The Oilers started the season 8-2-2, and on November 3rd many of you were cautiously optimistic that this team was turning the corner, but it wasn’t meant to be. From November 3rd to March 5th you watched the Oilers plunge down the standings going 17-32-4, and in the process found yourself muttering, "next year they’ll be better."
MORE SAD TROMBONE
In the last 22 days you’ve likely gone from muttering those words to believing them as the Oilers are in the midst of another hot streak racking up a 6-2-3 record. However, the Hockey Gods couldn’t let you get too excited as the Oilers announced yesterday that Taylor Hall was going to have labral shoulder surgery and be out five to six months.
Oiler fans will have to wait until next September or October to see Hall celebrating a goal, and if his shoulder surgery goes well, you might see more fist-pumps next year than this year. Of course he might have shoulder issues, but Hall is confident he’ll be a better player next year.
"There has been a lot of times this year where I’ve gone into games where my shoulder has been pretty bad and I had to shy away from hits. To be honest I’ve been playing with a pretty bad shoulder for most of this year and I’m excited to see what I can do when I have a new one."
Hall explained to the media scrum yesterday that his shoulder has bothered him since junior, but it finally wore down this year after taking a heavy hit from Ryan Wilson.
"It comes from a long time ago, when I injured it in junior. The injury doesn’t really heal itself, instead it just kind of wears away. When I injured it in Colorado I knew I was going to need surgery at the end of the year."
Some could argue that shying away from hits didn’t hurt Hall’s game at all, and when he comes back he might be better served to maintain a part of that mentality.
The key will be not rushing him back in the fall.
If the Oilers want to be a competitive team for many years they damn well better err on the side of caution when it comes to allowing Hall back on the ice. If the is cleared to play, I’d make him wait another two weeks. There is ZERO point in having him come back before he has strengthened all the muscles in his shoulder.
Yesterday Hall was on board with being cautious.
"There has been players that have had this surgery and they come back to soon, and then they start to have other problems in their shoulder because they’ve come back to soon. I don’t want to rush it at all. I want to rehab it as good as I can, and I don’t want to rush it because that will complicate it more. I want to take the proper time to make it nice and strong."
Wanting and doing are two completely different thought processes though, and I’m curious to see if the organization, and the player, has learned from some previous mistakes of letting players, like Ales Hemsky, come back before they are ready to absorb NHL collisions.
Having successful surgery is the first step. Rehabbing it properly is the next one, but the most important will be how they handle his return. They can’t afford to have Hall re-injuring his shoulder next season.
The last real playoff rival the Oilers had was the Dallas Stars. They met the Stars in the playoffs five years in a row from 1997-2001. After Todd Marchant’s stunning game-seven breakaway goal in 1997, the Oilers lost the next four series. During those five years the Stars became the most hated team amongst Oiler fans.
You hated Belfour and Hatcher while Modano and Zubov made you cringe when they were on the PP. It was the most intense rivalry we’ve seen in Edmonton in the past two decades.
The animosity isn’t as high right now, but for many of you it wouldn’t take much to ignite those feelings again, and a win over the Stars tonight would be satisfying for many in Oilersnation.
The Stars are in a battle for their playoff lives.
They sit in 7th with 87 points, but they are only two points up on 11th place Calgary. The Stars can’t afford a loss tonight, and after Glen Gulutzan ripped them after Monday’s loss v. the Flames they vowed to be ready tonight. The Stars let their emotions get the best of them in Calgary and they’ll have to be more disciplined tonight.
Jones – RNH – Eberle
Hartikainen – Gagner – Hemsky
Smyth – Horcoff – Petrell
Hordichuk – Belanger – Eager
Smid – Petry
Whitney – Schultz
Sutton – Potter
- Many are wondering why Hall didn’t have surgery sooner since he’s been hurt since November. It is a fair question, but the medical staff determined he wasn’t going to injure himself anymore by playing. The argument shouldn’t be about the risk of injury, but rather would it have been smarter for next season to have him do the surgery sooner? The risk in saying that to a player in November and December is that you are telling your team the games don’t matter. It is a slippery slope and bordering on a loser mentality.
- For those asking, Taylor Fedun likely won’t be playing in OKC during the playoffs. He’s had a great recovery, but he still isn’t close to taking body contact. He is focusing on being ready for training camp in September.
- The NHL needs to be more proactive about their "quiet room" protocol. Last March they sent out this release. Players suspected of having a concussion will be removed from the game and sent to a quiet place free from distraction so they can be examined by the on-site team physician. The physician will use the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool test to evaluate the player. Symptoms include loss of consciousness, motor incoordination or balance problems, a blank or vacant look, slow to get up after a hit to the head, disorientation, clutching of the head after a hit or visible facial injury in combination with another symptom."
- The league doesn’t have a designated "quiet room" in rinks, and there is no official timeline on how long the player has to be out of the game. In the past three weeks we’ve seen Jamie Benn, Daniel Sedin and Theo Peckham get rocked, yet they they didn’t leave immediately. Considering the current huge lawsuits in the NFL regarding head injuries, you’d think the NHL would ensure teams are following the guidelines and more importantly protecting the players from themselves.
- "The problem with going after Benn is he might actually speed bag you, like he did to Iggy a few years ago," said Steve Ott when I asked him if they are concerned teams will respond in kind if the Stars are going after/playing hard opposing team’s skilled players. The Stars target opposing teams top guys and play them extremely hard. Watch how often one of the Stars will try and get a clean, and sometimes cheap, shot in on Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Stars are desperate, but the Oilers have loads of confidence right now. I expected a spirited game tonight that goes more than 60 minutes. Oilers in a SO 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Sheldon Souray rips two slappers high and wide.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Last week I mentioned on my show how today many of us react to a topic/situation for a day, but rarely follow up on it to try to make it change. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that JSBM and Wanye were actually listening. Those three produced a promo for #NugeforCalder that is actually damn good. Many of you will watch it this afternoon and get jacked up about the Nuge’s chances to win the first Calder trophy in Oiler history.