Ales Hemsky and the Oilers played well down the stretch last season, but that\'s no guarantee of success this year. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
For NHL fans, hope springs eternal in the fall.
But far too often, faith blurs into willful blindness and fan forums get littered with statements that offend the very nature of common sense, like: “I don’t care what anyone says, I watched him last year and Ron Hainsey at $4.5 million a year is a steal. Waddell, you da man!”
I have a keen understanding of optimism’s ability to distort reality myself (No, I haven’t heard back from Sports Illustrated about replacing Rick Reilly yet, but maybe they’re still deciding!), so with that in mind I thought it appropriate to try and debunk a couple delusions some hockey hopefuls might be holding a little too tightly.
Mark Streit is going to land on Long Island and instantly make the league’s second-worst power play potent
Let’s just get this out of the way: Streit was a key member of Montreal’s league-leading power play last year, but he was no higher than No. 3 on the rung of contributors. Andrei Markov made it happen from the point and Alex Kovalev’s ability to come off the half-wall and put shots under the bar turned many seemingly fruitless man advantages into conversions.
Streit is a crafty player with a deceptively hard shot, but to think he alone is going to turn the Isles’ power play into something Henrik Lundqvist loses sleep over is daydreaming.
Losing Cristobal Huet doesn’t matter to the Caps because they got Jose Theodore to replace him
Caps GM George McPhee always had Theodore etched in his notebook under off-season objectives; the only problem is, Theo was listed as “Plan B.”
Washington wanted to keep Huet, and why not? He was great for them down the stretch and had a big glove hand in helping the Caps get to the post-season.
Flipping Huet for Theodore is intriguing in the sense Theodore has been a better goalie for stretches in his career and has an MVP trophy to prove it.
Huet isn’t an elite goalie, but he rarely lets you down. Theo, on the other hand, has the ability to make mind-numbing saves and heart-breaking misses all in the same night.
The Caps are still a relatively young team and those occasions when Theodore isn’t at his best are going to really deflate a club still in the infant stages of success.
Huet will be missed.
Natural progression alone means the Oilers can book a playoff spot
No, it doesn’t.
Now, I not only think Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and the rest of the Oilers’ exciting kids are great players, I want to see them succeed because something about fast-break hockey in Edmonton just feels right.
But a bunch of youngsters basically winning out from mid-February on when there’s really nothing on the line doesn’t always mean much the following fall.
Just ask Florida Panthers fans. They’ll tell you those promises can turn sour fast.
The Oilers are certainly on the right track and have a real crack at the playoffs, but there are still some growing pains ahead for a young core that won’t catch anybody by surprise this season.
Even The Boys on the Bus endured seasons of lumps before realizing their full potential.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every other Friday.
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