You don’t have to look very far in any aspect of life to understand old sayings like "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" or "one man’s junk is another man’s treasure" ring true. People paying for tickets to cheer for the Edmonton Oilers, like those who get into Rexall Place via the pass door, aren’t exempt.
Lots of proof regarding that in the reactions we had to the piece we ran here a couple of days back after writers at this website were asked to pick their award winners for this season. MVP? Easy. Best forward? Geez, tough call there, too. That would be Taylor Hall, two times.
How about goat of the year? The way I see it, that’s not nearly as easy to pin down and define, mainly because of different expectations people, including writers here, had going into this season. What’s the measuring stick?
I’m speaking specifically, of course, about my selection of Jeff Petry as goat of the year and the reaction to it by readers – one or two agreed with me Petry hadn’t been easy on the eyes but many more disagreed vehemently. I have no real issue with that – anonymous name-callers aside — because that’s part of the gig when you’re paid to give your opinion.
FROM WHERE I SIT
I based my selection of Petry on the expectations I had of him going into this season. Simply put, a player I expected little from wasn’t going to be my goat, which eliminated a handful of roster filler right off the hop. I simply can’t get worked up either way about Lennart Petrell.
Now, whether my expectations of Petry were reasonable based on what I saw from him in 2011-12 are certainly up to debate. That’s fair. As a reference and for context, here’s what I wrote about Petry back on Jan. 21. Suffice to say, I thought – and still do despite what I consider a so-so season – Petry can be a very good player in the NHL for a long time.
Lots of players had worse seasons than Petry – Ryan Whitney, Eric Belanger and Ryan Smyth, to name just three. The thing is, while I was all over the Whitney-for-Lubomir Visnovsky trade when it was made, I didn’t know what to expect from him this season, given his injury problems. Belanger? Seemed pretty clear after last season he wasn’t happy here and didn’t much care to help the kids along in the rebuild. He lived down to that expectation. Smyth? Mad respect for No. 94, but it was clear to me – you can look it up – he came into this season as a waning asset. Didn’t expect much of any of them.
Petry, who came on like gangbusters last season, is a different matter. Yes, he logged a lot of tough minutes. He played in a lot of situations on a paper-thin blueline corps. Fair comment. Worst guy back there? Not even close.
That said, I didn’t see a continuation of the development Petry showed last season. I expected him to be the Oilers best defenseman by a long, long shot, even allowing for the obvious offensive talent of Justin Schultz. I didn’t see it, not in the context of how high he set the bar last season. Simple as that.
WHILE I’M AT IT
While others like Jason Strudwick and Jason Gregor have already taken a run at this, here’s my two cents on who is likely on their way out of town, based on what new GM Craig MacTavish said in his season-ending address . . .
It doesn’t take a vast intellect to know that Whitney and Theo Peckham are goners. Likewise, neither Darcy Hordichuk nor Ben (Not So) Eager aren’t in the plans, and shouldn’t be. Jerred Smithson? He brought nothing. Belanger has been a bust on the ice and in the room. Adios. Easy pickings, this six.
After that? Smyth will remain an Oiler, as he should. I’m just not sure he’ll wear a jersey, even if they have to cut it off his back. Organizational coach seems about right. Ryan Jones? Tough year with the eye injury. Still, gone. How about Nikolai Khabibulin? My guess is he stays.
Might Ales Hemsky or Magnus Paajarvi help acquire some of that meat MacTavish was talking about? Yes and yes. I’d also hope MacTavish makes a pitch for UFA David Clarkson, who is exactly what this team needs (along with a legit first-pairing defenseman).
While most of the six or seven prospects grouped behind Seth Jones look like solid kids who’ll play in the NHL, I don’t see anybody past the top three in Central Scouting rankings who looks like a lock to be an elite player. If I was MacT, I’d have that No. 7 pick in play along with Hemsky and Paajarvi.
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