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For my inaugural blog I want to start things off with a radical headline such as:

“Stanley Returning to Oil Country in 2010”

Unfortunately a title that unbelievable would only appeal to fans living in a fantasy world and, since Edmonton doesn’t look much like middle earth last I checked, I’ve been struggling to think up a more realistic headline.

“Why the Oilers Will Win Northwest Division Next Year”

Now calm down Legolas. There’s still a bit of room for dreaming in that one too; however, in the immortal words of the 80’s band Timbuk 3: “the future’s so bright I’ve got to wear shades.”

Here’s why:

Coaching-

I’ve read a number of articles spammed throughout the hockey world since the Oil signed the Pat Quinn and Tom Renney tandem to replace Mac-T. The majority of them are tentative with their optimism and suggest that more needs to be done to turn the oil into legitimate contenders. I don’t totally disagree with this; however, no one can argue – this is a helluva good start.

Quinn is a proven winner. And the reason his coaching record is as strong as any coach’s in the NHL is simple: The guy hates losing. I’ve seen Quinn show more emotion and fire in 3 games behind Toronto’s bench than I saw from Mac-T over the course of his entire tenure here (ie. Give up late goal = take a sip from mini-bottle of Dasani)

I also believe the coaching change adds credibility to the organization – something Katz is slowly bringing back after our group ownership stint and the hometown hero discount is no longer necessary. This should help with some of the awful officiating and raising the profile of the team in the league.

Don’t expect Quinn to publicly call out an individual and feed him to the media dogs when the man is fully capable of tearing guys apart behind closed doors. He demands accountability and brings something back that we’ve been missing since Smyth’s departure: Heart.

Renney is truly Robin to Quinn’s Batman – minus the tights and sexual ambiguity.

This guy is capable of thinking the game as well as any in the new NHL and will compensate for Quinn’s strategic weaknesses. How well the ‘Dynamic Duo’ can work together is yet to be seen, but Quinn has more than enough experience to recognize his shortcomings and I doubt there will be an issue.

Forwards-

I, for one, am tired of watching line after line of individuals attempt to skate through an entire team (see Hemsky, Moreau, Nilsson, Horcoff …etc.) I can understand it somewhat when they’re trying to “get it done” in the offensive end while Dustin ‘the-flying-fridge’ Penner is still huffing his way out of his own zone, but come on now; how many plays have to die on Moreau’s stick while Cogliano is speeding by for a pass before the guy loses the captaincy?

This is definitely our weakness as we have built a team of exceptionally talented guys who are made of glass and are about as gritty as smooth peanut butter. They need to play with some more nuts; pun intended.

Here’s the solution:

Trust in Tambellini to acquire a top 6 sniper - whether it's Heatley or not. He has the bankroll/assets and the connections to pull it off. With Grebs signing an extension and an abundance of small talented forwards with great hands look for the oilers to make a trade or two before the pre-season. Gilbert is a massive blue chip we can afford to move, Moreau and Nilsson can bring in decent returns, and Staios can be shipped out too as long as Tambs finds a way to replace his veteran leadership on the blueline.

Defense –

Arguably, one of the top 3 in the league already. We move the puck well and I’ve seen our D explode for more points than our forwards in several games over the past two seasons. Souray, Visnovsky are elite Grebs is well on his way, and Smid and Peckham are solid as stone back there.

Goaltending –

No doubt Khabibulin is an upgrade. I was as big a Roli fan as anyone, he remains one of the shrewdest guys out there, but hey, you don't have to be tricky when you've got buckets of talent - and anyone that watched the 'Bulin Wall' carry the hawks into the third round of playoffs can see this guy's got game.
Filed Under:   Oilers   Hemsky   Quinn   Renney   Khabibulin   Heatley  
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