OILERS WEEKEND WRAP

The Oilers are only two points out of a playoff spot and four points back of the division leading Minnesota Wild/Vancouver Canucks.

How is that possible? Ten days ago most had written them off, after back-to-back shut out losses in Detroit and Nashville, but since then they’ve picked up 7 of 8 points and suddenly they sit in 10th place in the ultra-tight western conference.

The Oilers play seven games before the April 3rd trade deadline, and those results should give us an indication if the Oilers will be buyers or sellers.

The Oilers need a few more experienced players. It will be hard to find them at the deadline, especially if the race in the west stays this tight. If a few teams drop out that should put a few more players on the market.

The Oilers have so much youth on this roster and prospects in the system they could afford to trade one or two of them. You can’t have an entire team made up of players drafted in the last four or five years. It won’t work, and if the right deal is there for a solid veteran, I’d pull the trigger.

CONTRACTS

 Ladislav Smid’s contract expires at the end of the year. Smid is a solid defensive D-man who kills penalties, competes hard and blocks a lot of shots. He is limited offensively, but he understands his role on the team and, most importantly, he accepts his role.

The Oilers can’t afford to lose him this summer, and they likely won’t get more than prospects and picks for him at the deadline. They need to re-sign him. The Oilers can’t lose a young, veteran player just as they are starting to show signs of improving, especially when they don’t have much depth on the blueline.

Look at a four-year deal worth $3.3-$3.8 million/year and get the deal done.

Sam Gagner’s contract status is much different.

He is having a career year and he’s been consistent offensively all season. His line still surrenders more shots against than they produce, but overall Gagner’s game is solid. His offensive numbers likely put him at the $5 million mark. That would only be a $1.8 million raise from his current deal, so it won’t crush the Oilers cap wise.

His raise will come from Nikolai Khabibulin’s $3.75 cap hit coming down. The Oilers will either sign Khabibulin or another goalie as the back up for around $1-$1.2 million. 

The Oilers could take Gagner to arbitration this summer. It would make sense because this is the last year he is eligible. I know some feel that filing for arbitration can lead to bitter feelings, but I don’t always agree. Just because they file for arbitration doesn’t mean they have to use the arbitrator. Gagner filed for arbitration last year, and they settled prior to the hearing and neither side has any bitterness.

The bigger question for Gagner will be the length of his deal. Do you sign him to a one, two, three, four or five year pact?

I don’t see any urgency to sign Gagner before the season ends. The tough decision will come in the summer when both sides try to figure out what term works best.

How long would you sign Gagner for? 

GET READY

  Western DIV GP W L OT P ROW GF GA Diff Home Away S/O L10 Streak
1  * – Chicago CEN 28 23 2 3 49 19 95 60 +35 11-1-1 12-1-2 4-3 8-2-0 Won 2
2  * – Anaheim PAC 27 20 3 4 44 15 90 66 +24 11-1-0 9-2-4 5-3 7-0-3 OT 1
3  * – Minnesota NW 27 15 10 2 32 12 70 68 +2 10-3-1 5-7-1 3-1 7-3-0 Won 2
4  St. Louis CEN 28 16 10 2 34 14 85 80 +5 8-5-1 8-5-1 2-1 6-4-0 Won 3
5  Detroit CEN 29 14 10 5 33 12 78 75 +3 9-4-3 5-6-2 2-2 5-3-2 Won 2
6  Los Angeles PAC 27 15 10 2 32 14 81 71 +10 10-2-1 5-8-1 1-1 6-4-0 Won 1
7  Vancouver NW 27 13 8 6 32 10 77 77 E 7-4-3 6-4-3 3-5 3-5-2 Lost 1
8  San Jose PAC 27 12 9 6 30 8 64 69 -5 8-1-4 4-8-2 4-3 4-3-3 Lost 1
 
9  Phoenix PAC 28 13 11 4 30 10 77 78 -1 10-5-1 3-6-3 3-3 5-4-1 OT 1
10  Edmonton NW 28 11 11 6 28 9 69 81 -12 5-4-3 6-7-3 2-2 4-4-2 Won 1
11  Nashville CEN 29 11 12 6 28 9 67 77 -10 6-2-4 5-10-2 2-5 3-6-1 Lost 3
12  Columbus CEN 29 11 12 6 28 7 64 76 -12 8-4-5 3-8-1 4-3 6-0-4 Won 1
13  Dallas PAC 27 12 12 3 27 11 69 81 -12 5-6-2 7-6-1 1-1 4-4-2 Lost 1
14  Calgary NW 26 11 11 4 26 11 75 87 -12 8-5-2 3-6-2 0-3 5-4-1 Won 2
15  Colorado NW 27 10 13 4 24 9 69 84 -15 8-4-1 2-9-3 1-1 3-5-2 Lost 3

Finally, Oiler fans get to experience an actual playoff drive in Edmonton. Scoreboard watching begins tonight.

A victory by the Ducks over the Sharks will leave the Oilers two points behind 8th place San Jose with 20 games remaining for both teams. They play the Sharks on Wednesday.

The Oilers won’t want to see 3-point game between Dal/Cgy or Van/Minn and ideally you want LA and Chicago to defeat Phoenix and Colorado respectively. Scoreboard watching requires a calculator and an excel spreadsheet to breakdown every scenario, which makes the next six weeks even more exciting, but clearly the Oilers need to go on a good run to stay in the hunt.

They’ve picked up seven points in their last four games, but a three-game losing streak will negate that quickly. The Oilers can’t afford a losing skid, and they need to win in regulation time as often as possible.

They also need to be better at home. I know the Oilers have played the fewest home games in the west, but they also have they are also 14th in winning %. You can use actual wins (5 of 12) which I prefer, of you can calculate points taken (13 of possible 24) and either way they are 14th.

The Oilers have played 12 games at home which is the same as Anaheim and Nashville and one fewer than Chicago, San Jose, LA, Dallas and Colorado. Yes, other teams have played more home games, but the Oilers winning % is only better than the Stars.

Five of their next seven games are at home:

March 20th vs. San Jose
March 23rd vs. St. Louis
March 28th vs. Columbus
March 30th vs. Vancouver
April 1st vs. Calgary.

SJ, CBJ, VAN and CGY are within four points of the Oilers (+ or -), and I suspect they’ll need to win four of five to be in the playoff hunt by the trade deadline.

The Oilers need to come out with more desperation and energy on Wednesday than they did vs. the Predators last night. They didn’t have one shot in the first ten minutes. I credit them for being much better in the third period, but they need to get the fans behind them early. The Oilers have only outshot the visiting team five times this year.

They need to be hungrier at home.

QUICK HITS

  • It sounds like Eric Belanger could be ready for Wednesday. If so, I wonder who comes out of the lineup. I could see Krueger moving Smyth with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle and slotting Belanger between Brown and Petrell. That would put Ryan Jones in the pressbox.
     
  • If they do activate Belanger I suspect Teemu Hartikainen goes to OKC. The only other option is to hide someone else on the IR.
     
  • Fun question. With back-to-back games coming up next Monday and Tuesday in Nashville and St. Louis, which game do you rest Dubnyk?
     
  • We have 38 spots remaining (out of 100) in the Gregor Charity poker classic. The winner wins flights, accommodations and a $10,000 seat at the WSOP main event in Vegas. Info is at bottom of article. Call 780.643.4060 to register. It will be sold out by Wednesday at the latest.
     
  • Andrew Cogliano has more goals (10) than Teemu Selanne, Bobby Ryan or Corey Perry. He’s having a solid year with the 2nd place Anaheim Ducks.
     
  • Jason Spezza has missed 20 games, Erik Karlsson has been out for 15 and Craig Anderson has missed the last 11 games, yet the Ottawa Senators are still winning. Incredible.  

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

  • Dawn

    If they were planning to trade Smid, they should have done it last summer when they could have made a hockey trade to get a real NHL player back in return. Trading him for picks at the deadline is foolish and will set the “re-build” back a step.

    For Gagner, they either need to sign him to a 3 year or longer deal, or trade him this summer, for the same reasons. If Gagner is not your guy, fine, trade him in a hockey trade for a real hockey player, and those deals generally done in the summer these days. If they move him they must get real hockey players in return. It needs to be a 1 for 1 or 2 for 1 deal where Edmonton is getting the “1”.

    The theme – this team needs real hockey players to go with the kids. No more hockey players for picks/prospect trades unless it is secondary players like Jones going the other way.

    Sadly, I have NO faith in this management team to handle either Smid or Gagner well.

  • Oilers21

    My first thought was “why does anyone have to come out of the lineup? Just keep Belanger out”. Then I realized a) positional need, b) faceoffs, and c) that frighteningly, his 0 in the plus/minus column is the second-best on the team. Unfortunately, after 0 goals (and only 3 points) in 21 games, he is on pace for, well, 0 goals