March 26 2013 01:29PM
The frustration is mounting in Oilersnation. The Oilers have won 8 of their past 26 games and once again they find themselves closer to the basement than a spot in the playoffs.
For the first 40 minutes last night the Oilers didn't play with the smarts, energy or passion you'd expect for a team fighting to stay in the playoffs. They were good in the 3rd period, but this team isn't good enough to play one solid period and win.
The bigger question is what is ailing the Oilers?
The harsh reality is there is no quick fix for the Oilers. One or two moves won't suddenly make this team a contender. They need to upgrade their blueline, they need to mix in some size in their top-nine and they need to find more players who will go to the net regularly. They could improve their 4th line, but that isn't the main concern.
Do the Oilers have the right mix of players to win moving forward? It seems everyone wants to ship out veterans or fringe players, and I see why, but when you get rid of them do you believe the core group has the right combination of skill sets to win?
Some will say it is too early to tell. I'd agree it is too early to know how productive the young kids will be in the future, but is it too early to tell what style of game they'll play?
Can they alter their games to the point they go to the net regularly, or become better puck retrievers, or win more one-on-one battles?
I think the Oilers have a lot of good young players, but I'm not sure that collectively they possess the right mixture of skills to win regularly in the NHL. I assume they will put in the necessary work during the off-seasons to get stronger and quicker and improve any deficiencies in their game, but will that be enough?
I just don't see how the Oilers can develop all their young, skilled forwards at the same time and expect to win. Can six skilled forwards between the ages of 19-23 , none of whom are over 200 pounds or possess a consistent physical element in their game, simultaneously develop the skills, work ethic and gamesmanship that lead to winning ?
I'm not sure anyone knows for sure, but when I look at the history of the game, it seems very unlikely that could happen.
Tonight is another good test to see how the Oilers match up vs. a veteran team filled with numerous strong, heavy players. On Saturday, David Backes, Patrick Bergland and Chris Stewart were too big and strong for the Oilers. Tonight we'll see if they can alter their game and force the Blues to match their speed. The Oilers can't match the size and strength of the Blues, so they'll need to try and quicken the pace. If that doesn't happen, this could be another agonizing evening for the Oilers and their fans.
Eric Belanger aggravated his groin injury after only eight shifts, and he's headed back to the IR, however the Oilers will make the mistake of moving Ryan Smyth back to centre. He's more effective as a winger, there is no point moving him to centre. They should have called up Chris Vande Velde or Anton Lander.
Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins played pretty well last night. Taylor Hall continues to be their most dangerous forward and while the 4/93/14 trio was great together in the 3rd period they ultimately didn't produce anything. I'd keep the triple-H line together, play Eberle with RNH and slide Gagner back with Yakupov and Paajarvi.
I think Theo Peckham has gotten the message. He screwed up in December and January, by not staying in game shape, and he admits as much, but he played decent the games he dressed and after last night's struggles for the 3rd pair I'd dress Peckham tonight. However, it looks like Whitney will draw in for Fistric.
The Oilers aren't mathematically out of the playoff race, but their chances of making it are extremely low. It is inevitable they will move Whitney, so they will showcase him for the next four games, unless he gets moved earlier.
- I watched the replay numerous times and I still don't understand what Fistric was doing on the Mueller goal. I also am perplexed as to why Potter elected to go that far to his left. Fistric's lapse in judgement was the worst, but Potter's wasn't good either. Maybe lack of communication from rarely playing together was a factor, but it is hard to excuse that type of play.
- Bad timing for Belanger to get injured. If he isn't healthy by next week, it is unlikely they can move him. A source told me they would have certainly moved him, but if his groin doesnt' heal then a deal is unlikely.
- Alex Semin gets $35 million over five years. Did Jim Rutherford honestly believe someone would have paid him that on the open market?
- Currently there are only two potential free agent D-men younger than Ladislav Smid, and one of them is Mark Fistric. Here is the complete list of the potential free agent D-men. If the Oilers don't re-sign him do any of these names excite you as possible replacements for him? I don't see many, if any, who play the same role as Smid and would be an upgrade moving forward. It would be foolish to not re-sign Smid.
- I'm curious which teams Doug Maclean thinks would offer up a 2nd rounder for Nikolai Khabibulin? Do you see a fit for him?
- Would you re-sign Khabibulin to a one-year deal at $1.2 million to be the back up next year? His injury history is the major concern, and I wonder if the Oilers would want a veteran or a younger, unproven goalie to push Dubnyk.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Blues are healthy and they are too big, strong and experienced for the Oilers. The Oilers lose 3-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Chris Stewart, Alex Steen and David Backes have their way with the Oilers all night. The Oilers aren't big enough, strong enough or skilled enough to handle them.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Some of the most dedicated and diehard Oiler fans will walk away from the TV tonight. Guys like Racki, Humantorch, Vetinari, Geoilersgist, Newj, Bucknuck, Crusty Grit, Archaeologuy, Ducey, Smokey, A-Mc, Phixieus666 and many more Nation loyalists will switch the channel. They'll end up in the fetal position questioning their sanity and wondering why they are more loyal to the Oilers than they were to any of the first few girlfriends.