Monday, December 21, 2020

Oilers Preview: Fernando Pisani Autographed Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Two more caveats: at this point, the NHL has not even confirmed the division make-ups yet despite the season being set to start a month from now, and several impact players such as 25-to-30-goal scorer Mike Hoffman and 20-goal journeyman forward Anthony Duclair, among others, haven't found a team yet. And quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

That being said, let's start with the one division we're pretty sure is going to happen if only because of the border situation, the Canadian/North Division, and the Edmonton Oilers.

GM Ken Holland continued to tinker with the roster and salary cap mess inherited from his predecessor, Peter Chiarelli, replacing Mike Green on defense with Tyson Barrie, bringing in Kyle Turris to center the third line in lieu of Riley Sheahan, backup goalie Anton Forsberg to relegate Mike Smith from the #2 spot to #3, and Dominik Kahun as a cheap gamble for a middle-six role because Andreas Athanasiou didn't pan out.

What makes their odds look good:
Having two of the three best forwards in the game - Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl - certainly helps, and having Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto to play with them is a very good start; complementing them with veteran help in the form of James Neal, Tyler Ennis, Turris, Alex Chiasson and Zack Kassian makes for a solid if at times frustrating middle of the lineup (all of them except Turris and Chiasson were on a close-to-20-goal pace last season), and there is hope that the youth can also slide right in up font, with Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaia, Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard, Dylan Holloway, Raphaël Lavoie and Tyler Benson conutinuing to show progress.

The blue line also seems more solid than it's been in over a decade, with Barrie seemingly sliding straight into the middle pair with top-unit powerplay time, Ethan Bear ahead of him and Adam Larsson completing the right side of the defense, and Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell and Evan Bouchard completing the back end, there is a role for everyone on that team. Top defenseman Oscar Klefbom's absence will be felt, but sliding Russell in and out of the Taxi Squad might create enough cap room to replace him until the playoffs come, at the very least.

Mikko Koskinen looks like a true #1 goalie in net.

Question marks:
No one seems to understand why Holland brought Smith back, and at a $2M cap hit, no less. Turris could very well be on his way out of the NHL. Depth is an issue in comparison to the true contending teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and even Vancouver Canucks.

The Oilers would have had a harder time in the old Pacific Division with their Western Conference Canadian counterparts and the loaded Golden Knights, but by simply adding teams like the Montréal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, McDavid and Draisaitl will be able to carry Edmonton to the postseason.

Third in the Canadian/North Division.

Barring an injury to Koskinen, the Oilers will sail to the playoffs in a little more effort than their fans would like, but in a certain matter nonetheless. They have more depth than at any other time in the McDavid era, now all they need is to find a playoff hero like Fernando Pisani in 2005-06.

Pisani could normally be counted on for a half a point per game in the regular season, a pace he mostly kept throughout his career even after being diasgnosed with ulcerative colitis, which is a feat onto itself, but during his hometown team's 2006 Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Final, he scored a league-leading 14 goals in 24 games including three important two-goal games and five game-winners, and he came within inches of having a game-tying second goal of the night in Game 7 of the Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Here he is sporting the Oilers' white (home) uniform from that era on card #34 from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Black Diamond set:
He signed it with a fading black sharpie in 2011 after a game against the Habs in his lone season with the Chicago Blackhawks; it cements him as #34 in my Oilers Numbers Project.

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