We're back! Wait, I'M back! For those inquiring minds, Greener will be back as soon as he's done "penning his thesis on Richard Nixon's foreign policy." Which is perhaps the greatest euphemism for MILF porn he's ever come up with. In the meantime, our excellent friends at Melt Your Face Off asked me to "write an Edmonton Oilers Season Preview." Which you can also read below. It's finally hockey season!
MEH, NOT THAT SEXY
Team Toughness: I was talking to my friend (a Buffalo Sabres fan) at work the other day, and he says, "When I look at your roster there's nobody that puts the fear of Kimbo Slice into me." So I said, "Yeah? Fuck You." Then I waited until he left and Googled "Kimbo Slice". Turns out he might be right. The only thing the Oilers did this off-season to address their lack of toughness was sign heavyweight Louie DeBrusk...to be their TV Color Commentator. Raffi Torres is gone, while Ethan Moreau and Sheldon Souray are under mommies orders not to fight after injuring themselves in brawls, which leaves the burden on Zach Stortini (a.k.a "Huggy Bear") and newly signed utility player Jason Strudwick. While Stortini is willing, he's more of a light heavyweight, and the fact that Oilers tried to re-sign Georges Laraque is a sign that they recognize the deficiency.
Faceoffs: When asked about the importance of faceoffs, Wayne Gretzky once famously said "Faceoffs are just a way to start the game." Wayne Gretzky is an idiot. I suppose when you have six or seven Hall of Famers on your team and you're handing out 8-2 nut thumpings every night, that may be true. But clearly in today's game that just isn't the case, especially for a team trying to mould themselves into a skilled puck-possession squad like the Oilers. With the trade of Jarret Stoll, one of the leagues best face-off men, and Marty Reasoner walking via free agency, that leaves Shawn Horcoff as the only proven, reliable guy on the dot. One of Brodziak (51%), Pouliot (47%), Gagner (41%) or Cogliano (39%) must pick up the slack.
The Defense: The flip-side to the Oilers dynamic offense was their, uh, shitty(?), defense. They ranked 26th overall in goals against, and only the Kings were worse in the West. Admittedly, they were a young group that is now a year older/more experienced, and they played the majority of the second half without veterans Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios. The development of puck movers Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov plus the addition of Visnovsky's transition game should mean less time spent in their own zone, but the unit still lacks a true shutdown guy to play against other teams top unit. When I say, "Cory" you say, "Cross". CORY!...Too soon?
Heading into camp, here are some of the questions on the frontal lobe of every Oilers fan:
Is it time to cut Rob Schremp yet?
Moose, can you get all serious and give us a "Player To Watch" for this season?:
What is Robert Nilsson wearing?
As you can see, the Ro-Bear has been spending a lot of time browsing The Hives MySpace page for fashion tips. That's the classic t-shirt, silk tie, and sweater look, and it really does say, "I'm pulling so much ass that I can STILL wear this." To borrow a sports term, that outfit is a "game" breaker. I don't advise you to try this at home, but if you must, check to make sure you're a young, millionaire athlete before you leave the house.
PROJECTIONS: There's no doubt the '08-09 Oilers are better on paper, and owing as much to the rest of the teams in the division taking a step backwards, the Northwest title is well within reach. More realistically, this is still a young team that will go through growing pains. I mean did you see what Robert Nilsson was wearing? I expect they'll finish with something between 92 and 96 points, and 7th in West. Until next time, kids!