THE MIDAS TOUCH: SAM STAYS HOT

Might the remarkable turnaround in Sam Gagner’s season signal the same for the Edmonton Oilers as they attempt to climb out of the lottery sweepstakes with the stretch drive approaching? It looks like it might after Saturday’s 5-4 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Gagner stayed hotter than a $3 pistol with two goals and an assists to give him points on 11 straight Edmonton goals, then added a goal in the shootout. The Oilers did likewise, keeping their unlikely little roll going by earning their ninth point in the last five games with the win.

Anybody out there see Gagner’s outburst coming? Of course not. Hands up everybody who thought the Oilers were capable of producing a stretch like they have these last five games, capped by Thursday’s 8-4 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks and the win over the Red Wings.

Gagner, who set a team record with a hand in those 11 straight goals, is obviously going to cool off. So will the Oilers, despite the likelihood they will have a full contingent of players when Tom Gilbert returns to open a three-game road trip in Toronto Monday, but the stretch holds intrigue.

While it’s highly unlikely the Oilers will equal the clip they played at in their first 14 games the rest of the way, I think it’s safe to say the tailspin that has had fans twitching with angst the past two months is in the rearview mirror. How many games might they win in their final 30?

Time to start moaning about blowing a top-three lottery pick . . .

THE WAY I SEE IT

— Ales Hemsky might be a goner between now and the NHL trade deadline, but any characterization of the talented Czech winger that includes the word "soft" is laughable.

Hemsky got absolutely starched by Niklas Kronwall early in the first period, but bounced right up, took some ice, got patched up and returned later in the period. He has all kinds of jam. Not an issue. Never has been.

— I liked what I saw from Ben Eager, who went looking for a scrap and found one with big Mike Commodore. Eager hasn’t been as busy with his fists as a lot of people expected, but his response, and that of all the Oilers, after seeing Hemsky get laid out was the right one – even if he threw a kill-shot at the start of the scrap that put him off balance and in trouble.

— It’s fair comment to say Anton Lander would’ve been better served playing in the AHL this season, but I like what I see, particularly the penalty killing component of his game. While it’s more a case of circumstance than playing style, I can see Lander developing much the way Shawn Horcoff did as a youngster – a player who starts as a fourth-liner and works his way up.

WHILE I’M AT IT . . .

— The Oilers need more real NHL defensemen and that means they need to keep Andy Sutton with a new contract unless a team out there is offering a clear-cut over-pay for him. Sutton, despite a big miss on Todd Bertuzzi’s 4-3 goal, has more than enough game left to be one of those transitional players GM Steve Tambellini needs on the back end.

— OK, I’m a sucker for underdogs, but I wouldn’t be the least bit upset to see Cam Barker SIUTBOHC the way Ryan Jones did last season. What a difference it makes to the flow of the attack to have crisp first-passers like Barker (and especially Ryan Whitney) in the line-up.

— Ham-handed Eric Belanger gets a shot in the shootout and Shawn Horcoff doesn’t? Sorry, Tom Renney, but that’s called a brain cramp (and winning despite not playing the percentages).

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • HOZ

    Last year, Gagner was tip-toe’ing around the net, but the past 2 games he was going straight to the net hard for those rebounds and deflections and that makes a huge difference for any player. Can someone teach 6’3″ Paajarvi to do the same thing?

    • Time Travelling Sean

      I agree with you. Sometimes a coach decides to play a hunch…sometimes they are right, somtimes they are wrong. Plus trying to get him going.

      Brownlee is also right on Horcoff not shooting. He might drive us fans bonkers on a lot of things, but he has a solid shootout percentage.

  • HOZ

    Kronwall sure wallpapered Hemsky. I was surprised he was able to get up without a wobble or two.

    The Oilers need to find themselves a Lucic/Kane clone to fill out the top 6.

  • Ben Eager feasts on the souls of Canucks

    So, how does trading a 22-year old centre, help the oilers? Fans complain about the length of the rebuild but want gagner traded? If you don’t let players develop and just trade them for prospects you’ll get stuck in the cycle of rebuilding.

    Also, I don’t agree with the trashing of Tambellini, the oilers need a top 4 d-man, but also pretty much everyone needs those and teams just don’t give them away. And as much as belanger hasn’t provided much offense, that can’t be put on tambo, belanger had decent seasons before. And belanger is a big part of the reason why, we actually can kill a penalty this year.

  • OilLeak

    The problem with Barker is that he gives up more than creates, and against the easiest opposition. He has some nice hands and a good shot, but his feet are lead heavy and has a lot of defensive miscues.

    Bottom line, Barker is a depth defenseman in the NHL and has been throughout his career. 2.5 million is too much for a depth defenseman.

      • OilLeak

        Barker gets severely outshot and outchance when is he on the ice, the light won’t suddenly turn on when he has shown no evidence of doing so. 2.5 million is far too much for a 3rd pairing, pp specialist. He gets killed 5X5, and hasn’t shown the improvement to justify the price-tag.

        Defenseman need to know how to defend, first and foremost.

        • “Defenseman need to know how to defend, first and foremost.”

          “2.5 million is far too much for a 3rd pairing, pp specialist.”

          These are not revelations.

          Let me suggest you resist the urge to state the obvious or tell me things I already know. It’s irritating as hell (especially when repeated in virtually every comment you direct at me). Long before you came along. I’d looked beyond goals, assists, points and plus-minus a time or two in assessing players while doing this gig for almost 30 years.

          I can have a different opinion of a player than you do. It doesn’t mean I’m missing something.

  • O.C.

    Props to Hemsky for bringing his testes tonite.

    Funny, team starts getting players back and coaching and management aren’t hot topics.

    Need a D man.

    RT. Lander is hopefully not going to be the next Horcoff. Bob Gainey maybe?

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    Oh, by the way…it’s pretty bad when Hemmer has to tell an interviewer before the game tonight that he would like to hear from the Oilers whether they have any plans to contact him vis a vis their intentions.

    Personality and man-management skills are lacking in the Oiler front office. Tammy has already embarassed the city with his pubic disputes with upset players and agents. See Comrie, Souray and now Hemmer. Not good p.r. Tammy!!

    Hemmers courage showed up tonight. He may be moved on because of pending cap issues when the youngsters re-sign but I’d like to see Tammy show his players some respect.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Tonights win was of the character variety. That in and of itself is encouraging. Pulling out clutch wins against a team like the Wings is a real positive.

    Renney’s braincramp in the shootout is the kind of move that could get you fired if it doesn’t turn out right. Renney has really mystified me at times and that was just another example.

    A move like that leaves fans and commentators alike asking ‘what the hell were you thinking Tommy?’

  • Bucknuck

    Gotta love “Clutch Jordan” as he scores late in the third to tie it up. Wouldn’t it be great if Gagner and Dubnyk keep playing very well and start getting included when they talk about Edmonton’s “young guns”.

  • Reg Dunlop

    C bus has been burned by euro 1st round picks like Filatov & Voracek. Do they have the guts to take another? Especially one that weighs about 160lbs? I think Oil may get a shot at Yakupov 3rd overall. One more reason to trade Alice now.

    • OilFan

      I personally think it is more important for this team to keep winning. No, they won’t make the playoffs, but it is part of the learning process and learning how to win conistently in this league is important. They could pick up a very solid D-man in the draft at around 7th to 10th.

      I hope they resign Hemsky. He has a quiet 11 points in his last 13 games.

    • OilFan

      ~ I did on the wings first goal. ~. Yeah he is helping out big time. He gives the other d-man a anchor to work with. Huge win. Sam Gagner has became on ofmy fav Oilers over the last couple months and no long my goat. So pumped.

      Thanks for the read this late on a Saturday night. Night to all

  • Dave "Killer" Carlson

    I don’t want to overstate what Gagner has done over the last two games, but he certainly looks like a different player out there. We might look back one day and note this as a turning point in this young man’s career. Only 22 and his future looks bright.

    On another note, this team sure is entertaining with all their big guns in the lineup. We have 5 legitimate top 6 forwards right now (Hall, Eberle, RNH, Hemsky, and Gagner). Not sure if we should be considering trading one of those guys away. Wouldn’t that just put us further away from having 2 strong, consistent scoring lines?

  • Bucknuck

    He is too small we need to get rid Gagner while he has decent value. We need to take advantage his overated play. Wake up Tambellini. How much do want to bet Hemsky turns up with a concussion and he screw us again.

    • HOZ

      Totally agree, he has gone a full two periods without a point and the fact that he didn’t get a point on Eberle’s tying goal proves we don’t need him for offence. And sure he got a spine-tingling lift you out of your seat shootout goal but those don’t count in your scoring totals and anyone can do that. Plus he’s old at 22, and what this team really needs is more picks and prospects.

    • Dutchscooter

      Wow, you’re a real glass-is-half-empty kind of guy, huh? Can’t we just enjoy a winning streak and a marvelous performance after many seasons of misery?

      • Woodie

        Keep hang’in there wait till he goes on a drought and you be back on this site bashing him like you were before. Wake up he is having a hot stretch. He is not really that good come on. Your a fool if you think other wise. We could get something our team really needs. Your not related to Dumbellini by chance?

        • Woodie

          Or, in fact, is Samwise hitting his stride? He has been a 43 point per year guy for 4 years (yes, a 22 year old in his fifth NHL season) and perhaps he is poised for a breakout. Why the hate? The Sedins averaged in the 30s for their first 6 NHL seasons. Exactly what are you expecting in return for a trade?

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      sorry, for safety reasons i cant make that bet. me having to visit the night security guard at the old cromdale to collect on a bet just isn’t worth it.