The Oilers lost again last night, to San Jose, in a game that saw the home side play well once the game was no longer in the balance. There are 61 nights just like that one straight ahead, and how the Oilers use them is going to set the stage for the 2014-15 season–which will hopefully be the first playoff season since 2005-06.
WHAT CAN THEY GET OUT OF THE SEASON?
The Oilers (according to MacT) have ‘8 or 9’ pieces to the puzzle already in the fold, and based on his own past the names I’d chose for those 9 are Hall, Nuge, Eberle, Yakupov, Gagner, Perron, Petry, Justin Schultz and Darnell Nurse. You can probably add Oscar Klefbom to that list, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The Oilers have Ilya Bryzgalov in Oklahoma City, and he’ll no doubt get a long look in the NHL when he’s ready. Devan Dubnyk is playing a stronger game now, and it’s possible the big man will play well enough to earn a contract with the club next season (although it’s a long shot).
On defense, Oscar Klefbom was called up yesterday and Taylor Fedun has already made his NHL debut. Brandon Davidson, Martin Marincin and others are waiting in the wings and several of the Barons blue could see playing time during this lost season.
The acquisition of Roman Horak gives the Oilers another 4line option and the former Flame actually has a solid resume. Other players who may be recalled include Linus Omark and Anton Lander (who have already played this season) as well as Tyler Pitlick (who finally made it to the NHL only to be injured).
To borrow a phrase from this man, you won’t have Ales Hemsky to kick around anymore! The chances of the Oilers signing the Czech winger have been reduced because of the lack of success this season. All free agent veterans are in danger of being traded any time now, and those who do stay are very unlikely to be re-signed. Nick Schultz, Ryan Jones, at this point even Ryan Smyth might be a deadline rental. We’re going to see a lot more roster turnover (Edmonton has already employed 33 players and that number is going to climb).
The GM is going to have to learn to under promise and over deliver, and the coach is going to have to learn about line matching and finding a useful 4th line he’s willing to play. In hindsight, a rookie coach was probably not a wise decision for this group, but the club has turned over the position so often there must be great hesitancy to replace him.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The Oilers will turn north soon or these men are going to end up in the infirmary. In a very real way, tonight’s game is important to this 4-15-2 hockey club. Win, and there is something to build on. Lose, and people begin to talk about historically bad hockey teams.
I sincerely believe this team is much better than they’ve shown, but they have to prove it. Tonight.