December 01 2011 01:05PM
On November 12th, Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins ran Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres. Miller's teammates stood by picking flowers. They either couldn't or didn't want to do a thing. Lucic is a beast to handle, that is clear, but a team like the Sabres who feel they are on the rise needed to respond.
Enter Paul Gaustad and Robin Regehr. These two are pillars that their team can lean on to do the heavy lifting when required. Just over a week after the Miller incident those two players sent a clear message to the Bruins early in the game. Gaustad fought Lucic and Regehr took on Zdeno Chara.
I can guarantee that Gaustads fight was premeditated. I can also guarantee that he probably didn't sleep well the night before, and then slept with the lights on for his afternoon nap. It takes a lot of courage to do what he did and his teammates love and respect him for it. They should also thank him, he helped get the team's mojo back.
WIN OR LOSE
It didn't matter if they won or lost the fights.
What mattered was that through those fights it was announced clearly that the Sabres will stand together. If nothing had been done, believe me both the Bruins and the Sabres would have known who was who's daddy.
Gaustad and Regehr are pillars or anchors for their team. Fighting is just a small part of what they contribute. They get in the trenches to do the dirty work. When the skilled players are struggling it is these types of players that help keep the ship steady. Life is very uncomfortable for opposing players when these two are throwing their body and sticks around.
BRINGING BACK RESPECT
The Oilers are also a team trying to get respect back.
Looking at the roster I feel that there are no players similar to the above mentioned. The team has great young talent, leadership, a defense that is surprising people when heathy and solid goaltending.
Yes, Ryan Smyth battles very hard but his skill set is different than a Gaustad. I also think that Ladi Smid is coming along nicely, but as a dman he can't do a lot to wear down opposing D-men.
To be effective a pillar needs to play meaningful minutes. This means they need to be at least a top-nine forward or a top-four D. Examples around the league include Ryan Clowe, Kevin Bieska, Tim Gleason and Scott Hartnell. These players do not grow on trees.
It is expensive to sign them as free agents, so I suggest a course of action of developing home grown players. This would require a change in draft planning. To continue to build the team it may be necessary.
Some of you are thinking i am bringing this up now because of the hit on Taylor Hall. That is not the case. Gregor and I have discussed this on his show and this has been on my mind for some time.
I actually feel it was a clean hit. If the hitter, Ryan Wilson, doesn't want to fight there is nothing the Oilers could have done but wait for another day. That is just the way it is with the current set of rules.
Winning a Stanley cup requires a lot of different pieces to come together. Pillar type players are required, and the Oilers don't have many right now. Colten Teubert might become a top-four in a few years, but that's likely a few years away.
I liked how strong on the puck Tyler Pitlick was in camp last year, and Teemu Hartikainen is a big body, but I'm not certain either one be a pillar.
I think it is time to start looking ahead.