March 06 2014 03:03PM
Now that the playoff roster deadline has passed, the focus, unfortunately for Oilers fans, once again turns to the draft lottery.
The Oilers are virtually guaranteed to finish in the bottom five, and unless one of the teams finishing 17th-25th wins the lottery, the Oilers will have another top-five pick.
|26||NY Islanders||M||64||24||32||8||56||18||176||217||-41||9-16-8||15-16-0||6-4||3-7-0||Won 1|
Tonight's game is critical, if you believe a higher draft spot guarantees the Oilers a better player, because a win puts the Oilers within four points of the Islanders, while a loss puts them eight points back.
Let the race begin.
The Oilers are 6-2-2 in their last ten games, with only Minnesota and Philadelphia picking up more points during that stretch. They've been out shot in 9 of those games, and were tied in the other one, a 3-0 loss to Minnesota.
Ben Scrivens and Ilya Bryzgalov have been exceptional in goal, and during the two regulation losses the Oilers were shutout out both times. They are winning due to goaltending which hasn't happened regularly in quite some time.
The offence has only scored 10 goals in the last seven games, and their top-six forwards need to play better.
Hall, Eberle, Perron and Yakupov have one goal each over the last seven games, while Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner have none. These six need to start producing goals.
I like the decision to play Gagner with Hall. The Oilers need Gagner to play well down the stretch for various reasons. If they don't trade him they him need to regain some confidence, and if MacTavish is looking to move him then he needs 89 to play much better. It will be difficult to trade him for anything of value if he keeps struggling, so play him with Hall the rest of the year and hope he gets going.
I thought they might start Fasth. Usually coaches play players against their former team, and with the Kings coming in on Sunday I thought Scrivens would play then, but Eakins said he told Fasth to prepare that he is playing Sunday.
Fasth's last NHL game was November 18th. He missed 37 games with a muscle inflammation/lower body issue, but he did play four games in the AHL in February and told me on Tuesday that he is 100% healthy and ready to play.
It is hard to argue against playing Scrivens because he has been outstanding, so it does make sense to stick with the hot goalie.
Fasth is looking forward to battling for the starting job. "It is good to have two goalies competing for the job. I think it helps a team to have two guys who want to start and are capable of it," he told me Tuesday.
I love his attitude. This team needs more competition. The second line should be competing with the first line for PP and ES time. Same thing on the blueline, and it would refreshing if Fasth's attitude towards competition was embraced by all the players and the organization.
The management, coaching and the players have to show they don't accept losing. It is easy to say you don't, but actions speak louder than words and it is time that everyone in the franchise displayed a winning attitude.
- The NHL's decision to lower the Devil's punishment regarding cap circumvention looks awful. Did Lou Lamoriello think this was possible at the 2012 draft, when he elected to keep the 29th overall pick instead of forfeiting it? Maybe, but today that decision still looks foolish. Currently the Devils own the 11th overall pick, and depending how the final 19 games unfold they could forfeit a top-ten pick.
- Hemsky played junior in Hull, just outside Ottawa, but I don't think that will be enough of a reason for him to not test free agency. This year's crop of free agents forwards isn't very deep, so he could fetch a good contract in July.
- I wrote above that yesterday was the playoff roster deadline and not the trade deadline. NHL teams can still make trades today, but the players traded aren't eligible for the postseason. If the Oilers and Sabres wanted to make a trade today or next week they could.
- I don't understand why the NHL only allows four callups from now until the end of the season. The lottery eliminates teams from guaranteeing themselves the first overall pick, but even if they put in a rule that said you could only have three call ups on an NHL roster at one time, baring injury, after the deadline would make more sense.
The Oilers would like to see Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Taylor Fedun, Oscar Klefbom and maybe even Marc Arcobello, but based on the rules only three of them can be recalled, unless the Oilers get into serious injury troubles. (If I read CBA correctly, I think Larsen counts as one -- can anyone confirm? -- which leaves only three recalls left.) If there are only three recalls remaining, then Klefbom, Lander and Pitlick would be the three I'd want to see.
Playing one or two NHL games can be a great learning tool for young players. It gives them a taste of the league, but more importantly they can find out how challenging the league is and what they need to work on in the off season. Players always tell themselves what they need to work on, but when they actually get to play in a game, they have a better sense of how hard it actually is and what they need to improve on to stay in the NHL.
- The goalie situation in Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton is very even. Today the Oilers' goalies have 79 career NHL starts, the Flames' duo has 68 career starts while the Canucks tandem has started 59 NHL games.
Out of those six goalies: Scrivens (51), Fasth (28), Ramo (66), Ortio (2),Markstrom (38) and Lack (21) which one do you think emerges as the best goalie?
- The Edmonton Oilers need to change their practice habits. Earlier this year Ladislav Smid said he was surprised at how intense the Flames' practices were. Today, after his first practice in Minnesota, Ilya Brzygalov said Minnesota's practices have "a way faster pace." Compile that with Barry Trotz ripping Devan Dubynk's techniques, and Ken Hitchcock saying Magnus Paajarvi needed to learn the game, I'd say this is an organizational issue. Paajarvi, Dubnyk and Smid were all here before Eakins, so the lack of intense practices and attention to detail has been an issue this year and in previous seasons.
The Oilers, specifically MacTavish and Eakins, need to listen to these comments from former players, take them to heart and improve the situation. If they don't improve how they practice, it will be hard to improve on game day.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Both of these teams would love to eventually jump into the big boys fish bowl and compete for the playoffs, and tonight the Oilers show they are at least closer to getting there than the Islanders with a 6-1 victory (they have to score at some point).
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: ~The Islanders won't be very competitive.~ Tavares is injured while Vanek and McDonald were traded in the past 48 hours. That is three of their top-six scorers.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers sell out streak ends tonight. Of all the remaining home games none are less attractive to hockey fans than tonight. The surprise is that the Oilers announce that it isn't a sell out.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR