March 15 2010 01:35PM
Where do you go from here? Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Leafs essentially cemented the Oilers in 30th place, so what comes next. It's too early to do an autopsy on the season, but there are some stats to watch for in the final 14 games.
The Oilers need eleven points in the final 14 games to avoid officially being the worst team in franchise history. Is 5-8-1 a realistic goal for this team? We’ll see.
Only once since 1999/2000, when Atlanta was an expansion team, has the 30th place team finished 10 or more points behind the 29th place team. In 2006/07 the Flyers finished with 56 points and Phoenix was 29th with 67. Not only can the Oilers finish 30th they can do it in style.
Currently the Oilers trail their opponent tonight, Columbus, by 15 points. You have to go back to the 1995/96 season when the last place San Jose Sharks finished 19 points back of the closest western conference team. The Oilers might end the season 20 back of Columbus and put an exclamation point on this dreadful run.
If you are going to have a record breaking season, you might as well do it in style. It will make it easier to make progress next year.
In case you haven’t realized the Oilers have a stranglehold at the bottom of most categories league-wide.
- Goals per game, 29th at 2.43 (Boston is 30th at 2.36)
- Goals against per game, 30th at 3.40
- Shots per game, tied for 28th with Montreal at 28.2 (Colorado is 30th at 27)
- Shots against per game, 27th at 32.5, Anaheim (33), Atl (33.2) and Florida (34) are better.
- And they are the only team in the NHL who doesn’t have a goal 4-on-4.
Looking to the ice
I’m not shocked that Dustin Penner is playing better now that he is with Gilbert Brule. Penner has looked lethargic and tired for the past two months, and I know he’s changed his diet to try and get more energy, but being re-united with Brule hasn’t hurt him either.
Looking ahead, wouldn’t Brule, Penner and Gagner/Cogliano make a decent 2nd line? You could put Ales Hemsky with Taylor Hall (I think that is who they will pick, but nothing certain at this point) and have Horcoff or Gagner in the middle.
Pat Quinn better keep Brule and Penner together the rest of the way so they can get more comfortable with one another. And leaving Cogliano there and having him finish the season strong might increase his trade value this off-season, or at least get it back to where it was last summer.
Currently the Blue Jackets would get 4th this summer but they are in a dog fight to stay in the bottom five and have a chance at #1. The Jackets have 65 points. Carolina is 28th with 64, Islanders are 26th with 65, Florida has 66, Atlanta 67 and Tampa Bay has 68. The race for 8th in each conference will be good, but the best race down the stretch might be for the final three spots in the draft lottery.
The Jackets have had three top-five picks in their history, but only Rick Nash -1st overall in 2002- has turned into a bonafide star. Nikolai Zherdev was 4th in 2003, but after four enigmatic seasons his is now in the KHL. Rostislav Klesla, 4th in 2000, has been a steady, but not spectacular, D-man for the Jackets, but he hasn’t become as dominant as you’d like for a top-five pick.
The Jackets have had more picks between who have yet to break out. Alex Picard 8th in 2004, Gilbert Brule 6th in 2005, Derick Brassard 6th in 2006, Jacob Voracek 7th in 2007 and Nikita Filatov 6th in 2008. The Jackets could use a lottery pick, and more importantly they need to pick a player that will produce for them.
Too little, too late?
Shawn Horcoff has eight points in his last eight games, but he’ll need 12 in the final 14 games just to reach 40 points. He can’t salvage the season points wise, but a strong finish might give him some confidence heading into next season. He should look at going back to the psychologist he worked with prior to the ‘07/’08 season when he had 21 goals in the first 53 games and looked like a guy who could score.
Since then Horcoff has only 28 goals in 143 games. He needs to bear down more, stopping whiffing on one-timers and shoot with some conviction. He is always in great shape, but for next season he needs to ensure his mind is in great shape and that he is confident enough to convert those one-timers.
And Devan Dubnyk will go for his elusive first NHL victory tonight. Dubnyk is 0-7-2 with a gaudy 4.17 GAA and .869 SV%. And speaking of records if he loses his next three starts he will be precariously close to setting the NHL record for most minutes played by a goal without a win. He is 206 minutes away from breaking that lofty mark. Mirtle tweeted that Dubnyk was 226 minutes shy of the record after his loss in Montreal, so if I substract the 20 minutes he played on Saturday it looks like Oiler fans might have another record to monitor down the stretch.