What does 2003-2004 have in store…

Well it is that time of year. Hockey is in the air. There is only another week until training camps begin. Where do the Oilers fit in to the tightening western confrence? Here is how I see it…Starting between the pipes…

Salo will rebound from an off year that is for sure. He has just played way too much hockey over the past 4 years. Not just the NHL, but Olymics and WC’s. It will be refreshing to see a good young goalie to get a shot to back Salo up as well. Conklin proved himself with the Bulldogs last year making Jussi expendable this year. I am getting sick of all of this Salo bashing. He is still one of the better goalies in the league, one off year out of his stay with the Oil isn’t nothing to worry about.

Now the D…

Solid as ever. Not to mention young. Brewer and Semenov played well most of the season together. Although it did hurt Brewer’s numbers playing with a rookie for the last half of the season. And don’t forget the two leaf cast aways (which the Oil basically got for nothing) Jason Smith and Cory Cross. Two solid defenceman that will play smart.

Not to mention Steve Staios. After watching him play last year this guy will play through anything. He’s quick, hard nosed D man that is way under rated. Fegusson and Bergeron will battle for the last D position and will likely split the time together and with the possibility of a guy like Doug Lynch seeing time if there are any injuries. So the D looks good. If they settle down a bit there numbers should improve a great deal and so will Salo’s.

The Forwards…

With Comrie, Laraque and Moreau being the last payers still not under contract there could be some holes come training camp, but I believe Lowe will be busy this week and have them under contract by the start of camp. That being said I believe the forward lines will be much improved over last year.(Yes even without Marchant) Look Marchant is a good 3rd line player. He had one good offensive season. Let’s see him put up a 60 point season with Columbus. His numbers were a little inflated when he played with Smyth and Hemsky/Carter/York. The core guys are still there. along with a lot of young talent to push some of the vets. Guys like Rita, Torres, & Stoll will push for a spot on the line up. So here is what I think the lines will look like at the start (if all guys are signed)

Smyth-Comrie-Hemsky

York-Horcoff-Dvorak

Pisani-Reasoner-Moreau

Rita/Stoll/Torres-Chimera-Laraque

Brewer-Staios

Smith-Semenov

Cross-Fegusson/Bergeron

Salo

Conklin

There only thing lacking is a little exerience. The top 3 lines were all there during the Dallas series that, let’s face it Edmonton should have won. So the’ll be hungry to get back. Plus those rookies who’ll be pushing each other for a roster spot should keep them going hard. If Salo can play like he did the year before last there is no reason why the Oilers can’t challenge for the top spot in the Northwest or a mid spot in the confrence. It all depends on if they stay healthy and how well Colorado plays without a tried and tested Roy and if the Canucks don’t get some much needed secondary scoring, along with the other surpise teams like the Wild and Ducks do. But as it stands the Oil are in a good position to move up in the standings this year.