February 04 2012 01:17PM
The Oilers are only one player, Tom Gilbert, away from being healthy for the first time all season. The Oilers haven't had a game where Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Whitney, Ladislave Smid, Cam Barker and Tom Gilbert have all been in the lineup, but they are getting very close.
Nugent-Hopkins returns tonight after injuring his shoulder in Chicago and Tom Gilbert told me yesterday he is shooting to return Monday in Toronto. If the Oilers can stay healthy for the next month it will be interesting to see how they fare. Their last four games have been pretty solid, 3-0-1, and they'll have another tough test tonight against the Red Wings.
Nugent-Hopkins has six goals and twelve points in eight HNIC games this year, so we should probably expect him to have a solid return this evening. To start the game he won't be playing with Hall and Eberle.
Hall - Gagner - Eberle
Horcoff - RNH - Hemsky
Smyth - Belanger - Jones
Eager - Lander - Petrell
Smid - Petry
Whitney - Potter
Barker - Sutton
Renney had to keep the Gagner trio together after their 16-point performance v. Chicago, but I wonder if sometime this week we will see Gagner- RNH - Eberle as a trio and Hall - Horcoff - Hemsky as one. Time will tell. I also think we'll see Horcoff take the draws and then have RNH play centre, which could lead to more puck possession for Nugent-Hopkins.
Renney has stayed true to his word with his "win and you're in" philosophy regarding his goalie. Dubnyk made 43 saves on Thursday, and he's been better than the opposing goalie for four straight games.
FOLLOW UP ON HEMSKY
It is clear that Hemsky is a hot topic in Oilersnation, which is great, but I find it interesting how so many are certain that Ales Hemsky is done being a productive player based on a sub-par 38 games. He is coming off shoulder surgery, and he clearly re-aggravated it in the 2nd game of the season, so have the subsequent 36 games really been an accurate portrayal of what type of player he will be in the future?
I would argue his larger body of work, the previous 360 games where he scored 331 points, for a .92 ppg clip would be slightly more accurate than 38 games, but that is just me.
He has 9 points in his last 13 games, and I'm fully aware he hasn't been dominant in those games, but it is mind-blowing to me how many are adamant that his best days are suddenly behind him. He's 28 years old.
Also, I received confirmation from the Oilers that there has been NO discussion on salary at this point. There has been a minor, very minor, chat about term but that was it. We all know how negotiations work, whether you are selling a house, car, tickets on line or trying to secure a contract.
If you are selling then your asking price is always higher than what you are willing to accept, because you want the buyer to feel like you came down in price during negotiations. And if you are the buyer, your first offer is always lower than what you'd pay. We all know the dance.
The fact is at this point; both sides have confirmed they have had zero talks on dollars. Term is important as well, but ultimately dollars are what matters.
I think it is fair to say that there would be more teams interested in acquiring Hemsky via trade or free agency, than there are top-six players available to come to the Oilers. I think we'd all agree on that, so I'd suggest the Oilers should be more proactive.
At this moment, Ales Hemsky's situation is the most important decision for the Oilers, so I hope that they would start focusing on it right away. Of course Hemsky would like a four-year deal, and it sounds like the Oilers only want to sign him for two, but why not put a legit offer on the table to get the discussions started? Are they certain he wouldn't sign a three-year deal?
As I stated yesterday, it is hard to find a top-six forward, and Hemsky is that. Some of you mistakenly think a top-six forward needs to be a point-per-game players, and that isn't the case. If Hemsky is only a 55-60 point player he'd be in the top-60 in scoring for forwards.
I've never said he needs to be a PPG player to be successful, especially because he's never been one, but the fact is there are very few who will be. Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins are likely going to be those guys moving forward, but you need more than three solid forwards to win.
Whether the team decides to keep or move Hemsky isn't by beef at this point, my concern is that the most important decision today for this team is deciding on the future of Hemsky and there has been no serious negotiations to see if he'd stay. If they put their best offer in front of him, and he decided that isn't good enough, then fine, trade him, but why not get the negotiating started?
I also find it interesting that many of the arguments for trading Hemsky focus on that he is injury-prone and he doesn't care anymore. Accurate on the former, but a complete guess on the latter. Others feel he is too risky to keep because he might be injured, yet in the same breath they are hoping that Linus Omark or some other unproven player can replace his point totals? Please explain the logic in that. What has Omark shown that would make us believe he can be a 0.92 PPG player for the next 360 games?
Omark has skill, there is no debating that, but I'd say Hemsky has a much better chance of coming close to his production of the past six seasons, than Omark has. Keep in mind that during this supposed horrible season that Hemsky is having, in his 38 games he has 20 points which equals .52 PPG. In Omark's 56 career NHL games he has tallied .48 PPG.
If Hemsky wants a five or six year deal, I can understand why the Oilers trade him, but until you put actual offers on the table they won't know what he'll agree to.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ty Conklin will start for the Red Wings, with Jimmy Howard nursing a broken finger. In previous seasons, any ex-Oiler seemed to dominate the Oilers, but not tonight. The Oilers keep rolling with a 4-3 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: You will all be pumped to watch tonight's tilt more than you have in a long time. Gagner's eight-point night still has you amped up, and you should be. That was an incredible night, and while I don't see another 8-point performance from someone, (I'd love to be wrong) I suspect we'll see another highly entertaining game.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Horcoff converts one of Nugent-Hopkins seeing-eye passes and the Nation, in unison, is shocked. Just for fun Horcoff finishes with three points, and the Nation is in shock as the two most polarizing forwards combine for 11 points in the last two games. It will make for a fun-filled comments section of the GDB.