An Oilers Eulogy. Or, There Are No Surprises in Alberta
By Dan Moser
Well the season is over, and boy was it fun. I know it's not actually over, we are at game 70 but the Oilers have clinched 30th place so the season is over for them (close but not perfect). Let's be serious though, other than that brief bright spot in the middle of the season (well, the first game of the season), and the play of the rookies, this season has once again made me forget what NHL hockey in Edmonton looks like. Oh well, here comes another first overall draft pick. I hope Adam Larrson looks good in orange and blue (wouldn't be shocked to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked, either way). Let's get onto it!
Another year, another statistically disappointing year from the forwards. Once again Dustin Penner, who hit 30 goals again, and Ales Hemsky, before his injury, have proven they are the only Oiler veterans that can score consistently (If you claim you saw Ryan Jones coming you are lying). The Oilers continue to have a huge problem down the middle, Shawn Horcoff has been consistently Shawn Horcoff, and I'm pretty sure I could win a faceoff against Andrew Cogliano.
Let's try and be positive for a second though, The five games the team got out of Gilbert Brule were alright. Sam Gagner has emerged a very poor team's number one centre (I had hoped). Jean Francios Jaques has come out of his shell, played a mostly injury free season and looks to be an effective energy player (sigh, sorry).
For me personally the biggest positive has come in former Stanley Cup Champion Colin Fraser who has stepped up and become a decent third line option for the Oilers. He plays with confidence and give 100% every night. His knack for defensive play and ability to win a faceoff have made him a mainstay on this team (Let's just all forget I wrote this paragraph).
Taylor Hall. Taylor Hall. Taylor Hall. The kid has skill and proved it, don't be shocked to see him step and and receive that Calder Trophy this year in Vegas (I'll blame the injury). Before the season began I often said he was the most NHL ready player on the team and boy was I right. Leading an NHL team in scoring as an 18 year old (Do you think Taylor Hall knows what POGS are?) is no easy feat, and I cannot wait to see him continue to improve and grow next season. Also despite being an Oiler, the kid just does not know how to stay down or get hurt (close). I might even buy a jersey.
Jordan Eberle has also had a great season. He hit the 20 goal mark, which is fantastic, and just think of what might have happened had he not gotten hurt late in the year (almost right). Eberle is a sniper, he scores amazing goals and has a great shot, his defensive game could use some work though.
Although he was billed to possibly be the best of the rookie, Magnus Paajarvi has had some struggles. This season was about learning the North American game for him and he is well on his way. Personally I wouldn't mid seeing him at center or possibly playing the point on the powerplay (check). His skating ability and size make him an option at both these spots.
Ryan Whitney was the bright spot this season, of course that was before his season ending knee injury (did I get that one? Was it the knee?). He is a great number two in this league and will continue to be the focal point of this back end unless a trade is made in the offseason.
Kurtis Foster was, well pretty much what we all expected. His point totals took a hit from last season, seen Stamkos? Also I can't believe he ever played on Minnesota the way he is in his own zone what oh well, you get what you pay for, At least he has that shot that has made us forget about Souray (err umm, yeah...)! Seriously though, if I have to here about his old icing injury again that's it I'll never say another nice thing about him.
Theo Peckham has been physical, which has been a nice change of pace, and Jeff Petry looks like he might be ready to play full time. Smid is the same player as he was when he was traded to Edmonton.
Tom Gilbert was out of place on this team as a number two, but the way he has played since being traded has been great for him. A change of scenery may have been exactly what he needed. Hopefully the prospect and pick the Oilers got for him turn out to be players (I wonder how I thought Gilbert could be moved. Just change his name to Penner, same thing).
This season the Oilers goaltenders didn't win them games, but they didn't cost them games either. When a team can't score, the only way they'll win is by shutout. The Oilers need some fresh goaltending stat.
Sure the Oilers didn't have the most man games lost this year, but the players they lost were almost all of a significant nature. Despite the great season he was having, Ales Hemsky once again had to shut down his season early because of his wonky shoulder (I thought it would be the same shoulder he hurt last season, not the other one!). Injuries to both Gagner and Horcoff made the Oilers even weaker down the middle, and with the amount of games Brule played this season, it was easy to forget he was an Oiler.
Penner and Cogliano may have played the whole season, but really with the amount of games they didn't show up for, you could just call them injured too.
Whitney, Vandermeer and Smid (close enough) all went down as well forcing the Oilers to once again call on rookies on defence who were not ready to play the NHL paced game.
It's probably too early to call it, you know with free agency and what not, but right now the Oilers will not make the playoffs next year. There better be some improvement though, anyone remember what meaningful hockey in March feels like?
Well, at least Calgary didn't make the playoffs either (bingo).