Is it just me, or did seeing Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger on the ice in the final minute on a night the veterans didn’t do much of anything in a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena serve as a pretty good thumbnail of everything that was wrong with the Edmonton Oilers this season?
Not revved up and no place to go as they faced Vancouver locked into 29th place, the Oilers went quietly against the Canucks — without so much as a peep of protest, to put it bluntly — as they filed off the ice with a 32-40-10 record and having missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Outside of Ales Hemsky, who had lots of jump, I didn’t think the veterans did much against the Canucks, although, to be fair, nobody did on this night. Ryan Smyth, out of gas for the last 35 games and without a goal in a baker’s dozen, continued to skate in quicksand and, maybe, out of the plans unless he’s willing to take a third-liner’s salary to re-up.
Horcoff, bless his hard-working heart, got nothing done, save for getting his teeth loosened by a Sami Salo high-stick that wasn’t called by. Belanger? More of the same to end a bust of a season in his first year as an Oiler. Ryan Whitney can’t make it to the off-season and three or four months of rehab to sort his ankle out fast enough. Cam Barker? Thanks for coming.
After finishing 30th in back-to-back seasons, the Oilers will finish 29th with 74 points and seven more wins than they did last season. Not good enough, but at least they made those modest gains with the kids leading the way and some reasonable expectations that there is at least room to grow, which is what this rebuild scheme is supposed to be about.
As for the veterans . . .
AT RANDOM . . .
We’ll be dissecting the season every which way you please in coming days, but some quick thoughts (not many of them that haven’t been punted around like a disobedient Chihuahua already) . . .
— We’ll have plenty of debate about re-upping GM Steve Tambellini and coach Tom Renney in coming days and there’s more to deciding the fate of both than just the numbers, which is a good thing. In Renney’s two seasons as head coach, the Oilers have won 57 of 164 games (57-85-22).
— It looks to me that, at the very least, Devan Dubnyk has earned the right to go into 2012-13 as the clear-cut No. 1 starter. Does he project as a top-tier starter? I don’t know. But his numbers in the second half of the season and his overall body of work suggest he’s got a chance to be. The question now, will Nikolai Khabibulin accept a seat on the bench 55 games next season?
— I said this before and I’ll say it again: the more I see Colten Teubert, the more I like him. It looks to me like Teubert can play in the third pairing here next season. Still some rough edges to be sure, but he plays a simple game and with the edge that complements this group of defensemen. If so, what does that mean for Theo Peckham?
— If the Oilers win the NHL Entry Draft lottery they will make the first overall pick for the third straight year. Might they move that pick and slide down a handful of spots and pick a defenseman rather than take one of the two Russians who are ranked at the top of the draft? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. They could also drop a spot to third pick in the lottery, which would probably take the Russians out of the mix.
— Like Smyth, if Horcoff plays above the third line next season, this team isn’t going anywhere at anything approaching a rate that’s acceptable. The difference with Horcoff is he’ll still be earning first-line money. Even with that, he’s a better fit as a third-liner than Smyth is.
— If Tambellini, assuming he gets an extension, doesn’t acquire at least one top-six forward with size capable of complementing Taylor Hall. Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Hemsky in the top six, he isn’t doing his job (I know, insert punchline here). A player like Teemu Hartikainen might grow into that role, but he’s not ready to take on those kinds of minutes yet.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.