Are the Oilers a playoff team ?

      At one time I was a die hard Oilers fan and seeing them go to game seven against Carolina was simply amazing. They came out of nowhere and overcame the odds and had one hell of a playoff run. It was all downhill from there.. many key players bolted out of Edmonton. It all started with Chris Pronger’s trade demand, soon Tarnstrom, Spacek, Peca and Samsonov followed suit. Kevin Lowe didnt do anything to replace those lost players and went into the following season with some big holes on defence. To top it all off K-Lowe traded Ryan Smyth at the trade deadline (that was my breaking point with this team) for alot less than he could have got.

      However during this offseason K-Lowe did whatever it took and aquired what he has deemed impact players. The additions of Pitkanen, Sanderson, Penner, Garon and Souray are huge for this team. I find it funny that so many people think that Edmonton is a bottom tier team because of the way that they finished last season. Keep in mind Edmonton’s roster had been depleted by injuries and Joffrey Lupul the key to the Chris Pronger deal underachieved last season. Also the lack of a good pucking moving blueliner really hindered the Oilers offence.

So are the Oilers a playoff team ? This is not an easy question to answer, in my honest opinion they could surprise a few teams next season. The Oilers do have alot of question marks and many people think that this team is no better than last years group that finished near the bottom in the West.

Goaltending

Dwayne Roloson will remain the number one goalie in Edmonton, he is a solid and reliable goalie that has proven that he can carry a team. The problem last season was the lack of a proven backup for Rollie.. lets face it Roloson is best suited playing 50 to 60 games. Jussi Markannen did nothing last year to help relieve the pressure on Roloson. So going into this summer the Oilers needed a backup goalie and were able to add Mathieu Garon via free agency. Garon is capable of playing 20 to 30 games and can be a reliable starter if needed. I think Edmonton can fell confident with their goaltending situation going into next season.

Defense

I was trying to think of an appropriate word to describe Edmonton’s defense last season, that word is “chaotic”. With no reliable puck moving blueliners not only did Edmonton’s offence struggle but their powerplay was atrocious. The additions of Souray, Pitkanen and Tarnstrom should help improve the blueline dramatically. It looks like Souray, Pitkanen, Tarnstrom, Smid, Staios and Greene will be the top six blueliners leaving players like Gilbert, Grebeshkov, Roy and Syvret fighting for the final spot or two. Things are looking good on the blueline for the Oilers, Souray and Pitkanen could make the Oilers powperplay deadly and will help bolster a weak offence.

Forwards

Edmonton needed to retool after a disapointing year and the additions of Dustin Penner and Geoff Sanderson should help. If Stoll and Moreau can stay healthy all season that will really help out the Oilers. At this point it looks like Edmonton’s top three lines are more or less set

Hemsky / Horcoff / Penner
Torres / Stoll / Pisani
Moreau / Reasoner / Sanderson

This team will not be an offensive juggernaut but they will score goals and will play a very agressive game very similar to Anaheim. Vancouver was able to make the playoffs with a non existant offence so Edmonton will be fine. Players like Pouliot, Thoreson, Jaques, Schremp, Nilsson, O’Marra and Cogliano will be fighting it out to make this team. If Cogliano and Schremp live up to expectations and are able to make the jump to the NHL the Oilers could have Hemsky’s future trigger man in Schremp and a good playmaking center in Cogliano.

So can the Oilers make the playoffs ???? that will depend on a number of things. However I would not bet against this team making the playoffs… I would bet on teams like Dallas and Vancouver falling in the standings after over achieving last year (waiting for Canucks fans to flame me on this one)