Adam Proteau will return Jan. 9. In his absence, the The Hockey News.com will feature several guest bloggers. Up today is THN Senior Special Sections Editor Brian Costello:
Never before in the Original 30 history of The Hockey News have we received such a backlash from readers as we did in our predicted order of finish in our 2006-07 Yearbook.
Our prognostication of the Edmonton Oilers to finish 12th in the Western Conference filled our inboxes with vitriol-filled letters from seething Oilers fans. They wanted us burned at the stake. They wanted us drawn and quartered. They wanted our very existence stricken from public consciousness.
One fan even vowed to eat a puck if the Oilers did indeed finish 12th...and he kept writing us to have us take him up on it.
The gist of their beef was how can a team one win away from winning the Stanley Cup all of a sudden fall to 12th place in the conference.
Here's our reasoning.
The Oilers were eighth in the West last season, just a couple of wins away from not making the playoffs, period.
They peaked at the perfect time, made a remarkable run to Game 7 of the final and captured the hearts of fairytale pucksters everywhere. But the fact remains, they were an ordinary team for 82 games and they only beat three teams in the playoffs, not 15.
Had Edmonton's roster remained intact this season, we surely would have put them among the top five or six contenders in the West. But consider who they lost in the off-season, when we made our prediction: Chris Pronger, the best player in the NHL since the end of the lockout; Jaroslav Spacek, their No. 2 defensemen; forwards Mike Peca, Sergei Samsonov, Radek Dvorak, Georges Laraque and Rem Murray.
The Oilers replaced them with Joffrey Lupul and some young prospects (Petr Sykora was added after we published), but we thought other middle-of-the-pack teams in the West made better moves. Minnesota added Pavol Demitra, Keith Carney and Kim Johnsson; Phoenix added Nick Boynton and Ed Jovanovski; Vancouver added Roberto Luongo, a top-five NHL goalie.
In short, we believed the Oilers would be hurt by a drastically shortened blueline and a competitive conference.
To date, we're doing OK with our prediction, but the Oilers are remaining tough and move from third to 10 or 11th in the conference from night to night.
Regardless of where they finish, we stand by our prediction and if, by chance, Edmonton finishes 12th, we have no desire to see a fan eat a puck, even if it's shredded and served in a taco salad.
Like Dwayne Roloson knows, all that rubber can't be good for you.