Under the heading, THANKS MR. OBVIOUS, it is clear that the Oilers need to put a win streak together to get back in the playoff picture, instead of constantly being in chase mode.
The Oilers are in a stretch where they play four home games in 11 days. They arrived home late Tuesday night, took Wednesday off and were back on the ice today. They play Detroit Friday, Nashville Sunday, San Jose Wednesday and St. Louis next Saturday. Fatigue isn’t a factor, and if the Oilers are serious about the playoffs they need to extend their modest two-game winning streak.
The players I spoke with today are fully aware of the situation.
They need to win and they need to take advantage of a light schedule during the next four games. A few admitted that they were happier to be playing Detroit, than a Minnesota, because it will force them to be mentally sharp, or the Wings could embarrass them.
- "I have to put together a longer string than just seven good games before we start talking. It is on me to keep playing well and if I do then I think they’d be open to an extension. If I, and the team, keep playing well I expect to be here as we push for the playoffs," said Ryan Whitney. "I like it here. We have a great group, and it’s nice to be contributing and playing better. I still have to work on my gaps, but I’ve felt much better the past few weeks," Whitney continued.
- Magnus Paajarvi has played really well the past few weeks, and he’s been rewarded with more icetime. "It is mental for me. Not every game will you have an opportunity to beat a D-man wide. Everything from coming from the corner or from behind the net is driving to the net. It’s all mental for me. It is in the back of my mind now and I think I’ve been driving to the net much more recently and I’m getting more comfortable doing it," Paajarvi explained. "Last year was hard for me, it was the first bad year of my career and I had to learn from it. I feel much better about my game now, but I have to make sure I keep playing hungry."
- It is great to see and hear a young player recognize what he needs to do to be successful and then go out and do it. Now he has to continue to do it. Consistency is the most difficult thing for young players to find.
- Horcoff’s return gives Ralph Krueger an excellent opportunity to have some good matchups at home. The Triple H line can take the hard minutes at home, but with Hall on the wing they can generate offence as well. Then Krueger can give either Gagner or Nugent-Hopkins a very good match up and hope they score. Right now the Oilers have two lines that are producing, and if Nugent-Hopkins’ goal in Colorado boosts his confidence they will have three. That could be huge during this homestand.
- Oilers are in a tough spot with Ladislav Smid. He competes his ass off every night. He is a strong PK guy and good defensively, but he doesn’t bring much offence. He is a solid #4 on a good team. The Oilers can’t afford to let him walk this summer or trade him for picks/prosects at the deadline. Both moves would set them back, because they have no one who can replace him. I’d give him a four-year deal between $3.3-$3.7 million a year.. The just can’t lose solid veterans at this point of the rebuild.
- I like the new realignment for the NHL. It should build more rivalries because the first two rounds of the playoffs will be against divisional teams. The league has yet to name the divisions, and hopefully they come up with something better than pacific, mid-west, central and atlantic.
Division 1: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.
Division 2: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
Division 3: Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Division 4: Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
- The Oilers will be in tough against big, skilled teams like Anaheim, San Jose and LA, but I love the new divisions. If it can bring back rivalries like we saw in the Smyth, Norris, Patrick and Adams divisions that’d be great.
- No one should expect the same type of production from Ryan Smyth while he plays centre. All of his success came from down low, behind the net or right in the crease. Most of his time as a centre will be in the high slot and rarely along the boards. I credit him for accepting his new role, but if they want offence from Smyth they’ll need to move him to the wing. If they just want a solid effort then he can supply that playing the middle.
- Ben Eager cleared waivers and he will report to OKC tomorrow.
- After selling out the 2nd annual Gregor Charity poker tourney in less than 20 hours, we have decided to add a 2nd day. The rules and prizes will be the same. The winner gets a seat (worth $10,000) at the WSOP main event in Vegas along with flights and hotel courtesy of Century Casino and Darci Huhn from Travel Only. Thanks for your interest day two will allow us to raise more money for the MS Society and send another winner to Vegas.
- Speaking of charity. Here is fun and cheap way to help Alzheimer’s research and their families. The first 100 people who donate $20 will be entered into a draw. There will be five winners (one in 20 chance). There is a pair of Oiler/Red Wings seats along with $50 Oiler bucks and then four $100 GC from United Cycle up for grabs. If you donate $40 you get two entries, $60 three and so on. (We will only take a total of 100 entries) You can donate here. Type in Jason Gregor and follow instructions. Thanks and good luck. I will announce winners tomorrow. First name I choose gets first pick, which I assume will be the Oiler tickets.