A Real Eye Opener

So far the first round of the playoffs have been even better than I expected. There has been everything from high to low scoring games, great to bad goaltending and some of the most physical hockey seen in many years.

The physical hockey has been a surprise considering some of the non-traditional rivalries that it has sprung from. Pittsburgh and Philly was a no brainer; we all knew it would get rough. The same can’t be said for the Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers matchup, or St. Louis vs. San Jose.

Other than the Florida/New Jersey series, all of the first-round matchups have been very physical. Every check is being finished with extra love. Big players are playing big and the smaller players must have an attitude.

If this year’s Edmonton Oilers were magically thrown into a series versus Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, etc, would they be able to match and stand up to the intensity?

I don’t think so.

It is clear the talent being assembled in the Oiler top six will rival most teams in the future. Another first overall pick, assuming they keep it, will only add firepower to that group. Unfortunately great talent doesn’t guarantee playoff success.

Teams need somebody to do the heavy lifting. Bangers and crashers with skill are required in the playoffs. I would take a David Backes from St. Louis or Dustin Brown from L.A before either Joe Thornton from San Jose or Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin. The first two are having a huge impact on their teams’ success whereas the others have been largely invisible so far in the playoffs.

With a few tweaks and some luck, next year’s Oilers should challenge for and possibly clinch a playoff spot. Getting into the playoffs and having playoff success are two different things however. Without some heavy lifters in the top six or at least in the top nine forward group, playoff success could prove difficult if this year’s physical trend continues into next year.

Finding players like Dustin Brown will not be easy. That is the challenge for the Oiler management going forward.

Previously by Jason Strudwick

  • CaptainLander

    Did Malkin not win a Con Smyth trophy when the Pens won the cup? Have a tough series but come on, Malkin? Thornton I get not overly tough and proven to not take his game to the next level in the playoffs. Can I have both?

    Brown Nuge Ebs
    Hall Malkin Yak

  • Spydyr

    That is why Gagner is not a number 2 center on any team that will go far in the playoffs.

    He will be destroyed.

    Wasn’t D.Brown available at the trade deadline.

    Would of, should of ,could of ,yet again Mr. Dithers.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    And to think for 24 hrs at the trade deadline the Oilers could’ve possibly had Dustin Brown. Hemsky,Omark/2012 second rounder may have been enough if you took back a salary dump as well as Brown. You snooze you lose, and we sure know all about losing.

    Seeing this 2 Ambulance per arena style of hockey, the fab 4 Oilers are probably glad the playoffs are two yrs away.

  • @ Dave don’t let the ad spam destroy your browsing experience. This site is perfectly clean on my browser. Get Adblocker and NoScript for your browser. All that junk will disappear.

    BTW, I used to work for Postmedia, “the man” and they definitely know that it’s a problem with all the popups and ads but the money in the short term is more important to them.

  • Jason Strudwick

    I hope the Oilers take long looks at Martin Frk, Tom Wilson, and Henrik Samuelsson. All are likely to go in the 2nd round. Anyone know where to find what picks the Oil have this upcoming draft?

  • It’s worth noting that Dustin Brown doesn’t play like this every playoffs; this is the first time he’s ever scored more than one goal in a playoff series.

    I *really* like Backes, but Malkin brings so much additional offense that I would be unable to make that trade. I mean, Malkin played fewer games this season and *literally* finished with more than twice as many points as Backes.

    • Jason Strudwick

      I agree JW, Malkin was the reason the Pens won the Stanley cup that year in my opinion. And it wasn’t just his offense but the two way play, stealing pucks and blocking shots. I just feel that since the Cup win that style disappears when Crosby in on the team. He needs to be the #1 for a team and a guy that leads the way. With Malkin and RNH the Oil wouldn’t have a #1 line but 2 #1A/B lines.

  • Jason Strudwick

    Anyone else ever notice that when Crosby gets into scrums and fights that the refs never grab him and tie him up but always the guys he fighting or jawing with. Especailly when punches are going Crosby can keep swinging at the guy while the ref ties up his arms. Its like a gang beating.

  • Big physical teams are having success in the playoffs. Finding 2 way players is a challenge, but this is not Edmonton’s philosophy. Does not matter who coaches Edm. Until the climate changes in upper management
    Edmonton will be a young fast team with great potential. I’ve been saying this for 5 years.

  • Struds, let me just say we miss your physicality…but you’re right…Hartikainen might have the grit you speak of to last a playoff series, I’d even go so far as to say Gagner is a real tough little gritty bugger when he wants to be, but the current group outside of them need to show a little more of it.

    I’ve always thought Jones could add a little more of that element to his game, and Eager has the capabilities but shows it on rare occasions. Hordichuk does it every shift, but he only gets a couple shifts a game and likely won’t be back…

    Adding Yak will be great, but I think looking for the grit element in any 18 year old is the wrong thing to do. The bang and crash 18 year olds add are not as effective as guys in their mid 20’s.

    Maybe it’s time to do an article about potential UFA’s to add to the bottom 6 that will the bang and crash element…

  • Gitagrip

    If the refs keep calling the game the way they have in last half of season and playoffs between injuries and suspensions the only players left to play will be bottom six.

  • Who dat

    i think big joe and marleau are perfect examples that tear apart the regular season, only to disappear in the post season. if their success transferred seamlessly to the playoffs, san jose would have had a cup by now.

    i think brown has always been one of the more underrated power forwards in the league, and a leader in the dressing room. i’m sure LA is thankful they didn’t trade him.

    while not a solution, i’d be interested to see a guy like hall integrate a more physical tone to his game. he’s growing to be a big man. throw some of that weight around.

    • When “the man” is paying the bills you have to do what he says. I hate them as much as the next (pop ups that is) but if it allows Wanye and Co. to spread the OilersNation gospel so be it. And besides… he sold his soul for this so he’ll be spending all eternity in a lake of fire; he needs to make some money while he still can.

  • Gitagrip

    You’d take Backes and Brown – two guys who have never played past the first round – over Malkin, a former Conn Smythe winner? Granted Malkin having a poor showing this year but let’s not over evaluate 3 games for each of those players.

    • Jason Strudwick

      I have always really liked both Brown and Backes. Backes is a big string center will both skill and leadership. How would he look between Hall and Nails next year? I would take him over Malkin in a heartbeat!

      • Except Malkin does way, way more to help you win a game than Brown and Backes combined. There are a lot of guys in the league that can score a little, and hit a lot. There are very, very few that can score an awful lot, and Malkin is one of them. And last time I checked, they count goals on the scoreboard, not hits. Does physicality affect the score indirectly? Perhaps, but it’s not something you can prove directly. Has Malkin won games single-handedly multiple times over the years through prodigious offensive output? Absolutely.

        Honestly, I think you’re simply empathizing moreso with a player type that is closer to the role you played in the NHL, rather than objectively evaluating what factors most into winning. Malkin will help you win way, way more than Brown or Backes. Not that they’re not good players, they are–Malkin is simply on another level.