Now that we have reached the pivotal 1/10th mark of the NHL season, it’s safe to make some assumptions and observations about this edition of the Edmonton Oilers, no?
The biggest surprise from where I sit — aside from a 5-2-1 record in the wake of Monday’s 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks and the corporate gouge at the gas pumps we woke up to today — has been Nikolai Khabibulin.
I’m not surprised that he’s playing as well as he has in his last four outings because he’s played at this level before, but I am surprised he’s looked so sharp so soon after looking like another millstone contract in pre-season and in his first two starts.
While Khabibulin did little to inspire confidence in pre-season, he’s been the difference in his last four starts — a stretch in which he’s stopped 135 of 144 shots for a .937 saves-percentage.
My biggest worry about Khabibulin wasn’t that he couldn’t find his game, but that it might take him a month or so to do it, which could have put the Oilers in a hole they’d spend all season digging out of.
That concern, it’s clear, was unfounded.
- Maybe the most impressive thing about that 5-2-1 record is that the Oilers have managed it largely without Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios, essentially their No. 1 defence pairing to start the season.
- In the absence of Souray and Staios, Taylor Chorney has stepped in and vaulted himself ahead of Theo Peckham on the organization’s depth chart. Peckham couldn’t challenge for a job at training camp because of an ankle injury. While he’s back on the blades in Springfield, Chorney hasn’t looked out of place since being summoned, which signifies a nice bounce-back after a tough 2008-09 AHL season.
Now, with speculation Souray could be out as long as a month with his concussion, Chorney has a chance to make hay.
- No, Shawn Horcoff can’t take a salary cut under terms of the new CBA, even if he should. With just 1-1-2 for boxcars, it doesn’t take a vast intellect to see Horcoff is struggling mightily. His one saving grace had been his work in the face-off circles, but that hit the ditch against the Canucks.
- Who is the dolt who came up with the moniker PDP, as in Poor Dustin Penner? The only thing I don’t like about Penner’s game right now is that he’s not lining up with Horcoff and Ales Hemsky (and J.F. Jacques is).
- Anybody willing to bet Tom Gilbert will reach 40 points this season? You know what I think: not a chance.
- Bob Stauffer and I were talking about this the other day: How about a first line with Mike Comrie at left wing, Sam Gagner at centre and Hemsky on right wing. Then, a second line with Penner on the left side, Andrew Cogliano at pivot and Patrick O’Sullivan on right wing?
- If Chorney continues to show he’s ready to play, does it make sense to trade Gilbert? Yes, I’ve heard the rumours about a swap with Buffalo for Drew Stafford.
- I’m not going to take on Pat Quinn over not dressing guys simply to fight, especially given this tidy little start, but if Steve MacIntyre hasn’t dressed for games with Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota, why is he here?
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.