THE MIDAS TOUCH: SAM STAYS HOT

Might the remarkable turnaround in Sam Gagner’s season signal the same for the Edmonton Oilers as they attempt to climb out of the lottery sweepstakes with the stretch drive approaching? It looks like it might after Saturday’s 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Gagner stayed hotter than a $3 pistol with two goals and an assists to give him points on 11 straight Edmonton goals, then added a goal in the shootout. The Oilers did likewise, keeping their unlikely little roll going by earning their ninth point in the last five games with the win.

Anybody out there see Gagner’s outburst coming? Of course not. Hands up everybody who thought the Oilers were capable of producing a stretch like they have these last five games, capped by Thursday’s 8-4 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks and the win over the Red Wings.

Gagner, who set a team record with a hand in those 11 straight goals, is obviously going to cool off. So will the Oilers, despite the likelihood they will have a full contingent of players when Tom Gilbert returns to open a three-game road trip in Toronto Monday, but the stretch holds intrigue.

While it’s highly unlikely the Oilers will equal the clip they played at in their first 14 games the rest of the way, I think it’s safe to say the tailspin that has had fans twitching with angst the past two months is in the rearview mirror. How many games might they win in their final 30?

Time to start moaning about blowing a top-three lottery pick . . .

THE WAY I SEE IT

— Ales Hemsky might be a goner between now and the NHL trade deadline, but any characterization of the talented Czech winger that includes the word "soft" is laughable.

Hemsky got absolutely starched by Niklas Kronwall early in the first period, but bounced right up, took some ice, got patched up and returned later in the period. He has all kinds of jam. Not an issue. Never has been.

— I liked what I saw from Ben Eager, who went looking for a scrap and found one with big Mike Commodore. Eager hasn’t been as busy with his fists as a lot of people expected, but his response, and that of all the Oilers, after seeing Hemsky get laid out was the right one – even if he threw a kill-shot at the start of the scrap that put him off balance and in trouble.

— It’s fair comment to say Anton Lander would’ve been better served playing in the AHL this season, but I like what I see, particularly the penalty killing component of his game. While it’s more a case of circumstance than playing style, I can see Lander developing much the way Shawn Horcoff did as a youngster – a player who starts as a fourth-liner and works his way up.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

— The Oilers need more real NHL defensemen and that means they need to keep Andy Sutton with a new contract unless a team out there is offering a clear-cut over-pay for him. Sutton, despite a big miss on Todd Bertuzzi’s 4-3 goal, has more than enough game left to be one of those transitional players GM Steve Tambellini needs on the back end.

— OK, I’m a sucker for underdogs, but I wouldn’t be the least bit upset to see Cam Barker SIUTBOHC the way Ryan Jones did last season. What a difference it makes to the flow of the attack to have crisp first-passers like Barker (and especially Ryan Whitney) in the line-up.

— Ham-handed Eric Belanger gets a shot in the shootout and Shawn Horcoff doesn’t? Sorry, Tom Renney, but that’s called a brain cramp (and winning despite not playing the percentages).

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

    • From URBAN DICTIONARY

      Hotter than a three dollar pistol:

      “Extremely hot to the point of physical displeasure or burning. Derived from 19th century American slang referring to a cheap pistol assembled from mismatching parts with improper tolerances, which when fired became very hot due to poor ignition and burning of the powder charge, and projectile friction from a misaligned chamber and barrel. My car had been sitting in the sun with the windows up, and when I got inside the steering wheel was hotter than a three dollar pistol.”

      Two-dollar pistol is also popular and was a George Jones song, but that came well after the term was first coined.

      In any case, Simple, I’ll use the term I choose if that’s OK with you. In fact, I will continue to use it, and always have, even if it’s not OK with you. Got it? Good.

      One other thing. On Jan. 17, you wrote this: “Actually I am done reading your columns Brwnlee. The fact is you have turned pportions of this site in to your own personal propaganda machine. Quite sad as it used to offer an unbiased informed opinion of people who could accept the fact that their opinion is exactly that an opinion and not absolute truth.”

      That bit of fake indignance was amusing, as was the previous comment you made at the time. Your only concern was trying to get under my skin (archived comments tend to reveal these things), as is the case again today. That aside, if you can’t keep your word and must read, I’d be happy to ensure you are finished with commenting on what I write. Deal?

  • The_Reed_Larson_Solution

    Hi Brownlee,

    Long time reader, first time writer. Really started taking notice with your piece on your son. Solid.

    I read your articles for a multitude of reasons. And your response to a ‘fake indignant’ fan is just another one.

    But back to real matters, why do you think the Oilers have kept Lander up the whole season? I agree with your assessment on his upside, wrt Horcoff. He’s got a head for the game. I’m glad he got to stay at the beginning of the year because he was impressive enough, and looked like he earned a spot.

    Or maybe there’s an understanding in OKC that Nelson gets to try and win, and they develop a finite number of players a year and Lander is close enough to the big leagues that he might be stretched up here….just guessing.
    Your thoughts?

    • I think your take is as good as any.

      While Lander would get more ice time and actual experience in OKC, he’s practising and playing with and against better players here. What’s best? That’s the question.

      That’s a great fake name, as well. You must be old school. Reed Larson had a great shot from the point. I remember him well.

      • I thought your comparision to Horcoff was interesting. One, because Horcoff was the last person would put up 70 points in a season before the lockout year. I wonder if you agree, but I really think that the lockout year was crucial in Horcoff’s career, giving him the chance to build confidence and get prime offensive minutes in the SEL, and helped him avoid being pigeon holed as a third line shutdown NHL center. If that lockout year didn’t happen, would Horcoff ever have become known as a top 6 center?

        I wonder if Lander needs the same type of year where he gets first line prime offensive minutes to build his offensive game, should we be doing that in the AHL right now?? When you consider Horcoff was scoring at three times the pace in his rookie season, I think so. I agree with you, I like what I see when Lander’s out there penalty killing, but I think most of the signs and comparisions say that we might be hindering his offensive potential.

  • General Question:

    Everything seems to be clicking, so other than a few depth moves, I don’t know how our outlook’s going to be come Feb. 27th…

    Would you trade (right now):

    Our first rounder + prospect for Montreal’s first rounder?

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    First time this season I can say I was really impressed with Barker. When he cuts that rope connecting a piano to his ass he really looks like he’s got good instincts and decision making.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Come on guys, the shootout is a crapshoot. Even the best shooters are around 50%. It’s worse than a coin flip.Sure you can do the MLB manager thing and play the odds but in baseball you have 162 games to grind it out. Shootouts are a gut feel thing. Maybe Belanger was killing it in practice. Who knows. But it’s not the 1980’s, boys. Why are we critiquing a win? We don’t have that luxury.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Like Robin, i would’ve put a hundred on two regulation losses against the Hawks and Wings. Something’s different with this club it seems now. Gagner appears to suddenly be the player the Oilers hoped he’d be and the Oilers are getting healthy. Everyone seemed into it last night. Barker was stirring the pot and effective, the Oilers topline was dangerous all night long.

    Congrats to Sam Gagner on shedding that thousand pound monkey off his back. With whats happened to 89 the last week he looks like a different player.

    Hopes of another lottery pick are fading fast but there’s always hope that Tambellini chooses to sell high in the next couple weeks. still think another lotto pick or two is in the best short and long term interests of this club.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    With Gilbert coming back against the lafs, and Peckham being the odd duck of the bunch does anybody else see him in some sorta package deal, then bringing in Tueburt to b the 7th dman.

    • Puritania

      Tubes needs to play big minutes in OKC. I’d prefer Petry to get sent down and play big minutes as well but I’m sure he would be waiver eligible. Teddy should be the 7th dman until Potter needs to sit imo. Since I’m sure Petry is waiver eligible I guess Teddy is the odd man out.

    • Why?

      People, including me, have lamented the lack of depth on the blue line. So, the second you’ve got an extra body back there, you have to make a deal? How does a team build depth that way?

      If Teubert develops as I think he might, he’ll take Peckham’s spot at some point next season. You don’t have to open that spot, thus negating competition for it, by making a trade.

      • Jason Gregor

        You think they’ll bring Peckham back Robin, or does it sound like a situation where, if the bring back Sutton, they’ll probably move on from Peckham?

        I mean, at some point there’s only so many 5-7 D you can have. The Oilers already have Petry and Potter in two of those spots, if they bring back Sutton they probably don’t have roster room to bring back Barker and/or Peckham, if they look to upgrade the D via trade or UFA in the summer, and ignoring that they may get a young D back in a potential Hemsky deal.

        I’ve been surprised how much I’ve liked Sutton this year, I was expecting to like him less, but he’s arguably taking the roster spot of the D you need to upgrade, so I’m not sure what EDM will do there. I mean, if you get to July and can’t get anyone better, sure, bring him back, but if you can get value at the deadline, you have to look at it, IMO.

      • a lg dubl dubl

        No no that’s not what I meant, it just seems like Peckham always seems to be the one sitting when imo he should be playing and getting better at the dman posistion. I was just wondering if ST would put him in a package to get that stud dman the team does need because with Whitney, as much as I like the guy, how dependable can he be health wise?

        I do agree with Tueburt needing to play more down in OKC, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to be the 7th dman right now where it could hurt Peckham development wise, having depth is needed, but having the depth to replace a guy like Whitney or Gilbert when injuries happen is needed too as we have seen this season the team does not have right now.

        My point is the team has depth in the bottom 3, just not the top 3 dman position yet.

  • Mitch

    Robin I just want the team to show consistency. Yes the oilers are still gonna lose some games but we can’t lose 4-6 game stretches in a row. When you have a team down 3 or even 2 goals bury them.

    Sam is hotter than hell, good for him maybe he’s turned a corner, I won’t make judgement on 2 games.

    It really really bothers me that Horcoff gets the ice time that he does, I feel his game has dropped and bad. Now RNH is stuck with Horcoff on the wing? don’t need to justify the salary TOM, this is the NHL.

  • Simple Simom. WAT UP Bro? Dontcha thinka the words he be using hip enough for ya? Brownnlee uses English. Remember that language? Sounds and looks familiar. English. Pop Culture. Save that for the ignorant teeming masses. Bring your dictionary if you have one. Ask your scrivner to translate.

  • oilredemption

    Sending Belanger out on the shootout with his history is like betting on the river in poker that the ace u need to make a pair flops when there is a king, queen and jack on the table. Yes you can go with a gut feeling it might come out but its highly unlikely based on the odds. I do agree with you Chris that just because a player is a good game player it might not exactly translate into the shootout. There is a definite disconnect there for sure. The fact here still remains though, you go with your hot hands and odds before you take the gambles. Horcoff (as much of a, well i wont say useless player more of a cant understand why hes used so much player if u will) and Nuge have to go out before Belanger plain and simple.

    On a side note Belanger mark my words will find his niche with the oilers and his offense will come back. Hes with us for 3 years and i actually like his play as a 3rd line center hes just down on himself with his lack of production for whatever reason. As the old cliche goes confidence is everyting.