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

  • yawto

    Incredibly, the Oilers get five out of a possible six points in their next three games. Continuing their slide, Vancouver only gets two out of a possible six. This sets up the game against Vancouver. If the Oilers win they edge out Van for one of the last playoff spots. If they lose, then Van stays in the hunt for number one in the division.

    What is more impressive than the west being close, is how close the North West is. Three teams from any division in the playoffs is amazing. And it could be that only two from the Northwest make it. But it is just as likely that four teams from the North west end up in the playoffs.

    This has been the most up and down year of Hockey I can remember.

  • Phixieus666

    It amazing that they are so close but to make the push I think they need to make moves. Problem is with the current roster/contract situation and what they have to offer, I think their hands are mostly tied unless so teams suffer some injuries and get really desperate.

    To many crap contracts killings the team flexibility.

  • yawto

    What would be nice is if this team negates the need for scoreboard watching. What I am saying is, keep on winning and racking up points and it will be the other teams that need to scoreboard watch. Middle of march and the playoff hopes rest in the hands of the kids. Hall has said how he has been looking for some meaningful nhl games, now he has them. Time to man up.

    • wiseguy

      This season is proof that a shorter season is much more exciting than a long one. Every team has a chance still with 20 games to go. That is a function of only being 28 games in as opposed to 62 games in. For example, Colorado is only 6 points out today which a 3 game win streak would have them right back in the race. Prorated, if this was 62 games in, they would be 14 points out with 20 games to go. They would be deadline sellers and their fans would have to watch the crappy death march to the end of the season, which we’ve had to endure the last few years.

  • T__Bone88

    Filing for arbitration on Gagner would actually be a smart idea for the purpose that I believe no teams can make an offer sheet once arbitration is filed. This off season might see an increase in offer sheets due to the limited FA list and lowering of the cap.

  • 24% body fat

    Gagner to arbitration does not buy UFA years. With his PK, and how much Eberle is making he has a strong case at arbitration. (especially if the oilers are stupid enough to re-up nuge to 6M first). Though he may play more or as many minutes as 14 and 4, he plays a lot of them in non scoring situations.

    Give him a letter, and get the home team discount.

    He has been on the ice for only one pp goal against but on for three short handed for.

    • Ducey

      According to Orr Hockey Group, who manages him, he hasn’t been on for a single goal against. Still, those are pretty decent stats for his first year on the penalty kill. He’s been consisently in the top minutes for forwards almost every night too, playing several minutes more than Eberle or Hall on some nights. You gotta think that ups his asking price for sure. I agree with giving him a letter. I see him as more of a leader out there than Eberle right now for sure. He’s definitely got more fire/spark/jam or whatever you want to call it.

  • Crispy

    I really wish the Oilers had signed Gagner long term before this career year he is having. Paying him 5 mil will make our cap situation pretty tight when Nuge, Yak and Schultz get extended.