With the air around Rexall Place so thick with failure, fear and loathing these days and the Edmonton Oilers playing out the string, it’s almost impossible to find a silver lining for fans to hang their hats on.
Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the feeble Colorado Avalanche was more of the same for the die-hard faithful, who filed into the parking lot after watching what’s left of their outfit drop to 12-20-5 at Rexall Place.
You can’t go anywhere inside the old rink these days without bumping into an injured player — Sam Gagner was fetching popcorn for himself and his dad, Dave, up in the press box, Colin Fraser was chatting with friends near the elevator in the back hall.
The woe-is-us tale of injury has been pretty much documented. And, no, Ryan Whitney won’t play again this season, even if he might need one or two more games to finish ahead of Tom Gilbert in points. Whitney will still be named the team’s top defenseman.
Still, at least from my perch in the press box, there have been some positives worth noting as the Oilers stagger and limp to the finish line and 30th place. Not many, but some.
I’ll bray, whine, moan and criticize further down, but, for the sake of sanity and because it’s supposed to be spring and there’s still a foot of snow on the ground — we won’t be able to play winter-rules golf for at least another month — let’s look on the bright side.
— Teemu Hartikainen has an awkward, abbreviated stride that reminds me of how former Oiler Jarret Stoll skated when he first got the NHL. If that’s the biggest limitation facing the robust Finn, he’ll be just fine. Let Steve Serdachny have Hartikainen for a summer and he’ll be ready to roll out as a third-liner alongside Ryan Jones next September.
— Despite a hideous plus-minus, Linus Omark looks more and more like an option as a top-six forward. Omark’s creativity is unquestionable and it’s impossible not to like his grit. You cannot teach the kind of knack for creating offence he possesses.
— A lot of people thought Magnus Paajarvi might be the best out of the blocks among Oilers rookies because of his time in the SEL, but it’s been the opposite. With Taylor Hall out and all the other injuries, he’s coming on late with increased ice time. Eight shots against the Avalanche.
— We now only have 96 days remaining before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota June 24-25, at which time the Oilers will either select Joe Sakic (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) or Nicklas Lidstrom (Adam Larsson).
MR. POOPY PANTS
— Terry Jones regaled us today with a stop-the-presses column on Edmonton’s magic number for locking up 30th place for the second straight season.
That’s fine and good — every scribe leans on standard stuff like that in the Dog Days of a season like this — but if Large is going to offer up a column hinging on numbers, he can’t whiff like this: "Even if the Oilers managed to get their 56th point of the season, the Avs, with the 2-1 SO win, went up by a full six on Edmonton . . ." The score, Large. The score.
— Kari Lehtonen of Dallas has six assists in 59 games this season, which gives him more points than Fraser (2-2-4), Jason Strudwick ( 0-2-2) and Steve MacIntyre (0-1-1) and leaves him just behind hard-working, wood-for-hands Liam Reddox (0-8-8). Lehtonen plays goal for the Stars.
— I’ll take a player who gives you all he’s got like Reddox does over a talented slacker any day, but I’m not willing to do statistical gymnastics to justify his place on the roster of a good NHL team. If Reddox has a job in Edmonton two years from now, the Oilers are hurting.
AND . . .
— Memo to NHL referees: Fans don’t pay good money to see you. For the majority of officials, those who get that, please disregard. For those who don’t, well, get with the program.
— Who has provided more bang for the buck based on the cheques they’ll cash this season, Gagner or Andrew Cogliano?
— How about those absolutely stirring renditions of the national anthems at Rexall Place last night by Lindsay Ell? I’m just sayin’ . . .
— Note to Jason Gregor: I still watch Underdog in my pajamas. I can’t speak for Lowetide, but Sam and I have ordered our Harski namebars.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.