They will score, these young Edmonton Oilers. That seems obvious.
Not only that, the gifted likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will swash, they will buckle, they’ll sizzle, they’ll dance, they’ll lift the Rexall Place faithful out of their seats early and often this season.
These cats won’t just score, they’ll do it with flair.
No, goals won’t be the problem with the Oilers. Sorting out which ones belong on the highlight reel may be a larger problem than identifying where the goals will come from.
Oh, how I love these stories after a good pre-season or early season game. Brings back memories. I loved this gem from opening night last year:
‘m not going to throw a wet blanket on the Edmonton Oilers 4-0 waxing of the Calgary Flames because there’s plenty of wannabe deep-thinkers doing it already, cautioning, “It’s only one game” and “Ooh, don’t get carried away.” One game constitutes a “short sample size.” Derrrrr, the Oilers aren’t going to go 82-0?
Khabibulin’s back might yet become a factor, but rust from his layoff obviously isn’t. His bad contract and all the “KhabbyBoozin” distractions aside, the man can stop pucks.
It doesn’t look like he’ll need 10 or 15 games to re-find his game, and that’ll be critical in getting off to a decent start. Getting out of the gate didn’t do a damn thing for this team last season, but this is a different group. A little success early won’t hurt.
They won’t always get goaltending like that from Khabibulin. Eberle won’t wow ‘em with highlight reel goals every night. MacIntyre won’t win every fight, at least not like he did against Ivanans.
My sense, though, is this edition of the Oilers might be capable of putting together those aspects more often and sooner than long-suffering fans and over-cautious tall foreheads-in-training might have thought. That’s just what my old hockey writer’s gut tells me.
Whoops. Turns out that those over-cautious tall foreheads-in-training might occasionally have the odd good idea.
Those of us with long memories will remember the false dawn of 2006, when Joffrey Lupul came to town and everyone was giddy about how many goals the Oilers would score. Or the false dawn of 2008, when the Kid Line, Dustin Penner and a healthy Sheldon Souray were going to build on the late season run of 2007-08, fill the nets and lead the Oilers to the promised land. Vic Ferrari had a great line one of those years, I think it was 2006, about how the Oilers’ media were expecting a lot of 6-5 wins and would be shocked at mid-season with the number of 3-1 losses.
As always, I find it curious that media guys toss stones at fans for having blinders on but then turn out stuff like this on the basis of one game. MPS didn’t play against Phoenix but Hall, Eberle and RNH combined for 10 shots, of which three went in. Over the course of a season, its going to be more like one going in out of every ten.
As a group, Hall, Eberle and MPS were a hair above average at scoring goals at 5v5 last season. They scored 0.72 ESG/60; NHL fowards scored 0.70 ESG/60. RNH, if he sticks, will almost certainly be a drag on the goal average this year. They collectively shot 9.1% to a league average for forwards of 9.7%. That might be another couple of goals. The PP isn’t really worth mentioning – it didn’t score frequently last year and it’s been horrible forever. Young players do not traditionally excel there.
I’m more than open to the possibility that, at some point, this quartet will score 5v5 goals at a rate that is markedly better than the rate at which Rob Schremp scored 5v5 goals last year but the actual coming of that day is awfully difficult to predict.
The thing with young guys on the path to stardom is that it isn’t always entirely linear. Martin Luther King had a line about the arc of the arc of the moral universe being long but bending towards justice. While I think that that’s true, the movement towards justice tends to occur in massive leaps – in the 1860s, slavery comes to an end and then there isn’t a ton of progress for African Americans for quite some time. In the 1950s and 1960s, there’s a massive leap towards more social justice with Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act. You couldn’t necessarily predict these things a few years before they happened.
Similarly, while you can expect that Hall et al. will score buckets of goals at some point, predicting when it will happen is a lot more difficult to do. Subjectively, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hall scored 35 this year; if I was to crank out some sort of objective projection, it’d probably be markedly lower. As a group, you’d probably expect these guys to score more than last year. If you had a sophisticated projection system, one that could generate probabilities of surpassing the projection and missing it, I’d expect the probability of significantly surpassing it to be much better than the probability of signficantly missing it.
Nobody knows though. Predicting them to score so many goals that figuring out which ones go on the highlight reel is the problem rather than where they’re going to come from is nuts. The only thing you can really say with any certainty is that they should score more than last year and, at some point, will hopefully be elite scorers. It’s possible, but unlikely, that this will be the year in which that occurs.