The Finish Line

It is over. The Edmonton Oilers season wrapped up Saturday night with a win over the Canucks. The team ended on a high note with a two-game win streak. If I am being honest they are not really wins. On Friday, the Wild goalies couldn’t stop an earth ball if it hit them in the chest. Saturday night I spent most of the game trying to figure out who all these Canuck players were.

Wins are nice to close out the season, but don’t read anything more into them. It doesn’t mean anything about what this team can do next year without some player changes. These two wins just made the last few days of the season more enjoyable.

As a player, reaching the end of the season without holding the Stanley Cup in your hands is always considered a disappointment. Making the playoffs does soften the blow, but barely. NHL players don’t play a whole season to just make the playoffs.

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I played on teams where we just made it into the first round and then got spit out in four quick games. It was an awesome experience, don’t get me wrong. The intensity of each game was a lot of fun to be a part of. You learn that every mistake is a much bigger issue during the post-season. They often result in a goal against. I know I matured as a player because of being a part of the playoffs, experience like that you can’t get anywhere else.

I learned a lot about playoff hockey when I got a chance to be a part of it. I also learned that when my team got spit out of them right away or we didn’t make at all I was very disappointed. The season just feels like a waste, especially as you get older.

A hockey career is only so long. Each season that goes by where you don’t win the Cup means your window is closing. That is a harsh reality. I don’t have many regrets from my career, but not getting a chance to be a part of a Stanley Cup winner is one. No Stanley Cup, and also not ever finishing off a hat trick in a game.

As this season’s Oilers pack up and leave for the World Championships or their home towns I know there are a lot of mixed emotions. Depending on their age, performance and contract status I know they each have unique feelings about the season ending and leaving the city.

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For the younger guys with contracts they are looking ahead to next season. They should be looking at their own game from this year. What were my areas of strength? What should I do to improve? What should my summer program look like? Do I need to get stronger or a work on a better shot? They should be doing an honest self-evaluation. Coaches and managers will tell you their thoughts but each player should also be honest with themselves. Easy to say, harder to do.

Change is inevitable

There are some players on the Oilers that are still trying to find their way on this team or wondering if they fit in. These guys were probably looking for reassurance in their exit meetings about what they should expect next season. They may or may not have a contract for next year, but they know they will be back in the organization, just not sure where.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. I know this group well. In fact, you could say I am an expert.

You have your meetings, you get your feedback and you give your thoughts on the team. Then you leave. Most often you don’t know if you will be back. It is unsettling, especially if you know you want to come back.

There are a few Oilers that fit into this group. Both Mark Fistric and Ryan Jones have said they would like to come back but as they take off, they really don’t know. They might not know for quite a while. I have learned that the wheels do not turn quickly around the NHL. Maybe Mac T will be different. We will have to wait to find out.

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Change in the NHL is inevitable on each team. Players must learn to roll with it. There are a few guys on each team that have long term deals but for many it is three years and less. In today’s NHL players move around.

So as all the Oilers players leave town over the next couple of weeks they should all be reflecting on this season and how they played or produced. Some are probably very comfortable knowing they will be back next year and others are probably packing up for good.

There are a lot of holes through this lineup that need addressing. I am very interested to see which players come back and how they adjust their games for more success for the team. I am also interested in seeing who is new coming in and how they bring want is needed.

If the goal for the Oilers is to make the playoffs next year, rookie general manager Craig MacTavish is going to have to remake quite a bit of this roster. I picked the Oilers to finish eleventh, they finished twelfth. Jumping for twelfth to eighth next year will be a pretty push, but not impossible if MacT brings in the right kind of players.

If the long term goal of the Oilers is to win a Stanley Cup they have a long way to go. After the playoffs are over put the winning lineup next to the Oilers best lineup from this year. That will be eye opener. I would say the Oilers are about half way there. Being half way there is the good news, the bad news is most of the teams in the NHL are half way there.

Alzeimer’s Pro Am Hockey tournament

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This past weekend I got to play in this great tournament to raise money and awareness for Alzeimers. It was a great time. There were many NHL alumni there and each team got to draft their favorite.

I was drafted by a bunch of great guys called the Forget-me-nots. We played with a lot of energy and were very good at hemming the team in our own zone to tire them out. I think I actually beat my personal shift length record of four minutes!

Oilers Nation also put together a team. I really got a sense of how much this group values my friendship when they skipped me during the draft. Ouch! That was a stinger.

I did get my chance at revenge to the Nation when I played with Gregor’s team the Journeymen against the Nation. We put the boots to the Oilers Nation team! With their lack of leadership that shouldn’t come as a big surprise!

Great weekend all around, I can’t wait till next year!

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  • charliedont

    I disagree. A lot of it is hindsight. I really thought Tambellini bringing in Belanger (coming off a 40pt season with PHX and easily passing the 30 pt mark in his last 5 seasons), Hordichuk and Eager for toughness was going to help. Also, adding Cam Barker seemed like a no lose situation. A former high-first rounder who could redeem himself… It did absolutely nothing. The square-heads couldn’t add energy or protection and Belanger made players disappear around him. I can’t remember now, but I would guess I wasn’t alone in thinking he was on to something. Now, we can all point the finger, but it’s a little silly to say he was impatient. What was he supposed to do – draw chest hair on Hall?

    He should have dropped Hemsky for a $10 bill and that’s something we can all agree on.

  • I am not happy they said Smyth will be back. I loved him in his prime, but he has been passed by many prosepts on a thin team. He is not big enough or mean enough to be effective on the fourth and no longer good enough to be higher.

    We all know there are some big holes in the lineup as well as some very skilled players.

    The lineup I would like to see next year would look like this;

    PF- Hall – Yak

    PF – Nuge- Eberle

    Paajarvi – Horcoff – Jones

    Hartikainan – Physical Centre – Physical RW


    My D would be;

    Smid – J Schultz

    N schultz – Petry

    Klefbom – Big puck moving Dman aquired in trade


    I would also bring in a high end backup to push Dubnyk.

    Players I would be looking to move would be Smyth, Belanger, Lander, Petrell, Gagner, Hemsky, Peckam, Potter.

    This means replacing 2 top 6, 2 bottom 6, and bringing in a solid mentor to play with Klefbom on the bottom pairing. Ideally someone good enough to play in the top 4. Then a solid backup. That is a minimum of 6 moves assuming Klefbom looks good enough to make the team out of camp. 7 if he is not ready.

  • Why is there so much Gagner hatred. It’s going too far. Gagner is exactly the type of player Oilers need but some so-called Oilers fans do what they do best and that’s running players out of town.

    • Because having two small centers in the top 6 isnt a great option and hes miles behind RNH. Its not Gagner hatred so much as looking at the guy and realizing he has value and doesnt really fit into the team if we are to have a balanced lineup. Cant fault the guys heart but he just doesnt really fit a need if we can get back a good return.

      Not to mention he’s terrible defensively.

    • I loved Gagner’s compete level this year and he has great value.

      He is small, has trouble winning faceoffs and loses too many battles. On a balanced team I would not want my 2 top centremen have the same flaws.

      Nuge is better defensively, sees the ice better and has more upside. Gagner is the logical one to trade. I still only move him if we can get a legit 2nd line centre with size back in the trade.

      I am also hoping that Sean Monahan is still available at centre as he looks like a legit prospect to strengthen our future at the centre role, but probably needs another year in the minors.

    • oliveoilers

      wow, deja vu! are you sure you haven’t posted this on every single blog for the last week?

      Anyhoo, lotta soul searchin’ and a lotta trades to make. Some of these players have to realise that when a team looks at you as a future addition, they look at all aspects, including personality. If you take the easy route when things get tough, how does that endear you to other GMs looking to aquire you?

      Oh and what’s a Jerrod Smithson, and what does it do?

    • Yak Attack


      All you do is bash the fan’s for having opinions. You do realize that the team we have now is not good enough ? You also realize that to get something good in return you have to give up something good ? Of the current top 6, which need to be changed up, who do you suggest that we would get a good return for while keeping our young future stars ?

      I have asked you, as well as others, to tell us what you think should be done rather than bashing the fans. What would you do to make the oilers better ??????

      Besides having Kevin Lowe coach, GM, scout and be the President, what would you do ????

    • PlayDirty

      Once again, you rash, Gagner wasn’t even mentioned in the article or comments. Quit being such a f’n drama queen. You are the one that insists on making any sort of issue about him. The worst thing about being an Oiler fan is getting associated with people like you. Go watch Oprah or something with Glen Healey.

  • This is a case of easier said than done. There will be a lot of teams shedding salary next year, but there will be a lot of teams with a lot of cap space looking to scoop these players. I see a lot of overpays in the future. Oilers, proceed with caution…

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I don’t hate Gagner. I just realize we are a terrible team with huge holes. I don’t even think he would get as much as we’d hope in a trade either and that’s before he gets his big raise. This Gagner contract is going to be such a huge factor going forward both for what he’s worth in a trade and future cap management. Anything over 4.5 is going to ensure we keep him a very long time wether we like it or not im guessing. MacT mentioned moving him over to wing. I’d be ok with that if it wasn’t for the fact we tried it already and it didn’t work that well.

    • vetinari

      Well, in all fairness, the earth is “ball” shaped (although slightly flattened at the polls due to the earth’s rotation)– maybe Struds was hinting that the goalies couldn’t stop a “planetary-sized” object? Either that, or he was referring to his favorite childhood game of “earth ball”– played in some of Edmonton’s famous parks during the wet months of April through June– where participants try to hit each other from two feet away with “earth balls”? Preferably with dog excrement rolled inside for that “extra surprise”? 😉

  • OilClog

    I would say they are more then half way there.. As MacT and everyone else has said.. Oilers have the high end skilled talent that is nearly impossible to deal for. However meat, grind, and determination usually don’t cost as much. Just have to make sure you know how to pick your meat, or you end up with stale slabs. Belanger, Eager, Petrell, Hordichuk, Schultz Sr, Khabby, Whitney.

    However! Smyth is still a nice cut of beef, what the coach asked him to do this season.. well.. ridiculous.. and what the GM left the coach with.. well Steve is now judging avocados.