Thursday, October 1, 2009

Opening Night!

And hockey is now back, or at least will be in a couple of hours, and questions and storylines abound! How about that Tavares kid? Who's going to be worse: Phoenix or Colorado? Will the goonification of the Toronto Maple Leafs bear fruit? Will Chicago take the next step, or be undone by bad goaltending and off-season unpleasantness? Who is this season's Great Canadian Hope (it's Vancouver, BTW)? And, most importantly, who's going to be skating around next June waving an enormous silver flowerpot over their heads? And the answer to that last is... wait for it...

The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yes, we're going with the repeat winner. They've got top-drawer talent, obviously, and now they've got the experience to match it. The WKS brigade foresees them knocking off the San Jose Sharks in the final, simply on the grounds that one of these years the Sharks are going to have stop sucking in the playoffs, and it might as well be this one. However, any of Detroit, Vancouver, Washington, Chicago, Boston, or even Philadelphia could decide to have their say as well.

As for the Oilers, who get things underway on Saturday night, well, expectations are a bit subdued, despite the arrival of highly experienced coaching.* The general consensus out there is that the Oilers had a pretty good draft, and then spent too much of the summer swooning around after Dany Heatley, resulting in them going into training camp with too many big holes in the lineup. Although the defence is world-class, especially when attacking, there are questions about the size of the forward corps. The return of Mike Comrie, and his solid play, have been positives, but the Oilers are going to need it continue, and then some, if they're going to go anywhere this season. In net, the Oil acquired Mr. Khabibulin, and that's excellent just as long as he doesn't go off form or get hurt. In short, it's going to be a tough, tough year, especially with a deadly schedule right out of the gate.

The following four numbers, however, give some slight cause for optimism, however: 21, 23, 31, 27. Those are the numbers of points by which Quinn-coached teams have improved in his first full season in charge. Now, it is probably a stretch to expect that sort of thing from this year's Oiler team, but those are still very impressive figures, and can't all be due to roster changes. So maybe, just maybe, and with some additions somewhere along the line, the boys can find their way into the second season. And if they can't, well, at least we've got Jordan Eberle and Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson to look forward to.


*The official De Koboldorum Rebus opinion on the hirings of Pat Quinn and Tom Renney is as follows: it was a very very very very good thing to do. There are enormous hockey brains in those two men, and I am very much looking forward to what they do with the team. Furthermore, adherents (and there is a distressingly large number of them) to the "Pat Quinn has won nothing in his career" school of thought need to be slapped upsides the head and reminded that, for a coach, an Olympic gold medal, World Cup, U18 World Championship, World Junior Championship, and 657 FLIPPIN' NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE GAMES pretty much amount to "something." To put it another way, the only men who've won more as NHL coaches are named Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Dick Irvin, and Mike Keenan, and Quinn will catch Keenan this season, having coached five fewer seasons than Keenan to boot. There's a solid possibility that he'll catch Irvin this year as well, in seven fewer seasons. In short, I think it was a good hire.

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