GDB XXXVI: Blues on the Winter Solstice

I wonder what Steve Tambellini would like for Christmas… Wins? Consistency? A healthy team? Another forward in double digits in goals?

The big question for Tambellini is will he want wins, or sacrifice that and take player development at this point; because right now it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to have both this season.

The Oilers find themselves 15th in the west this morning, seven points out of the playoffs. It’s stunning how quickly things can change in Oilerville in the span of a week. After five straight road wins the Oilers were back in the playoff hunt, three points out with a four-game home stand on the horizon, but three consecutive losses have them closer to Taylor Hall than Lord Stanley.

They lost to LA, Nashville and Washington — all top-seven teams. So it’s not like they’re losing to dogs, but it also shows that this team isn’t ready for prime time.

The biggest challenge that Tambellini, Quinn and company face is trying to separate which of these young players will continue to develop and which ones don’t have the ability to elevate their game to the next level.

The players in the dressing room still feel they can win and get to the playoffs, so don’t expect them to roll over and play dead. But from my stand point, this team is a few players away from being a contender. I don’t expect the team to lose on purpose, because players aren’t wired that way, but within a month the landscape should be very clear in what direction Tambellini should go.

Do you remember the first time?

Quinn has elected to give Devan Dubnyk his first NHL start tonight. According to Quinn, he had this game penciled in as a Dubnyk’s a few weeks ago, but didn’t tell him until this morning.

Dubnyk was obviously excited, but he joked about the pressure of the first NHL start compared to his first NHL game when he came off the bench in Vancouver.

"You always have time to be nervous. The difference about today is that I have all day to think about it, rather than getting nervous when I put on my mask in Vancouver. Trust me; the nerves will be there either way."

Dubnyk won’t be the only change tonight. JF Jacques has recovered from the flu and is ready to go and Quinn wants to play him, but he liked Jason Strudwick’s game on Saturday and hinted that 43 might not be the guy coming out.

He likes the intangibles that Strudwick brings. He talked about his mental toughness, his strength and you got the feeling that Quinn wants guys he knows will compete every play regardless of their ability.

Line shuffle

 Quinn also juggled his lines this morning, which shouldn’t surprise anyone considering they’ve lost three in a row.

Penner — Horcoff — Nilsson
Cogliano — Gagner — Stone
Moreau — Potulny — Brule
Jacques — Stortini — O’Sullivan

This is how they looked at practice, but they could change depending on who Quinn sits out tonight.

Considering the players still feel they can make the playoffs, tonight is a must-win. The Blues are one point ahead of the Oilers, but the Oilers have owned them, winning eight straight.

The Blues don’t have a player with more than 22 points (Brad Boyes), but they have eight players with 18 or more points.

David Backes is hot all of a sudden, with five goals and seven points in his last five games. He had four goals in the first 29 games. The Blues spread out their scoring and David Perron and TJ Oshie each have 18 points playing on the third line.