WILL A LEADER EMERGE?

Robin Brownlee
December 10 2010 12:37AM

"Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it."

I don't know who to credit with that old saying, but I've always believed it to be true. I'm wondering, in that context, what will be revealed about the Edmonton Oilers in the next month, a stretch that will see them play nine or 10 games without injured Ales Hemsky and captain Shawn Horcoff.

What, if anything, will we find out about the collective character of this team? What, if anything, will we find out about the individuals who make up the team? Will a leader or two emerge? Will anybody, as players like to say, "step up?" With Hemsky gone for all of December and Horcoff out for another month longer than that, who among those left in the dressing room will lead the way, or maybe show us something we haven't seen from them before? Who will step up?

What will be revealed?

A TOUGH GO

With the Oilers already sitting at the bottom of Western Conference standings with 25 points from a 10-12-5 record, I'm thinking they will do well to get out of December with more than 13 wins in the books, regardless of how many players pick up the slack created by the loss of Hemsky and Horcoff.

This team simply doesn't have the depth of talent or experience to click along unaffected without them. There was barely enough scoring with Hemsky and Horcoff healthy to get by. The defence, with the pairings somewhat sorted out, has looked better recently, but it certainly hasn't made the leap from being a glaring weakness to a strength. What of the already inept penalty killing without Horcoff and the power play without the creativity of Hemsky?

How will youngsters Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi play without being caddied by Horcoff and Hemsky? I don't have the answers to any of the above. Only nagging doubts about all of it.

Will Sam Gagner take the wheel? How about Dustin Penner? Is he that guy? What say you about Ryan Whitney? Whitney, who's been The Fixer for anything and everything that has ailed his teammates on the blueline this season, would be my guess. But that's all it is, a guess.

TURN HIM LOOSE

I'm looking forward to seeing how the obvious offensive talents of Linus Omark translate to the NHL, if they translate, starting Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What I like best about the 23-year-old Swedish winger is the swagger and confidence he exudes. I don't have a problem with him being pissed off about not landing a roster spot out of training camp. I don't have an issue with him talking about it, either.

I don't give a squirt about the YouTube stuff that made Omark a celebrity over in Europe and got Oilers fans buzzing before he ever set foot in this town. That's window dressing. Flash. Pizzazz. Fine and good.

What's got me thinking he's got a chance to do something is the look I see in his eyes when he talks. There's an "I'll-show-you" little guy thing at work in there somewhere, and it's something I've seen before. Cliff Ronning had it. Back in 1984, I sat in Queen's Park Arena with Ronning and asked him if he had any hope of repeating the 136-point season he was coming off with the New Westminster Bruins. I asked Ronning if all the cards had fallen just the right way for him the season before. Essentially, if we'd seen a one-off.

He looked at me as if I'd insulted his mom. He said simply," I guess we'll see." His eyes were burning. He scored 197 points that season. I know Ronning is ancient history to most of the readers here, but when you've seen that particular look once, you don't forget it. I saw it again today as reporters quizzed Omark.

WHILE I'M AT IT . . .

-- Speaking of opportunities with Horcoff and Hemsky out of the line-up, these next two months present Ryan O'Marra with the best opportunity of his young career to prove he belongs in the NHL. Can he be the checking centre who wins face-offs the Oilers wanted Colin Fraser to be?

-- I'm thinking Paajarvi might benefit as much as anybody with Hemsky and Horcoff out of the line-up. He's been coming on of late anyway, and he's going to see a lot more time in Tom Renney's top-six than he's had to this point. He skated with Andrew Cogliano and Penner today.

-- As Jason Gregor already pointed out, Omark skated with O'Marra and Ryan Jones today. As well as Jones had played the last month, I'd rather see Gilbert Brule on the right wing on that line. I think he'd open up more ice for Omark with his speed.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 Horcsky
December 10 2010, 11:10AM
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rindog wrote:

Would you ever put an interim "C" on a player like Whitney or Penner while Horcoff is out?

I know we always used to tape one on someoen when our captain was out in minor hockey - whould/could they do it at this level?

I am just thinking outloud; but I believe if you gave Penner the temporary "C" you might see him thrive?

It's been mentioned a few times by various writers and media that Penner likes to be out of the spotlight, and plays well in a supporting role. I think if they placed the 'C' on him we would see the big man crumble after playing so well for the past few weeks.

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#52 Horcsky
December 10 2010, 11:12AM
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@McSteely and David S.

~Brownlee was right. This props thing IS turning into a nerdy internet reacharound!~

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#53 Topher
December 10 2010, 11:27AM
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Robin:

Is it possible that we already have the centre that we have been waiting for? I look at the way Paajarvi plays, his speed, two way play and passing skill and wonder if with guidance he may develop in similar fashion to others who have switched position. Some have suggested moving Hall to centre but I would rather that he stay on the wing.

Perhaps now is the time to test the waters with Paajarvi at centre.

I am interested in your comments on this.

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#54 Lochenzo
December 10 2010, 11:36AM
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Nice Ronning comparable. I see that competitiveness in Omark as well and can only hope that this elevates his game in the eyes of everyone. Martin St Louis had to overcome his size issue as well. Calgary gave up on him, so down he goes to Tampa to win the Hart and the Conn Smythe in 2004 while at the same time putting the dagger to Flames' fans hearts. And remember, St Louis did this pre-lockout before the rule changes and smaller guys were at an even greater disadvantage.

If Omark has 3/4 of St Louis' willpower and 3/4 of his skill, then Omark should at least be a quality NHLer.

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#55 Lochenzo
December 10 2010, 11:38AM
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St Louis had Lecavalier and currently has Stamkos to pass to. The Oil could use a high end centre. Having a lottery pick this year would help remedy that.

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#56 Quicksilver ballet
December 10 2010, 11:39AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

It's not my job to be president of the booster club. I've got to admit, though, such critical comments about my work from a person as clearly in-the-know and objective as "Oilers4ever" does sting. There's a tear welling in the corner of my eye.

The internets is serious bizzness eh, straighten up and fly right dude.

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#58 Dyckster
December 10 2010, 11:54AM
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Robin,

This will probably be posted as past of today's GDB, but what were the line combos in this morning's skate?

Same as yesterday's? Listening to 1260 yesterday it (I think you talked about it?) was mentioned that sometimes Renney's practice combos don't match the gameday combos....

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#59 OILERSORDEATH
December 10 2010, 12:10PM
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Cant wait to see the kids play! Wow this is a young team. By the way some comments made earlier about Omark and his "youtube moves in the Swedish league" well guess what he's pulling the same moves of here in North America in the AHL too.

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#60 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
December 10 2010, 12:32PM
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Topher wrote:

Robin:

Is it possible that we already have the centre that we have been waiting for? I look at the way Paajarvi plays, his speed, two way play and passing skill and wonder if with guidance he may develop in similar fashion to others who have switched position. Some have suggested moving Hall to centre but I would rather that he stay on the wing.

Perhaps now is the time to test the waters with Paajarvi at centre.

I am interested in your comments on this.

That's interesting, I've never thought of Magnus at center, but now that you mention it he does seem to have the tools.

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#61 tHe TeE wHy
December 10 2010, 12:39PM
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Harlie wrote:

I could be wrong but that doesn't sound like it was Penner.

You are wrong. I am a devout oilers fan and have been my whole life. And as such, know what all of the oilers look like! lol. And even if I didn't, its not like Penner is an easily mistaken man. There is also the fact that the detective introduced himself and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Penner." So yes, you could be, and are, wrong!

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#62 edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY
December 10 2010, 01:45PM
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rubbertrout wrote:

Great read Robin. We can only hope that little Linus has a bit of Cliff Ronning in him. I'm just hoping we don't get another Robbie Schrempf/Robert Nilsson clone.

As always, my hopes exceed my expectations.

Also wanted to point put that it was a refreshing change to see a number of comments that didn't use that dastardly word. I don't know if that means that Robin is moderating the hell out of this thread or if there is some kinship of all living things that has manifested itself on this web page.

Either way I like it. I like it a lot.

If you are not allowed to use that word then you should also not be allowed to comment on not using that word. Your post is useless and does not add to the comments section.

Hold on, imma let you finish BUT WAYNE'S Articles are the best of all time!!!!!!!!!!

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#63 rubbertrout
December 10 2010, 03:33PM
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edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY wrote:

If you are not allowed to use that word then you should also not be allowed to comment on not using that word. Your post is useless and does not add to the comments section.

Hold on, imma let you finish BUT WAYNE'S Articles are the best of all time!!!!!!!!!!

The last thread was littered with mouthbreathers putting [that word] in it every two seconds. I have no issue with someone jamming it in the first comment but when it is in every comment it is retarded (at least in my opinion.) I recognize that others may not share that position. I thought David S's comment in the last thread about it was funny.

Thanks for your input though. I like to get whiny comments about not being able to use a certain word. and then criticism about the lack of content in my comments. Remember I'm not moderating the website so bitching to me about "the rules" doesn't get you very far.

Last time I checked think I commented on the content of Robin's article as opposed to only commenting on the use of [the word]. I don't see anything about the subject matter of the article in your comment but I may be mistaken about that. I'd ask you to point it out to me but I'm pretty sure you can't read.

Hugs and kisses XOXOXOX

RT

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#64 edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY
December 10 2010, 03:59PM
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@rubbertrout

I said I'd let you finish, thanks for the textbook on how to make a lame comment. Very entertaining!

The sign of a weak person is one who must attack personally on the internet. Be proud.

.......oh yah great article RB (lick lick) I love Cliff Ronning too, what else do you like because I know I'll love it!

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#65 rubbertrout
December 10 2010, 04:37PM
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@edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY

I guess you've never read any of my other comments before. I take plenty of shots at Robin, Gregor and the other folks as well. Not Wanye because I think he is insane but hilarious. Of course that would necessitate an ability to read and . . . well, see post 63.

Hugs and kisses!

EDIT: lots of swagger from a guy who joined the crew two days ago BTW. Guess there was room on the bandwagon once the new rookies arrived.

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#66 edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY
December 10 2010, 04:45PM
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@rubbertrout

No I can't read your comments, remember? Good thing too because if I could I might be so overwhelmed with hockey knowledge that i might think I lived in Calgary!

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#67 rubbertrout
December 10 2010, 05:03PM
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@edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY

I've skimmed your vast two days worth of commenting and have come to the conlusion that your comments bring us the following insight:

1. Renney needs a new nickname (not earth shattering but plausible);

2. The poster called Esa Tikkanen has a stick up his arse (yes--even though I do share his disgust over [that word] he was being a little over the top with it);

3. Several posts where you cleverly used [that word]; and

4. Some decent points about Katz and the rink.

I didn't start taking shots at your posts until you did at mine so it was reactive. I play nice if I'm not sh&t upon so I'll extend the olive branch. The old adage about glass houses applies.

Hatchet buried?

~Hopefully you can read well enough to understand this~

Note the use of "~" to indicate I'm joking.

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#68 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
December 10 2010, 05:20PM
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@edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY

@rubbertrout

WTF are you two vaginas doing? If you're gonna fight, do it in the newest article so that everyone can enjoy it!

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#69 edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY
December 10 2010, 05:30PM
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@rubbertrout

I was simply makin a point against the use of the word....was not meant to be a direct shot. Taking away the use of a word is ridiculous. Should the site next ban absurd comments/trades from noobs? This is a forum, read what you want to read. I don't get the complaining from everyone, not just yourself.

Just because I actually created an "account" would not imply anything other than starting to post with the same name.

I read the site because it's funny, and informative. If it loses the funny then it might as well be calgarypuck!

All good cutie

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#70 rubbertrout
December 10 2010, 06:13PM
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@edmontoncritic - BRoadwAY

If you're talking about most of the commenters, informative isn't the word I'd use.

*considers it hugged out*

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#71 rubbertrout
December 10 2010, 06:14PM
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@Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

THAT'S IT. WE'RE COMING AFTER YOU!

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#72 Wanyes bastard child
December 10 2010, 10:27PM
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Well I think Penner stated a case for this article in that game.

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