April 01 2014 04:18PM
The San Jose Sharks are one of the best teams in the NHL. They’re in a desperate battle with Anaheim for the Pacific Division crown (and the right not to play Los Angeles in the first round). Big, skilled, and motivated, they have every incentive to win every point from here on out.
The Edmonton Oilers, to borrow from Lowetide, are also a team in the NHL.
EDM: Hall-RNH-Eberle, Lander-Gagner-Perron, Smyth-Gordon-Pitlick, Hendricks-Acton-Larsen. Klefbom-Schultz, Marincin-Petry, Fraser-Belov.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) April 1, 2014
Scrivens vs Niemi (8-1-1 lifetime vs EDM) as Sharks look to bounce back following back-to-back regulation losses for 1st time in 2 months.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) April 1, 2014
So the top line’s pretty good, while the fourth line consists of an AHL’er, an AHL’er who is also a defenceman, and whatever body parts still function on banged-up Matt Hendricks. The other lines fall between these two extremes.
The defence is three rookies, an AHL’er, and a pair of mid-tier NHL defencemen.
“We’ve got to be desperate, we’ve got to find a way to stay in the games,” said head coach Dallas Eakins, “and eliminate that big head-shaking mistake.” He went on, apparently seriously, to say that the team should be fine if they can do that.
A little later, he talked about having “guys playing out of position, guys that are going to end up playing more minutes than they normally would,” and cast it as an opportunity for these players to show what they can do.
This is a video we’ve seen before. The person talking was different, from Pat Quinn to Tom Renney to Ralph Krueger. Quinn would have thrown in a Barbara Ann Scott reference, Renney would have unmemorably said sensible things, and Krueger would have been unfailingly positive to the point where frustrated fans were begging for him to throw a chair or something.
All of those coaches have been tasked with trying to put the best face on an impossible situation. Now it’s Eakins' turn. The reality, as demonstrated by every other edition of the roster to play these pointless games, is that a whole bunch of these players will prove unequal to the “opportunity.”
Remember Johan Motin and Ryan O’Marra and Alex Plante and Chris Minard and Charles Linglet and Dean Arsene and Liam Reddox and Taylor Chorney and Marc Pouliot and Aaron Johnson and Ryan Potulny and Ryan Stone? Their names are all permanently in the record books as NHL players, which is a whole lot farther than most aspiring hockey players get, but none of them ultimately ended up helping Edmonton in the long-term (that list, btw, is just from the 2009-10 team).
There’s nothing to be done about it for either the coaches or the players; the situation is what it is. Some of the fill-in types playing tonight might be like Colin McDonald (114 NHL games and counting, thank you) and even those who aren’t are fighting to stay in the league just one day longer; these games matter to them but they’re playing in situations they can’t be expected to excel in. The coaching staff has to put a good face on things and talk about development and opportunity and winning jobs; they don’t have a choice either.
The simple truth is this is a hard place for any team to find itself and that the Oilers have been here far, far too often over the last few seasons. The fault for that lies to some degree on the current roster and coaches, but the majority of the culpability lies with the people who made the decisions that resulted in this roster.
Game day prediction: 5-1 San Jose.
Obvious game day prediction: Edmonton’s defence will cough up pucks and be overrun by San Jose’s big, talented forwards.
Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Philip Larsen scores his third goal of the season off a nice pass from Will Acton.