April 03 2012 06:48PM
A long season is near its end, the Oilers are still miles from the second season and the town team is flagging on the left coast. It's probably time to review the good things about this year's team.
Driving around today and talking to Oiler fans, it's a mixture of good, bad and indifferent. Another season without playoffs can be disconcerting, but we shouldn't forget about the good things we've seen in 11-12. Is this team a zero or a ten?
IT GOES TO ELEVEN!
- The Nuge arrived looking like a 12-year old with some long sticks. He graduates the season as one of the two best freshman on planet Earth. RNH's future is extremely bright. Oh, I know all about the zone starts and the qual comp, but he's a powerplay savant and is EV numbers look fine for a teenager. Man. He's better than a lot of us thought he'd be, and when they take you #1 overall that's maybe the best compliment of all.
- Taylor Hall played much of the season with an injury and still managed to post strong numbers. His secondary numbers are good and improving and #4's CorsiRel is strong. Injury is a concern, but when healthy Taylor Hall makes everyone better--we can see that much since his departure.
- Jordan Eberle had a career season--he posted the 2nd best point total in the NW division this year and even on nights when nothing rhymed this kid brought it. Future captain? He has a lot of the qualities based on what we read and he's still in his entry level deal.
- Devan Dubnyk's .927SP at even strength is tied for 13th in the entire NHL The gifted kids can only take this team so far, and a support group that doesn't cost the moon is vital. A home grown goalie making reasonable bucks would go a long way to giving this team the kind of value contracts required to make the playoffs consistently.
- Jeff Petry emerged as an actual NHL defenseman this season and gives Edmonton a young defender with that most rare of things--a wide range of skills and an ability to play big minutes. It's easy to forget that Petry wasn't guaranteed a job this season. Those days are gone.
- Ladlslav Smid and his calm feet (as my friend Louise calls them) allow Edmonton fans at least some hope against fast moving opposition sorties into the Oiler zone. His offense is a bonus and the organization should be given credit for having so much patience with this player.
- Edmonton has the league's second best PP! Holy hell, that's some improvement! 54 goals with the man advantage compares well to last season's 44 and the % has improved from 14.5 to 20.8. Crazy.
- It doesn't sound impressive, but the PK is the NHL's 14th best at 82.6% and 50 goals against. Last season? 74 goals against and a 77% success rate--good for 29th overall.
- Ryan Smyth returns to the scene of the crime and then delivers beyond expectations. The old war horse wore down as the season progressed, but he showed that even at this age there's a lot he can do at a high level. One of the best things about this season has been his return.
- GF-GA: Man, what an improvement. I know there have been a few blowouts, but this teams goal differential has seen exceptional improvement. An example: 141-193 at evens one year ago (-52) and 151-175(-24) this year at the same discipline. That's a lot of gap closed.
- Wins: A year ago, the club won 25. This season, with 2 games left, they're at 32. They'll finish about 10 points north of their final total a year ago.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
We've talked about this before, but it's worth repeating. This has been a tough year no doubt and there will be changes. Management? Maybe? Players? Sure. Coaches? Pretty certain. But these kids will be back in the fall and so will you.
The Edmonton Oilers didn't have to rebuild like this, but went scorched earth. On days like this--the day after a subpar performance--it's easy to forget the quality of these young men.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, the Nuge. You can look forward to their exceptional, God-given talents again this fall and a few new faces too. Lots of work to do, but the long process continues. Will spring 2013 bring a playoff spot? A finish ahead of the Godless Flames?
It's springtime in Edmonton.