WILL A LEADER EMERGE?

"Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it."

I don’t know who to credit with that old saying, but I’ve always believed it to be true. I’m wondering, in that context, what will be revealed about the Edmonton Oilers in the next month, a stretch that will see them play nine or 10 games without injured Ales Hemsky and captain Shawn Horcoff.

What, if anything, will we find out about the collective character of this team? What, if anything, will we find out about the individuals who make up the team? Will a leader or two emerge? Will anybody, as players like to say, "step up?" With Hemsky gone for all of December and Horcoff out for another month longer than that, who among those left in the dressing room will lead the way, or maybe show us something we haven’t seen from them before? Who will step up?

What will be revealed?

A TOUGH GO

With the Oilers already sitting at the bottom of Western Conference standings with 25 points from a 10-12-5 record, I’m thinking they will do well to get out of December with more than 13 wins in the books, regardless of how many players pick up the slack created by the loss of Hemsky and Horcoff.

This team simply doesn’t have the depth of talent or experience to click along unaffected without them. There was barely enough scoring with Hemsky and Horcoff healthy to get by. The defence, with the pairings somewhat sorted out, has looked better recently, but it certainly hasn’t made the leap from being a glaring weakness to a strength. What of the already inept penalty killing without Horcoff and the power play without the creativity of Hemsky?

How will youngsters Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi play without being caddied by Horcoff and Hemsky? I don’t have the answers to any of the above. Only nagging doubts about all of it.

Will Sam Gagner take the wheel? How about Dustin Penner? Is he that guy? What say you about Ryan Whitney? Whitney, who’s been The Fixer for anything and everything that has ailed his teammates on the blueline this season, would be my guess. But that’s all it is, a guess.

TURN HIM LOOSE

I’m looking forward to seeing how the obvious offensive talents of Linus Omark translate to the NHL, if they translate, starting Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What I like best about the 23-year-old Swedish winger is the swagger and confidence he exudes. I don’t have a problem with him being pissed off about not landing a roster spot out of training camp. I don’t have an issue with him talking about it, either.

I don’t give a squirt about the YouTube stuff that made Omark a celebrity over in Europe and got Oilers fans buzzing before he ever set foot in this town. That’s window dressing. Flash. Pizzazz. Fine and good.

What’s got me thinking he’s got a chance to do something is the look I see in his eyes when he talks. There’s an "I’ll-show-you" little guy thing at work in there somewhere, and it’s something I’ve seen before. Cliff Ronning had it. Back in 1984, I sat in Queen’s Park Arena with Ronning and asked him if he had any hope of repeating the 136-point season he was coming off with the New Westminster Bruins. I asked Ronning if all the cards had fallen just the right way for him the season before. Essentially, if we’d seen a one-off.

He looked at me as if I’d insulted his mom. He said simply," I guess we’ll see." His eyes were burning. He scored 197 points that season. I know Ronning is ancient history to most of the readers here, but when you’ve seen that particular look once, you don’t forget it. I saw it again today as reporters quizzed Omark.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

— Speaking of opportunities with Horcoff and Hemsky out of the line-up, these next two months present Ryan O’Marra with the best opportunity of his young career to prove he belongs in the NHL. Can he be the checking centre who wins face-offs the Oilers wanted Colin Fraser to be?

— I’m thinking Paajarvi might benefit as much as anybody with Hemsky and Horcoff out of the line-up. He’s been coming on of late anyway, and he’s going to see a lot more time in Tom Renney’s top-six than he’s had to this point. He skated with Andrew Cogliano and Penner today.

— As Jason Gregor already pointed out, Omark skated with O’Marra and Ryan Jones today. As well as Jones had played the last month, I’d rather see Gilbert Brule on the right wing on that line. I think he’d open up more ice for Omark with his speed.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Ball Buster

    The Cliff Ronning analogy is a good comparison. Theo Fleury,Ken Linesman etc. All these guys played with a chip on thier shoulder. Omark looks like a guy with a mountain on his. He has that fire. That “intangible” ,that I would rather have in a player than not. I want a guy who is a little angry. I want that guy who thinks that he is being dissed. It just stokes that fire inside of him. Makes him want to succeed. I’d rather that then have a player like Robert Nillson or Patrick O’Sullivan who were prime examples of players who were and are gutless. I’ll take Omark’s “I’ll show you” attitude any day of the week over the alternative.

  • cambosmash

    I’m waiting for Paajarvi to do something sweet coming out of the left corner. He creates so many scoring chanes from there coming off the boards, but has nothing to show.

    Maybe he needs to work his way up to the half boards before he makes a move to the net?

  • Oilers4ever

    You know Brownlee.. one thing I’m starting to notice about you.. you are a hugely negative pessimistic person… while this team doesn’t have as much depth as maybe some other teams may, they have a frickin boat load more than last season. So to even think or hint that is going to cause issues is ludicrious… Seems to me when they just won 5 of 6 or whatever it was Hemsky was hurt for all of those games except one… The only impact here may be how Ebs and Hall play without Horc… that’s it… show some frickin positive support for once…

    • John Chambers

      You do realize that whatever is written in the posts, and whatever comment Joe Lunchbucket like you or I make doesn’t have any effect whatsoever on how the Oilers perform, don’t you?

      Unless of course you believe in that positive / negative brainwave energy kind of stuff. And if you do your kind isn’t welcome here.

      • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

        I must say, you really rub me the wrong way.

        This isn’t just about Oilers4ever, who by the way isn’t way out to lunch, but more about your comments in general.

        I’m surprised no one has called you out on your piece of **** attitude in your posts.

        Not trying to insult your intelligence because you don’t seem like a dumb guy but you should google “emotional intelligence”. I think it’ll open your eyes.

        But in the mean time; I’m hatin’ on ya! 😉

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      How is this team deeper then last year?

      Last years team was on the bubble before the injuries hit, this one was alredy in the basement.

    • Oilers4ever

      It’s not my job to be president of the booster club. I’ve got to admit, though, such critical comments about my work from a person as clearly in-the-know and objective as “Oilers4ever” does sting. There’s a tear welling in the corner of my eye.

      • Would you ever put an interim “C” on a player like Whitney or Penner while Horcoff is out?

        I know we always used to tape one on someoen when our captain was out in minor hockey – whould/could they do it at this level?

        I am just thinking outloud; but I believe if you gave Penner the temporary “C” you might see him thrive?

        • Horcsky

          It’s been mentioned a few times by various writers and media that Penner likes to be out of the spotlight, and plays well in a supporting role. I think if they placed the ‘C’ on him we would see the big man crumble after playing so well for the past few weeks.

      • Oilers4ever

        Good… it’s about damn time you recognize credible sources… 🙂

        All I’m saying is they are in a better situation this year to deal with injuries than last year and they really haven’t missed a beat with Hemmer out.. does he make them better, sure he does. But this time last year didn’t have Hall, Ebs, MPS, Fraser, etc… plus they had inexperienced goalies… add O’Marra, Omark, and others on the farm and they have the personnel to keep going… People need to get off this lottery pool crap… I agree with what Renney says.. this team needs to get to the playoffs so they can feel that experience… that will help with the growth more than one hopeful first round pick in the top 5… and with the way teams like the Islanders and such are playing… the Oil have no nope in getting the top pick again anyways…

  • Great read Robin. We can only hope that little Linus has a bit of Cliff Ronning in him. I’m just hoping we don’t get another Robbie Schrempf/Robert Nilsson clone.

    As always, my hopes exceed my expectations.

    Also wanted to point put that it was a refreshing change to see a number of comments that didn’t use that dastardly word. I don’t know if that means that Robin is moderating the hell out of this thread or if there is some kinship of all living things that has manifested itself on this web page.

    Either way I like it. I like it a lot.

      • The last thread was littered with mouthbreathers putting [that word] in it every two seconds. I have no issue with someone jamming it in the first comment but when it is in every comment it is retarded (at least in my opinion.) I recognize that others may not share that position. I thought David S’s comment in the last thread about it was funny.

        Thanks for your input though. I like to get whiny comments about not being able to use a certain word. and then criticism about the lack of content in my comments. Remember I’m not moderating the website so bitching to me about “the rules” doesn’t get you very far.

        Last time I checked think I commented on the content of Robin’s article as opposed to only commenting on the use of [the word]. I don’t see anything about the subject matter of the article in your comment but I may be mistaken about that. I’d ask you to point it out to me but I’m pretty sure you can’t read.

        Hugs and kisses XOXOXOX

        RT

        • I said I’d let you finish, thanks for the textbook on how to make a lame comment. Very entertaining!

          The sign of a weak person is one who must attack personally on the internet. Be proud.

          …….oh yah great article RB (lick lick) I love Cliff Ronning too, what else do you like because I know I’ll love it!

          • I guess you’ve never read any of my other comments before. I take plenty of shots at Robin, Gregor and the other folks as well. Not Wanye because I think he is insane but hilarious. Of course that would necessitate an ability to read and . . . well, see post 63.

            Hugs and kisses!

            EDIT: lots of swagger from a guy who joined the crew two days ago BTW. Guess there was room on the bandwagon once the new rookies arrived.

          • I’ve skimmed your vast two days worth of commenting and have come to the conlusion that your comments bring us the following insight:

            1. Renney needs a new nickname (not earth shattering but plausible);

            2. The poster called Esa Tikkanen has a stick up his arse (yes–even though I do share his disgust over [that word] he was being a little over the top with it);

            3. Several posts where you cleverly used [that word]; and

            4. Some decent points about Katz and the rink.

            I didn’t start taking shots at your posts until you did at mine so it was reactive. I play nice if I’m not sh&t upon so I’ll extend the olive branch. The old adage about glass houses applies.

            Hatchet buried?

            ~Hopefully you can read well enough to understand this~

            Note the use of “~” to indicate I’m joking.

          • I was simply makin a point against the use of the word….was not meant to be a direct shot. Taking away the use of a word is ridiculous. Should the site next ban absurd comments/trades from noobs? This is a forum, read what you want to read. I don’t get the complaining from everyone, not just yourself.

            Just because I actually created an “account” would not imply anything other than starting to post with the same name.

            I read the site because it’s funny, and informative. If it loses the funny then it might as well be calgarypuck!

            All good cutie

    • Gregor laid the smack down in his last item regarding the word that will not appear under items I write, so I can’t take credit.

      Juvenile is fine, but there’s more to humour than fart jokes and F. . . Let’s get past that.

  • Good point Mr. Brownlee. Ronning was even smaller than Omark was at 5’7 and 160 maybe 165. But he played the game a lot like how Patrick Kane plays now. Shifty, quick, agile and was very hard to catch. If Omark can adapt as such the Oilers could have a very useful offensive role player. I’ve been hoping he could be to the Oilers what Kris Versteeg was to Chicago. Only time and opportunity will tell

  • I got to watch Omark in Winnipeg for two games. I believe he was where he belongs. I expected more speed then I saw. I was not surprises that sometimes he forgets about passiing (and he does not handle to puck as well as Hall). He is mostly a one way player, but he has a nose for the open spaces. I suspect he will be able to get points in the NHL but at a cost to the team. Do the oilers really need a streaky one way player? I hope he does well enough that he is worth something in a trade. I was impressed with O’Mara. He looked solid, he has size and if he can win some faceoffs he will be a keeper.

    • Death Metal Nightmare

      what you see in the AHL doesnt always equate to what happens in the NHL. theyre two different surfaces for someone to paint on, bro.

      10 bucks O’Marra wont be a keeper unless politics give him the job. maybe being olderthandirt has the glaucoma messing up your vision.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    Dustin Penner needs to restart the “D-Train” and get chugging along here. When this guy takes the soul to the hole there isn’t a lot of defenders who can match his strength and size. This year saw the return of the “Donair Train” and we don’t need him right now.

    Omark has that try in his game and that’s what this team needs more of. His guts and willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice to get the puck already make him a surefure NHLer. As for his Youtube antics, those are for the kids.

    This team needs to develop a mean streak and have it trickle down the roster. I wouldn’t mind another top pick in the draft but the glimpses here are exciting. We may very well have one of the top D-Men in the league with Whitney and once Hemmer and Horc get back this team could be contending for a playoff spot or riding the donkey all the way to the draft.

  • bdong

    “I don’t give a squirt about the YouTube stuff that made Omark a celebrity over in Europe and got Oilers fans buzzing before he ever set foot in this town. That’s window dressing. Flash. Pizzazz. Fine and good.”

    The Oilers website didn’t waste any time putting that shootout goal on their home page at the time. It seemed a nice little distraction at the end of the 08-09 season.

  • O.C.

    Nice job Robby.

    Spillover effect. This is crunch time for a couple of other players, Brule and JFJ.

    Neither one of these two has shown us that the Oil are worse off without them, and really, isn’t that the test?

    There is one other scenario… Dale Derkatch

    • You must be a fossil, too.

      Derkatch was different. He was in Regina when I covered the Bruins beat and he makes Omark look like a giant. Dale was five-foot-five or five-foot-six and about 150 pounds. Too small to fight through everything in the hooking and holding era.

      There’s been a lot of skilled little guys. THere’s been a lot of determined little guys. There haven’t been a lot of little guys with the skill and the drive I’m sensing with Omark.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    Omark is a real competitor. you can never have too few of those types. someone who guts it out and has something to prove = 10 fold over Robert Nilsson’s weak puss and Dustin “im the big funny friend everyone has who wont take advantage of his size cause he feels guilty” Penner.

    i just hope the Omark experiment gets more time to develop than just a few games, whereas other rookies of the (near) past have gotten WAY TOO MUCH playing time

  • bdong

    Also, I work nights…….what’s your excuse???
    It IS nice to see Paajarvi coming on; I count two amazing set ups that recently had my jaw on the floor. I am also very excited to see Omark and O’Marra play. For sure though, this team is going to struggle.

    • I second the great article, but not as always.

      We had the worst PK with Horcoff in the line-up, I can’t see us getting worse then worst. Worsterer?.!..

      Watch for Penner to step up, his game in on its way up and this is a perfect oppurtunity for him to get a little more vocal.(I heard he stays pretty quiet in the locker room)

      Paajarvi will continue to produce, which will force Omark to keep up with his fellow countryman.

      Jones is a f***ing beast.