With just under 100 days remaining until the season opener against the hated Vancouver Canucks, two teams that are at drastically different points in their roster development. The Canucks have a very solid team led by the Sedin twins, Kesler, and Burrows on offence, complemented by a very capable defense backstopped by Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, and the newly acquired Jason Garrison. The only real question that plagues this team is in respect to the goaltending situation. Although Cory Schneider by all accounts is ready to be an NHL starting goalie, little has been shown as of yet and this could cause a few hiccups along the way for the team.
The Oilers on the other hand seem to have the same questions regarding their roster as the last off season. We need more size in our top 6, need another top 4 defender, and is Dubnyk really a starting goalie? If last season is any indication the "Bulin" Wall can no longer be counted on in any way to play at an NHL level should Dubnyk falter and as such every available option should be explored in moving him, whether it be a trade to a team trying to reach the cap floor, assignment to Oklahoma City, or just paying him to stay away. With the addition of our two highly thought of prospects in Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz I expect that the already potent powerplay can expect to be as good or better than last season and will contribute a few more goals than last season, but realistically can they be expected to help the Oilers with a dramatic increase in points that will contribute to a playoff berth? Likely no, I don't predict a massive increase that the fan base is clamoring for without addressing at least one of the above mentioned issues. So are the Oilers of 2012-13 a play off contender, lottery team, or somewhere in between? The following is how I think that the western conference standings will look upon completion of the regular season.
1. St. Louis 51-20-11 for 113 pts
2. Vancouver 48-25-9 for 105 pts
3. Los Angeles 45-28-9 for 99 pts
4. Minnesota 42-27-13 for 97 pts
5. San Jose 41-29-12 for 94 pts
6. Chicago 41-33-8 for 90 pts
7. Detroit 40-36-6 for 86 pts
8. Colorado 40-37-5 for 85 pts
9. Calgary 38-37-7 for 83 pts
10. Nashville 39-39-4 for 82 pts
11. Edmonton 37-40-6 for 80 pts
12. Phoenix 33-39-10 for 76 pts
13. Dallas 32-40-10 for 74 pts
14. Anaheim 30-40-12 for 72 pts
15. Columbus 26-50-6 for 58 pts
As you can see from my predictions that I think the Oilers win total will increase but the overall point totals will not see a major increase. Potentially I see the boys winning more of the games that go to overtime as our young fast team is well suited to play 4 on 4 and few teams in the league can ice a faster 4 man line than Edmonton. I don't however see the loss total going down a lot because in all reality the Oilers are still a very young team and getting younger with the additions of Yakupov and J. Schultz, and without team management addressing at least one of the issues that I pointed out I think the kids are going to be relied on very heavily to carry this team. Should the brain trust trade for or sign a player that can fill one of the holes in our roster, being a big mean LW for top 6 minutes, a big 2nd line center, or a top 4 defender I can see our wins total going up directly proportional to our loss reord going down. If not then I fear we are doomed to another season of hockey with no playoffs afterwards. In closing I don't see the Oilers as being a playoff team but I am fairly certain that there will be meaningful hockey games in February and March, which is far more than can be said for the previous three years. Add a comment and let me know what you think about my first blog and opinions regarding my predictions. Thanks very much for reading!