GDB 56.0: FALLING LEAFS

Usually opposing fans loathe successful franchises. Many outside of Edmonton couldn’t stand the Oilers after they won a few Cups. They were considered cocky, arrogant and influenced the league to invoke the mythical "can’t hit Gretzky" rule. The Habs were/are dispised because they’ve won more Cups than any other franchise, of course they’ve only won two since the league expanded to 21+teams, but most still can’t stand them.

The Leafs haven’t won, or even been in a final, in 44 years and they look like a good bet to extend that to 45 years this spring. The Leafs have lost four straight and even though they are 6-8-1 in their last 15 games, they’ve allowed the New York Islanders to make up 7 points in that stretch and suddenly the Islanders are within 6 points of the 8th place Leafs with a game in hand.

The Oilers are out of the playoff hunt way too early again, but a win tonight would allow their fans the enjoyment of watching the Leafs choke their way out of a playoff spot.

The Oilers have only played once in the last week, an OT win in Ottawa, and they should be well-rested and ready to dictate the pace of the game to a Leafs team that got pumped 5-1 in Calgary last night. The Leafs have been outscored 16-5 during their four-game losing skid, so the Oilers need to take it to them early.

LINE UP

Tom Renney wasn’t on the ice this morning and he didn’t address the media after the morning skate. They are trying to lessen his workload due to his concussion-type symptoms. The only lineup change will be Cam Barker coming in for the injured Corey Potter. I’m surprised Nikolai Khabibulin is starting considering Dubnyk hasn’t played in nine days. Dubnyk has to show that he can be consistent for long stretches. He should start at least 18 or 20 of the final games because the organization needs to learn if he can handle a heavier workload.

Renney won’t change his lines, despite the Oilers twitter feed and right’s holders erroneously reporting that during Monday’s practice. Magnus Paajarvi, who finally scored in Ottawa, will stay alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. They created a lot in Ottawa and Paajarvi has had some pretty good jump the past two games.

Of course he’ll need to string together more than two solid games before anyone gets too excited, including him. "I don’t think it (scoring) means my slump is over. I need to keep producing before I will think that. It was a relief of course, but I’m far from satisfied," said Paajarvi on Monday.

He also feels that just "going to the net" won’t solve everything. "That’s all I’ve been hearing lately. I understand I have to go there more often, but there are other things I can do to improve as well," he told me on Monday. 

Hall – Gagner – Eberle
Paajarvi – Horcoff – Hemsky
Smyth – Belanger – Jones
Eager – Lander – Petrell

Smid – Petry
Whitney – Gilbert
Barker – Sutton

Khabibulin

QUICK HITS

  • Hemsky has 7 points in his last 7 games and 13 in his last 17 games. Do you still believe he can’t produce? I understand it is a risk to sign him to a four-year deal, but I’d argue it is just as risky to trade him for prospects and picks. If he’d sign a four-year deal at $4.5/cap hit I’d sign him.
     
  •  Interesting how players are perceived. Many seem to think Rick Nash is a proven superstar, despite only scoring 70+ points once in his career. "He’s never had anyone to play with," is the usual response. Hemsky has had two 70-point campaigns. Are you suggesting that Horcoff is that more dynamic offensively than Antoine Vermette or Kristian Huselius? Look at Jarome Iginla in Calgary. He’s been very consistent, even when the Flames missed the playoffs seven years straight. Nash looked good in two Olympic stints, but is two goals and six points in 13 games really superstar status? Others love him because of his production at the World Championships, but why? Do you think those games are more competitive than NHL games? I like Nash, but at $7.8 million he’s overpaid for the production he has produced thus far.
     
  •  I don’t see how the defend trading Nash after acquiring Carter and Wisniewski last summer? Would seem like they are just going in circles if they move Nash for a return that is likely close to what they gave up to get Carter. Unless they trade both Nash and Carter and decide to go for a complete rebuild, I don’t see how moving Nash improves the Jackets.
     
  • Would the Leafs actually considering moving Luke Schenn? He will be a solid defender who might chip in 20 points. He is still very young, and if Burke wants to move him, I’d be on the blower today to see what type of return he is looking for.
     
  • Many are wondering if the Oilers are showcasing Khabibulin. If the Oilers trade him, who will be their goalies next year? Look at the free agent market. Tomas Vokoun is the only proven goalie who is better. Marty Brodeur is not an option. Josh Harding would be free, but would it be smart to go into a season where the Oilers need to make the playoffs with two goalies, Dubnyk and Harding, who have never started 30 games/season? Khabibulin has been solid this year, and at least you’d have a proven veteran in case Dubnyk isn’t consistent. 
     
  • Is getting a prospect for Khabibulin worth the risk?
     
  • I wonder what the Oilers will do with Theo Peckham? Wouldn’t it make sense to sign him and let him come to camp? Teams need depth, and Peckham is still young. If they end up having seven better D, then they can send him to OKC. Sure they might lose him on waivers, but if they don’t sign him they lose him for nothing anyways. For a team that has battled injuries for years, I’d keep a young D-man who won’t cost you much.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: It will be entertaining. Neither team is great defensively, and I expect we’ll see lots of offence tonight. Oilers split the season series with a 5-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The panel will spend five minutes in the 1st intermission discussing how Nash would be a good fit for the Leafs. Schenn, Kadri and a pick will be offered up as a fair return.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Paajarvi scores again and the 3rd line surprisingly combines for a pair of goals despite having only two in their last 61 games. Smyth (1 in 17), Belanger (1 in 24) and Jones (0 in 20). **After the game Belanger tracks me down and says, "Screw you and #TheBelangerTriangle."

**Won’t happen, but it would be hilarious if it did.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Cut Barker right now, he’s killing the rebuild by instilling bad tactics and habits for our young defencemen and helping to en still a losing attitude by almost single handedly losing us the game.

    I almost feel bad for him, he’s just got hands of rust and feet of lead.

    • Eulers

      Naah! Barker’s just keeping us in lottery position. Of course we won’t re-sign him—riiiiiiiiiight Tambi?!?1?1

      Caught the last part of the game. Sure looks like now would be a good time to re-sign Hemsky for a bargain deal. As Gregor pointed out 4×4.5M sounds pretty good right about now.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Long live the Toronto Suck!

    They have nothing to brag about because nobody who can with the ability to chirp was alive the last time they got a sniff.

    If there really is a hockey God every orignal 6 team will win 2 more cups before Toronto ownes up to its sense of entitlement.

  • O.C.

    Meh. Barker Bad.

    Pjaarvii n Hemsky were great all night, Magnus will learn that sometimes there’s more than 60 hard minutes. Would like to see a bigger, mature RNH between those two next year.

    Oil gotta be careful with contracts. What about 3 yrs for Smyth, 8M. Is he worth that?

    • Douche Nietzsche

      When RNH comes back, I would love to see what him Hemsky and Paajarvi could do.It could make for a deadly 2nd line.

      (Hall Gagner Eberle)

      (PRV Hopkins Hemsky)

      (Smyth Horcoff Jones)

      (Eager Belanger Lander)

      Smyth is too old for that kind of investement. I say 2 year 4.2; 2.7 the first and 1.5 the 2nd. He looked a little fatigued for strenches during this season so far.You can move him into a coaching position in his 3rd year.

  • O.C.

    Was at the game and other than having to endure 8000 asinine Leaf fans, was quite encouraged. The core is there, and that shift leading to Eberle’s goal was awesome – passion, power, skill – it’s coming, boys. Petry was a revelation – could he be developing into a legit first pairing puck carrier? Why is Eberle in the top ten in scoring? Because he is one of the top ten forwards in the league. Right now. And that OT goal wasn’t on PRV – Whitney was pounding the ice calling for the pass – if he’d snapped it instead of the big slapshot we would have been dancing home. Nonetheless, very encouraging.

  • samwise17

    I couldnt agree with you more doiugtheslug, very encouraging signs. the lego bits are starting to click together. my only concern is the coaching and admin ruin it all with bad trades and poor tactics.

  • It was tough to hear so many leaf fans but even in the Dynasty years they would be loud.With the large western migration of eastern workers it will be this way for years to come.once the team starts contending fans wont be giving there seats away to there leaf buddies. Lots of fun to watch.And thanks for the beat down Ben.

  • Ben Eager feasts on the souls of Canucks

    How does Eager continue to get shafted on icetime? He’s been scoring every other game it seems like, and doing it on a line with 2 BORDERLINE NHL’ers. He’s a beast when he starts putting the body on fools, and he’ll punch a Sucka in the face and then smirk. Just ask Ebs-
    “Eags was the one who sparked us. Goal and a big fight. WE CHERISH THE STUFF HE DOES WHEN HE’S OUT THERE”

    *If I was smarter I’d figure out his Pts/T.O.I. and start banging that drum.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    Eager is a maniac! We, as Oilers fans, have been clamoring for years for a hard-nosed sh!t-disturber who can skate, hit, handle the the puck, fight, intimidate, chirp, etc… Throw him a bone and give him some ice time! He’s played on good lines before in Chicago, so we know he can hang. Reward the guy before he realizes there’s no chance for promotion and takes his foot off the gas. Dude was a 1st round draft pick for a reason.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    All the Leafs fans are in Alberta cause we actually know how to manage a provinces funds and resources and not just let a bunch of sheep and freeloaders suck our generous social benefits.

    YW.