February 05 2012 12:29AM
Might the remarkable turnaround in Sam Gagner's season signal the same for the Edmonton Oilers as they attempt to climb out of the lottery sweepstakes with the stretch drive approaching? It looks like it might after Saturday's 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Gagner stayed hotter than a $3 pistol with two goals and an assists to give him points on 11 straight Edmonton goals, then added a goal in the shootout. The Oilers did likewise, keeping their unlikely little roll going by earning their ninth point in the last five games with the win.
Anybody out there see Gagner's outburst coming? Of course not. Hands up everybody who thought the Oilers were capable of producing a stretch like they have these last five games, capped by Thursday's 8-4 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks and the win over the Red Wings.
Gagner, who set a team record with a hand in those 11 straight goals, is obviously going to cool off. So will the Oilers, despite the likelihood they will have a full contingent of players when Tom Gilbert returns to open a three-game road trip in Toronto Monday, but the stretch holds intrigue.
While it's highly unlikely the Oilers will equal the clip they played at in their first 14 games the rest of the way, I think it's safe to say the tailspin that has had fans twitching with angst the past two months is in the rearview mirror. How many games might they win in their final 30?
Time to start moaning about blowing a top-three lottery pick . . .
THE WAY I SEE IT
-- Ales Hemsky might be a goner between now and the NHL trade deadline, but any characterization of the talented Czech winger that includes the word "soft" is laughable.
Hemsky got absolutely starched by Niklas Kronwall early in the first period, but bounced right up, took some ice, got patched up and returned later in the period. He has all kinds of jam. Not an issue. Never has been.
-- I liked what I saw from Ben Eager, who went looking for a scrap and found one with big Mike Commodore. Eager hasn't been as busy with his fists as a lot of people expected, but his response, and that of all the Oilers, after seeing Hemsky get laid out was the right one – even if he threw a kill-shot at the start of the scrap that put him off balance and in trouble.
-- It's fair comment to say Anton Lander would've been better served playing in the AHL this season, but I like what I see, particularly the penalty killing component of his game. While it's more a case of circumstance than playing style, I can see Lander developing much the way Shawn Horcoff did as a youngster – a player who starts as a fourth-liner and works his way up.
WHILE I'M AT IT . . .
-- The Oilers need more real NHL defensemen and that means they need to keep Andy Sutton with a new contract unless a team out there is offering a clear-cut over-pay for him. Sutton, despite a big miss on Todd Bertuzzi's 4-3 goal, has more than enough game left to be one of those transitional players GM Steve Tambellini needs on the back end.
-- OK, I'm a sucker for underdogs, but I wouldn't be the least bit upset to see Cam Barker SIUTBOHC the way Ryan Jones did last season. What a difference it makes to the flow of the attack to have crisp first-passers like Barker (and especially Ryan Whitney) in the line-up.
-- Ham-handed Eric Belanger gets a shot in the shootout and Shawn Horcoff doesn't? Sorry, Tom Renney, but that's called a brain cramp (and winning despite not playing the percentages).
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.