Charlie Sheen’s "Winning" trend faded out quicker than the Flames’s playoff hope the past ten days. Sure it was exciting, funny or annoying for awhile, but inevitably we got the expected outcome.
Suddenly Oiler fans are facing a dilemma themselves regarding Winning! The Oilers are 5-2-3 in their last ten, a 106-point pace for a full season, and suddenly are on the verge of losing the #2 overall draft pick.
A win over the Blue Jackets would put the Oilers in 28th, due to more regulation wins than the Canadiens, and they’d be tied in points with the Islanders and one back of the Wild.
Do you enjoy the victories and head into the off-season believing this team has turned the corner, of do you hope they return to their 29th-place pace for the final seven games?
It is a difficult question on a Sunday morning.
I know many fans are sick and tired of watching losing hockey, and will relish the wins, while others feel going 2-5 in the final seven and finishing 29th is worth it, because the 2nd pick is the reward. Logic says you root for exciting games, that results in losses, however, cheering for your team to lose makes you feel exactly how you did when taking an hour-long shower after a drunken tryst with a stranger whose name you never knew.
You stand in the shower for an hour hoping to cleanse yourself (this is what Wanye told me), while today you might spend the afternoon wondering if your cheering for a loss has upset the hockey Gods forever?
Another tough dilemma.
I know the players want to win. They don’t look at the standings and think that a loss will get them closer to the 2nd overall pick. They aren’t wired that way, and their coach is coaching for his next contract, so you know he won’t be bringing up the topic.
- Devan Dubnyk has started 12 of the last 17 games and he’s 8-3-1 in that span with a 1.85 GAA and .935 SV%. Is he starting to make you believe he can be the Oilers legit #1 starter next year?
- In the other five games Nikolia Khabibulin is 0-3-2 with a 2.80 GAA and .889 SV%. Khabibulin has played Tampa, Montreal, Dallas, Colorado and Anaheim. Only one of them is a playoff team.
- Theo Peckham has played pretty solid his past seven games as well. The Oilers are 5-1-1 in those games, while Peckham is +2, and he’s only taken a penalty in one game, three minors in the loss to Montreal. I stated in January I would re-sign Peckham, because they need depth, and can if he play like he did last year, and in these past seven games, he can be an effective 3rd pairing D-man.
- I still don’t understand why so many fans and some stats guys dislike Ryan Jones. Many felt last year was a one-hit wonder, despite the fact if you pro-rated his first two seasons, he’s pretty much been a 14-18 goal scorer four years straight. I’d like Jones to be a bit more aggressive, but he is very versatile. He can fill in on spot duty on your top-two lines when someone gets injured, or he can play regularly on your 3rd or 4th line. It is rare to have six-legit top-six forwards on any team, so having a guy who can fill that role here and there is important.
- The Oilers are 2-3-1 in afternoon games this year and they are 45-60-14 all-time.
- The Buffalo Sabres are 13-2-3 since February 19th and this morning they find themselves in 8th place. They are on the verge of completing the biggest post-season push in NHL history. They were in 14th place in the East in mid-January, and considered out of the race. Ryan Miller has started 17 of the 18 games and he’s 13-1-3 with a 1.80 GAA and a sparkling .941 SV%. They will make the post-season.
- The Flames and Jets unofficially were eliminated from the playoffs yesterday. The Flames lost in Dallas, while the Jets lost to the Preds. Only two Canadian teams have a shot at the post-season, Ottawa and Van (they’re in), while it is likely four Canadian fan bases will see their teams draft in the top ten. The Oilers (2nd-5th), Habs (2nd-5th), Leafs (6th-9th) and the Jets (10th) will make the coverage leading up to the draft pretty intense in Canada.
The Oilers didn’t skate this morning due to the 1 p.m MST start time, and the only lineup change will likely be Chris Vande Velde drawing in for the injured Shawn Horcoff. Horcoff hurt his back in Florida and I don’t expect him to play.
The big question will be if Tom Renney moves Eric Belanger to the 3rd line, or if he gives Vande Velde an oppportunity to skate with Ryan Smyth and Linus Omark? I’d go with the latter. I don’t see Vande Velde being a future fixture in Edmonton, with Anton Lander ahead of him on the depth chart, but he probably has more offensive confidence than Belanger right now.
I’d do this..
Jones – RNH – Eberle
Hartikainen – Gagner – Hemsky
Smyth – Vande Velde – Omark
Eager – Belanger – Hordichuk
But I’m sure you’ll see Belanger between Omark and Smyth.
Smid – Petry
Whitney – Schultz
Peckham/Barker – Potter
Barker is taking warmup and maybe he’ll play his first game since February 29th, but I seriously doubt it. If he does, then maybe the Oilers do want to keep the #2 pick.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are playing their 3rd game in four nights. So far this year they are 1-6-1 in the 3rd game, toss in an afternoon start time, and I’ll take the Jackets 5-3 with an empty netter.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nugent-Hopkins picks up two points and moves into first place in rookie scoring.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During the 3rd period many of you will realize that Tiger Woods is in the running to win his first tourney without dealing with the stress of being caught cheating with some IHOP waitress. You’ll immediately begin channel surfing. After fretting for two hours wondering if you want the Oilers to win or lose, now you find yourself debating if you want to see Woods’ end his 30-month winless drought or continue to pay for his indiscretions. Cheering to win, or hoping to see a loss. It’ll will be a double-dilemma Sunday for many of you.