The Oilers wrap up another rebuilding season tonight in Vancouver, and by the end of the first period the Canucks will know if the outcome means anything. A St. Louis win over Dallas means the Canucks need at least a point to secure 1st in the west. If the Habs pick up a point v. Toronto, then the race for 29th becomes moot.
I don’t think Oiler fans need or deserve the aggravation of having to hope for a loss, considering you’ve watched more losses than any other fan base in the NHL since 2006, so I’m sure you’re hoping for a Habs win so you can cheer for an Oiler victory.
In a perfect world the Oilers would play the Canucks extremely hard tonight. They’d get in the face of Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin and they’d force the Canucks to draw some penalties. Ben Eager would crush Kevin Bieksa and the Oilers would send a message that this is the final year they will be the doormat of the NW division.
Since 2006, the Oilers are a surprising 20-23-1 v. the Canucks. While they’ve struggled mightily against slugs like the Flames and Wild the Oilers have been very competitive v. Vancouver. They’ve struggled this season, 1-3-1, and I’m curious to see if they’ll end the season with at least a decent effort.
- The Canucks have been very quiet regarding Daniel Sedin’s concussion and you’ll only see one half of the dancing Sisters tonight. The Canucks are 7-1 without D. Sedin, but if he doesn’t return, I’d be stunned if they get back to the finals.
- Jordan Eberle needs one point to tie Ales Hemsky’s career-high of 77. Two points might leave him tied for 10th in NHL scoring. The Oilers haven’t had a scorer finish in the top-ten in scoring since Doug Weight finished 8th with 90 points in 2001. Weight tallied 104 points in 1996, but he wasn’t in the top ten.
- Bad form by the Oilers not to salute the fans after their OT loss v. the Ducks. The Oilers only won 18 of 41 home games, yet every game was sold out. They should have acknowledged the fans for all their loyalty and support.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player suffer a season-long slump like Eric Belanger has this year. Belanger hasn’t had any offensive confidence since hitting a few posts early in the season. Sam Gagner set him up beautifully v. the Ducks, yet Belanger fired it wide despite being 15 feet from the net. He then fell into the boards for good measure. The season can’t end fast enough for him. He needs to find his confidence in the off-season, and come to camp ready to prove last year was just a dud, and not a sign that he can’t produce anymore after eight consistent seasons.
- How long before the Oilers announce their plans for Steve Tambellini and Tom Renney? It sounds like Tambellini is going to the draft Lottery on Tuesday, so I’m guessing he’s getting an extension. I can’t get an accurate read on their plans for Renney, but I’m guessing he isn’t coming back. Either way, out of respect for Renney they need to make an announcement sooner than later. No need to have him twist in the wind like they did to assistant coach, Rob Daum a few years back. That was classless, so hopefully they don’t repeat themselves.
- In Renney’s three seasons with the Oilers they’ve finished 30th (asst. coach), 30th and 28th/29th. Only five head coaches in NHL history have missed the playoffs three years or more in a row and didn’t get fired. Frank Boucher with the Rangers 1943-1947, Barry Trotz 1999-2003 with Nashville, Lindy Ruff 2002-2004 with Buffalo, Wayne Gretzky 2006-2009 with the Coyotes and Ron Wilson did it twice, 1994-1196 with the Ducks and 2009-2011 with the Leafs.
Kudos to @Oilersdrunk for sending me this classic.
Devan Dubnyk will start, and at least the head coach is expecting his team to be ready. "I told the guys this is like the first game of next year and they better play that way. We’ve got to make sure they get the message that we’re here to compete and not be spectators," Renney told the media this morning.
You can watch the rest of Renney’s presser here.
I wonder if Renney knows he isn’t returning because of the way he’s challenged his team lately? Or maybe the reason he’s been more vocal about their lack of tenacity is to letting everyone know that he isn’t a surgeon and can’t give them heart transplants. This team needs to compete harder most nights.
Ben Eager wil draw back in tonight. I’m not sure of the line combos, and to be honest I don’t think they matter that much at this point. Just give an honest effort.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers lose in a SO 5-4. They finish the season with 75 points, but are still 20 points from being a playoff team. They will need to improve even more next year if they hope to be in the race come March.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The game is on HNIC and Nugent-Hopkins finishes the year like he started it on HNIC, with a three-point night. He wins the rookie scoring race, but that might not be enough for him to win the Calder. We’ll find out in June.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gagner tallies two points and ties his career high with 49 points. This data will be the centre of another six-month debate surrounding whether Gagner is a legit #2 centre of not. Just when you thought this three-year debate was over, Gagner’s two points re-ignites. God helps us.