March 20 2009 09:52AM
Faster than oil companies have gouged us again with a four-cent increase at the gas pumps to mark the first day of spring, optimism over the Edmonton Oilers playoff chances has grown in leaps and bounds after Thursday's 8-1 laugher over the feeble Colorado Avalanche.
And why not? Just as sure as Shell, Petro-Can and their big oil bully brethren slap on a dry latex glove, ignore the lube and probe our wallets, the cakewalk in Denver has hopes high.
Like I said last week, I suspect the Oilers are destined to snag one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference and put the brakes on a two-year stretch out of the post-season in spite of themselves (please send Brownlee is an idiot e-mails to JoeFan@blindfaith.com if you must).
But, even if they don't, these first 70 games have reinforced some notions I had when this season began, dispelled others and provided a revelation or two along the way.
Upon further review...
Dwayne Roloson has more fight in him than any goaltender I've seen in a long time and he's hands-down the Oilers MVP.
I had Roloson pegged as a grossly over-priced back-up to Mathieu Garon in October, but he's blown that out of the water with 26 straight starts and a stretch drive that defies his birth certificate.
"We know what we've got in here," Roloson told me before the team hit the road. "We know what we can do. I try not to read the papers or get caught up in what other people think. My job is to play."
Roloson isn't the best technical goaltender. He isn't blessed with ridiculous reflexes or remarkable physical tools. But he competes like hell and has as much brass as anybody on this team. One more year, please.
Craig MacTavish won't be fired between now and the start of training camp next September, but I don't see him behind the bench next season.
I can see MacTavish stepping away and taking another position, or leaving the team altogether. He's a competitive, dedicated coach, but he's aging, and fast, before our eyes.
- I'm not convinced Tom Gilbert is as good as his numbers, 4-36-40, because he's fattening up on second assists, but I've got no doubt he could help GM Steve Tambellini land a proven top-six forward via trade this off-season. Who could Tambellini get for Gilbert and Robert Nilsson?
- Sam Gagner is better suited as a centre than on the wing, preferably on the second line, so for crying out loud, (memo to whoever is coaching this outfit) leave him there. With his first NHL hat-trick in Colorado, Second-Half Sam has 13 points in his last eight games. Come to think of it, the way he's playing, Sam reminds of me of Henri Richard of the 1957 Montreal Canadiens.
- Tambellini needs to get out from under Dustin Penner's contract, either by trade or buy out. Penner's gone from 29 goals with Anaheim in 2006-07 to 23 last season. He has 14 this season. PDP is going to settle in as a 17-20-goal scorer long-term. He's not worth $4.25 million a season.
- Roloson's dogged determination aside, there's a pretty good chance the Oilers have knackered Jeff Deslauriers with the way they've mishandled him. Even with Garon gone, Deslauriers hasn't started since Nov. 30.
Grumpy old men
Did anybody out there hear Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean of Sportsnet whining about what they considered an over-the-top goal celebration by Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 50th in a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay?
"I would have given him a shot," sniffed Kypreos, perhaps best-remembered by NHL fans for lying face down unconscious in a puddle of his own blood after he got KTFO by Ryan Vandenbussche.
Kypreos and MacLean, who made his mark by making the Columbus Blue Jackets the laughingstock of the league during his tenure as GM before getting sacked, didn't like it that Ovechkin dropped his stick on the ice, then treated it as if it was too hot to pick up. "I'd have just given him a shove," added MacLean.
Who, exactly, appointed Don Cherry, he of the double-breasted jackets made of Christmas wrap, Kypreos and MacLean the No Fun Police?
One more thing...
I'm guessing Ales Kotalik doesn't read OilersNation and I haven't introduced myself to him in the dressing room yet, but he's pretty much shoved my own words up my backside, hasn't he?
Tuesday I wrote: "When I look a Kotalik, I see a big version of German Titov, a pretty good player who did nothing in Oilers silks when they acquired him from Pittsburgh at the deadline in 2000. Titov chipped in four assists in the seven games he played with Edmonton and then, thankfully, moved on."
Since then, Kotalik scored the winning goal in a shootout against St. Louis at Rexall Place and scored a goal and added three assists in the romp over the pitiful Avalanche.
I've written stupid things before. I'll write them again.
-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.