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.
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
- 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.