehead penalties in crucial situations” Ethan Moreau and Steve Staios are definitely worth roster spots.