While Detroit and Columbus battle for 8th place in the west, and the Rangers and Jets try to giveaway their playoff berth, the Oilers are in an epic battle to secure a top-five draft pick. Victories by Carolina and Nashville last night have given the Oilers a legitimate shot at the #4 pick, and a loss tonight would move them into 26th (fifth pick).
I feel for Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and the other players who give a solid effort most nights, because losing sucks, and this year the feelings of frustration, anger, failure and disappointment are more apparent than ever. Oilersnation is as beaten down as some of the players. Many said the 2012 season was rock bottom, however, that isn’t the case; this year is turning out to be worse.
The Oilers were supposed to improve and compete for the playoffs this year. They did have a five-game winning streak that had them in the playoffs for ONE day, but since that 24-hour tease the Oilers have plummeted down the standings.
There will be no quick fix for the Oilers in the off-season. They won’t be able to fool their fans into believing that an appearance by Oscar Klefbom and their first-round pick will be enough to make them competitive. They sure as hell better not fool themselves into believing that, because the reality is that this team needs improving in many areas.
The most pressing concern for this team is the need to improve their blueline. You can’t win with limited size and strength on the backend. They desperately need a legitimate top-pairing defender, however, those aren’t easy to find.
Those changes aren’t possible during these final three games, but the players who are in the lineup tonight can at least give an honest effort. Show some pride, show some desire. When your best player, Taylor Hall, is giving a solid effort you’d think the lower-tier players would follow his lead.
If they don’t, that should tell Craig MacTavish all he needs to know.
Ryan Whitney has a lower body injury, leg, and he will sit tonight. Magnus Paajarvi is healthy so Eric Belanger returns to the pressbox.
The Oilers need to show up tonight, or the Blackhawks will embarrass them. The good news is that the Oilers are 4-1-1 vs. the Hawks over the past two seasons. and they’ve outscored them 32-23.
At the very least they need to be competitive tonight.
- I disagree with those who believe the Gretzky statue should stay at Rexall, IF or when a new arena actually gets built. Gretzky is connected to the Oilers, not
Northlands, Sky Reach Centreor Rexall Place. Molsons purchased the statue and spokesperson Julie Gathercole said,
- I did, however, agree with Mark Spector’s thoughts on my show. He said, "The Katz Group should step up and build their own statue at the new rink." That makes sense. They should finally step up and lead the charge. They should build some real statues, like the Roberto Clemente one in Pittsburgh (above, how awesome is that). Make a statement and show the fans you are committed to the past, present and future of your franchise. Spend some of your own money.
- Why are so many fans in love with Teemu Hartikainen? What has he done? He has played 22 games and he has 0 ES points. Zero. If I’m not mistaken, he hasn’t even been on the ice for an ES goal. He has an incredible opportunity to earn himself a regular NHL job, but he’s done nothing to show he wants that job. Players need to realize they don’t get NHL jobs handed to them. They need to earn them.
- Ralph Krueger agreed that Hartikainen needs to be more aggressive and have more pushback. "It is important as part of your persona that you respond to that (Beauchemin hit), whether you are a skilled player or not. It is the grit within our offence that is a major element that is missing on our team. We need to have that from guys who aren’t PP guys. He is trying to figure that out, and he needs to become more aggressive with his personality."
- Gotta love the NHL. The Panthers, the worst team in the league, defeated the Rangers, in a fight for their playoff lives, last night. Did anyone pick the Panthers on their Sports Select ticket? I doubt it. Most of us assume the Hawks will win tonight, but in the NHL you never know from game-to-game who will win.
- Oscar Klefbom has spent the past few seasons playing against men, and he looks like he can handle the physical toll of the NHL. He is bigger than many of the guys in the Oilers room. It was refreshing to hear this from Krueger today, "I think he will be able to come to camp and push for the #6 spot on our blueline." The last thing the Oilers need to do is pencil him into their top-four. They need to find proven top-four veterans to play there. If Klefbom comes in and blows the doors off, great, but this team can’t expect to improve if they pin their hopes on another young defender.
- Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL with 31 goals. In the 48-game, 1995 season five players had 30+ goals. Owen Nolan, Ray Sheppard and Alex Zhamnov had 30, Jaromir Jagr had 32 and Peter Bondra led the league with 34 goals. The crazy stat is that Bondra only had 9 assists. NINE freaking assists in 48 games, despite scoring 34 goals.
- Here are some other goal-scoring leaders who came close to Bondra’s Goals/assist ratio:
YEAR GP G A PTS
Cy Denneny 1924 22 22 2 24
Babe Dye 1925 29 38 8 46
Nels Stewart 1926 36 34 8 44
Maurice Richard 1945 50 50 23 73
Gaye Stewart 1946 50 37 15 52
Bobby Hull 1962 70 50 34 84
Bobby Hull 1967 66 52 28 80
Peter Bondra 1995 47 34 9 43
Bondra’s season was unlike anything the NHL had seen in 70 years.
- Did you notice Babe Dye’s 1925 season? He had 38 goals in 29 games, which was 1.31 goals/game. When Gretzky scored 50 in 39 he was at 1.28. Technically Dye had missed one of his team’s game so he had 38 goals in 30 of his team’s games which dropped him to 1.26. Either way, Dye had an unreal 1925 season.
- Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Devan Dubnyk have accepted invitations to the World Championships. Sources tell me Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Eric and Jordan Staal are also likely to be going. Also Justin Schultz, Nick Schultz and Sam Gagner might get an invite. Ladislav Smid will play for the Czech Repulic. Nail Yakupov, Jeff Petry also have a good chance of representing the USA and Russia.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The last time the Hawks were in Edmonton Sam Gagner had 4 goals and 8 points. No one expected that to happen, so anything is possible tonight. We’ll see 10 goals tonight, but the Oilers will lose 6-4.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Andy Moog gets a huge ovation, and before puck drop someone will have the Moog mini-stick they received before the game listed on Kijiji. Likely for $30 bucks.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers fans despite being beaten down, will give a standing ovation in the 2nd period after the 4-89-14 line hem the Hawks in for 30 seconds. The dedication and passion of Oilers fans never ceases to amaze me.