BLOGS

Principe's Blog: That's It, That's All

Gene Principe wraps up the season by looking ahead to next year's playoff drive

Thursday, 12.04.2012 / 6:55 PM / Blogs
By Gene Principe
Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall & Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all had fantastic seasons despite the club's 29th-place ranking (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club).
As I sat around waiting for players to come out in the yearly wrap-up, the comments have become all too familiar. Maybe that's because six years of hearing, relatively speaking, the same thing gets tiresome for the players to say and the public to digest. So let's try something a little different. The Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs next season. No, I haven't been drinking. No, it's not April Fool's. I might sound like a fool but I think they can and will do it and here's why in no particular order.

TAYLOR HALL

This guy does things that no one else on team and only a handful of guys in the league can do. His power, speed, tenacity and willingness to compete are a wonderful mix of qualities. He's got 40 goals written all over him and one day soon after that, make it 50. I know the qualities listed above also make him dangerous to himself but after ankle, shoulder, concussion and nasty forehead cut issues, I think this thoroughbred has learned how to play safer, but not less productive. A healthy Hall means three more wins.

RNH AND EBERLE

These two kids brought back memories of the good old days when Gretzky had Kurri and Messier was alongside Anderson. I'm not saying they will be as good as those twosomes but I don't think they need to be. Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin aren't Mario Lemieux, but they didn't need to be when they won the 2009 Stanley Cup. The two Oilers have a synergy that is hard to understand. How it has appeared on the scene as quickly as they have. Jordan Eberle could be a 90-point man next year and Nugent-Hopkins might be only 10 points behind him. They should result in another three wins.

GOALTENDING

Yes, goaltending. Devan Dubnyk has proven something to me. He can play, he can be a No. 1 netminder and he'll have a more than suitable caddy in Nikolai Khabibulin. I'm not expecting Dubnyk to go Martin Brodeur and play 65-70 games year after year after year. However, I don't think he needs to. If he plays 55-60 games and Khabibulin plays the rest that can work. I know Khabibulin had a disastrous final few months but he's not that bad. I think the less he plays the more he'll deliver. Chalk up two more wins thanks to netminding.

NO. 1 PICK

This is a wildcard because we don't know who it will be or whom this will lead to. Whether it's one player or a few players Edmonton will get another piece to the playoff puzzle. Let's say it's Nail Yakupov. I'm thinking no need to send him back to junior for a third season. It's a 29th place team let the kid play. If they trade the pick for an established defenceman and move down for a less polished pick (Mikhail Grigorenko, for example) they still will add one body of consequence to the team. Whatever combination it ends up being, let's add one win.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Finally let's toss the rest under the 'Everything Else' headline. The special teams were improved and especially the powerplay should get even better. There will be opportunities on July 1st to add available talent, maybe a player (Magnus Paajarvi) or two makes the team from Oklahoma City. Everyone will have another year of experience to use beneficially. Let's give this grouping credit for two wins.

If you do the math on the projected extra wins (11) and pts.(22) with the 74 Edmonton had the Oilers are right there for a playoff spot. I know a 22-point jump in one season seems unattainable, but I don't think it is. I admit the Oilers have to have a lot of things go right for them, but if that happens, so will a playoff spot. That would mean ending the season with a new feeling and some new words to describe it.

INSIDE THE OILERS