The second Jarret Stoll’s snapshot whistled over Cory Schneider’s shoulder ending the Canucks season, many Oiler fans were instantly tweeting, faceboooking and blogging how great it felt to see the Canucks out. Vancouver is a main rival, and arguably the most hated one, but Oiler fans should also realize that even when this never-ending rebuild of the Oilers is complete, there is no guarantee they will have playoff success.
The Canucks are a very good team. They’ve had 100+ points in seven of the last nine seasons. They won the President’s trophy in 2011 and then lost in game seven of the Cup final. They won the President’s trophy again this year, but limped out of the playoffs in five games.
Losing Daniel Sedin to a cheap elbow from Duncan Keith hurt their offence. They did win eight of nine regular season games without him, but against the stingy LA Kings and Jonathon Quick they really missed his offensive instincts in the first three games.
Their best players weren’t their best players. Last year Ryan Kesler was their best player enroute to the Cup final, but this year he wasn’t as dominant. He was tied for 2nd in points, three, but he didn’t score a goal, and he never dominated a game.
He isn’t the first go-to-guy to disappoint in the playoffs and he won’t be the last. There is no guarantee when the Oilers finally make the post-season that Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will all have great playoffs, in fact the odds are they won’t. And when those guys don’t put up points, if the Oilers don’t have any depth guys who can score, they likely will suffer the same disappointment as the Canucks.
The good news is that in many cases is the star players do produce, and when they do they are capable of winning a series. Claude Giroux did that for the Flyers. He tallied 14 points in six games, as the Flyers "upset" the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins.
For those who feel they can calculate a blueprint for the Oilers’ future success, keep in mind that every year we see some great teams knocked out in the first round.
I know Oiler fans would much rather deal with the disappointment of losing in the playoffs, rather than being out of them by January, but the Canucks are a reminder that even when things go right for 26 weeks, if you hit a bad streak for the wrong ten days, your season can end quickly.
On Friday afternoon Taylor Hall spent an hour and 45 minutes on my show discussing a variety of topics. We chatted mostly about hockey, but I also learned he doesn’t know how to two-step, but he really wants to learn before next year.
I really enjoy interviewing people. I pride myself on making them feel comfortable enough that we can talk like it is just us, despite the fact that there are thousands listening. Hall wanted to come on the show, which was great to hear and a bit flattering, so he was relaxed from the start, and I learned a lot about him that I didn’t know.
He’s very poised and calm under pressure. His roommate, Jordan Eberle, sent me a text during the show saying he wanted to call in as a caller and ask Hall some questions. When we went to "Jim in St. Albert" I knew it was Eberle, but Hall thought it was a regular caller. What I didn’t expect, was to hear Eberle throwing bombs in the first 15 seconds.
I was impressed how calm Hall was during the barrage. After a few questions I could tell he knew the caller was an imposter, but he didn’t know if it was Sam Gagner or Eberle. Hall answered every question, until he figured out is was Eberle and they had a good laugh.
Hall was very forthcoming about his aspirations for the team moving forward, how badly he wants to win and it became clear that his internal drive is the biggest factor of his success. He told Jason Strudwick and I how he developed such a great shot. He didn’t have some secret formula, but rather simple hard work. Since the age of 13 he’d go to a neighbourhood rink and shoot pucks; during the summer. Last year he loaded up a net in his truck and drove to a rink and set up pucks. "I shoot about 200 a day," he said. If you want to be great you always have to keep working hard.
He wouldn’t have a problem playing centre next year, but if the coaches want to try him there he’d like a long look. He felt he’d have the most success if he was told at the start of training camp that he’d be in the middle so he could have a full month to learn the position before the regular season started. He admitted he’d need to work on his faceoffs, but said that as of Friday he expected to be playing wing next year.
If you want to listen to the entire interview, here it is in three parts.
Thanks again to Hall for coming by and sharing his thoughts with Oiler fans.
- I hope the Flyers and Pens meet in the playoffs next year. That was a great series, and it was clear in the coaches post-game press conferences that they don’t like each other. Dan Bylsma said he respects them but, "I can’t wish them good luck in the next series," while Peter Laviolette got in one final jab at the Pens and Crosby, "When the best player in the world comes to you and says, ‘I don’t know who you are planning on starting, but I want that first shift,’ that says a lot about Claude Giroux." Gotta love it.
- It seems many fans and media in Vancouver, along with the Canucks, feel it is a guarantee that Cory Schneider will be better than Luongo. He might be, but keep in mind in four playoff starts he has one win. Luongo is an easy target to criticize, but I haven’t seen enough from Schneider that guarantees he can start 55 regular season games and go the distance in the playoffs. By starting Schneider in the final three games v. the Kings, it seems clear they’ve made up their mind. I’m very curious to see if they made the right decision.
- The Oil Kings are damn good. They’ve won 21consecutive games. They are 10-0 in the playoffs and they’ve outscored the opposition 45-14. In their final 11 regular season games they outclassed their opponents 47-22. They have incredible depth, some elite top-end talent in Micheal St. Croix,Curtis Lazar, Griffin Reinhart and goaltender Laurent Brossoit. The scary part is the Oil Kings will likely only lose four players next year. Mark Pysyk will turn pro while Tyler Maxwell (first line C), Rhett Rachinki (4th line) and Jordan Peddle (4th line) will be too old. They will be a force for the next few years. Brossoit, St. Croix and Reinhart could all be playing at the WJC next year.
- I hope I’m wrong, but the Kings/Blues series could set a record for fewest goals in a series. They both play solid D, but I’m hoping that due to the size of both teams it turns into a physical affair.
- Chris Neil’s hit was a hockey play. If Boyle wasn’t 6’7" it might have been considered a head shot, because most players skate with hunched over with their head slightly in front of their body. I really hope that hard hits aren’t taken out of the game.
- In Vancouver’s last ten playoff games they’ve gone 2-8 and been outscored 29-12. Ouch.
- Since the NHL went to a 1 v. 8 format we’ve never seen both #8 seeds win in the same year. Ottawa and the Kings could set a new standard for upsets.
- The Capitals are 2-7 all-time in game sevens, while the Bruins are 12-10. This will be the Bruins 5th game seven in their last six series. They went 3-0 last year with wins over Montreal, Tampa and Vancouver. Unfortunately we have to wait until Wednesday to find out who wins.
- The Eskimos just wrapped up a mini-camp, and I was surprised how many times I heard that Kerry Joseph has a legit chance to win the starting QB job. I’m not sure if that is just lip service to keep Steven Jyles on his toes, but if the game plan was to trade Ricky Ray and have 38-year-old Kerry Joseph replace him then Esks fans have legitimate reasons to be concerned. I’d take Jyles over Joseph, but neither comes close to Ray.
- Jordan Eberle will be in tough against Brian Campbell to win the Lady Byng. Campbell played the most minutes of any player in the league, 2,205:31, was tied for 2nd in pts by D-men with 53 and he only took three minor penalties. He averaged one penalty for every 735 minutes played. Red Kelly was the last D-man to win the award in 1954. Kelly won it three times in four years, and the only other blueliner to win it was Bill Quackenbush in 1949. Eberle is very deserving, but so is Campbell.