To that same old place that you laughed about.
Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around.”
I loved Welcome Back Kotter. Epstein was my favourite, although all the Sweathogs were beauties. I miss that show, and despite sitting in 29th place again most of the diehard Oilers fans miss watching their team.
Edmonton hasn’t played a home game since Ben Scrivens set an NHL record for most saves in a shutout with 59. It was a memorable night, and even though it has only been 28 days since the Sharks peppered Scrivens it seems like forever that you were watching the Oilers with equal amounts of anger (for the skaters) and awe (for Scrivens).
Welcome back Oil fans, I’m sure the final 22 games will provide you with a wide array of emotions.
The Oilers went into the Olympic break on a high, going 5-1-1 and outscoring the opposition 18-12. The Oilers were outshot 266-195 in those games, but Scrivens and Ilya Bryzgalov only allowed 12 goals for a spectacular .954 SV%.
Great goaltending can cover up a lot of weaknesses, and while the Oilers played well in victories over Nashville, Vancouver and New York, it is clear they still have significant room to improve. Winning does give you confidence and the Oilers are feeling much better about their overall game today than at any other point this season.
Clearly they need to cut down on shots against, but at this point they will take a win regardless of how ugly or pretty it is.
The Oilers have had the luxury of having almost the entire team practicing for a week, and they have been able to have a mini training camp and work on improving their system play. The Wild have not had one practice with their entire team, and we’ll see if that is a factor tonight.
The Oilers have played the fewest home games of any team thus far, 26, and one of their goals is to try and become a competitive team on home ice during their final 15 games at Rexall Place.
Tonight presents a good opportunity to start their modest two-game home winning streak when they face the Wild, who are one of the worst road teams in the NHL. The Wild are tied with the Flames, Oilers, Capitals and Coyotes for 2nd fewest road wins in the league, but only Buffalo has scored fewer goals on the road than the Wild’s 59.
The Wild are outstanding at home 21-7-2, but they are a measly 10-14-5 on the road. The Oilers need to take advantage of a team that can’t score when they don’t have last change. The Wild have scored more than 2 goals only 8 times in 29 road games.
The Oilers haven’t been world beaters at home, however, with only 10 wins in 26 games, but if they want to eventually become competitive they have to make Rexall Place less inviting. They play 15 of their final 22 games at home, so they will have ample opportunity to get comfortable at home.
Hemsky has been moved up to the 2nd line and he’ll play the left wing. He hasn’t spent much time on the left side, but he is excited to be in more of an offensive role. I see this as a final week showcase for Hemsky and Craig MacTavish must be hoping Hemsky can get a boost from his Olympic production. I doubt three or four good games will change things that much, but you never know. Right now I bet there are 10-12 GMs who firmly believe their team could win the Cup, and another 8 or so who think with a lucky bounce and a smart addition they too could be in the hunt.
Nick Schultz is also in showcase mode playing alongside they younger Schultz. I suspect the elder Schultz will be moved before Wednesday and when he is gone, I’d put Belov with J.Schultz for 5-10 games and see how he does. Belov needs to play better, but he skates well and is strong enough to defend big, top-six forwards. He needs to be more consistent, but I think it would be wise to play him top-four minutes and see how he does.
- Hemsky would fit nicely in Ottawa. They need another top-six winger and some speed. The Oilers would probably love to get forward Matt Puempel, but that won’t happen. D-man Fredrik Claesson is a nice prospect, but he shoots left. Nurse, Klefbom, Gernat, Simpson and Musil all shoot left. Ideally if the Oilers acquire a D-man prospect he should be a right-handed shot.
- If the Oilers are able to acquire a prospect instead of draft picks, I think it should be a forward. Right now the Oilers have more quality defence prospects than forwards. A centre would be ideal, but if MacTavish can somehow get a 20-22 year old prospect I’d try for a forward, and not a small, skilled one.
- Most fans and media felt the Islanders overpaid to get Tomas Vanek, but it looks even worse now. He gave up Moulson AND a 2014 or 2015 first rounder and a 2015 2nd rounder. Vanek won’t re-sign so he’ll be traded before Wednesday. If Snow gets a first rounder back, it isn’t going to be a top-five pick this year and likely not even a top-ten next year. Snow either gives up a top-five, likely a top-three pick this year, or he rolls the dice and hopes that somehow his team will improve next season.
The Islanders will be without Moulson or Vanek and they are on the verge of trading away the D-man who plays the most minutes, Andy MacDonald. It will be a massive task to avoid giving up a top-ten pick next year. If the Islanders struggle next year, they could give up two top-35 picks for a player who played 45 games for them. Ouch.
- Ryan Kesler’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, told Adrian Dater the report from TVA Sports that Kesler asked for a trade “is B.S.” If Kesler did want out there would be a long list of teams interested in acquiring him. He is a very good player. The Oilers desperately need a guy like Kesler. He is a high-end #2 centre, who is a good defensively, can produce offence and plays with an edge. However, there is no way the Canucks trade him within the division. None.
- The Oilers will be a seller, but if I was them I’d look at trying to find a gem like the Ducks did last year with Ben Lovejoy. The Ducks gave up a measly 5th rounder for him and now he’s playing 20 minutes a night for them. The Oilers desperately need some 25-30 year old players. Guys with experience, but not a lot of miles. It will be difficult to pull off, because teams want depth, especially on the blueline, but their pro scouting has to be better and find steals like Lovejoy.
The Rangers want to make a splash and could be looking to get extra cap space. Maybe Justin Falk.
The Coyotes have a lot of D-men — Could David Rundblad be had, altheven though he is 23 and not that experienced? It is difficult to find a Lovejoy, but I can’t recall the last time the Oilers traded away nothing for a player who blossomed in Edmonton.
Spacek, I guess, but that was short term. Ryan Jones on waivers for nothing had two solid 17 and 18 goal seasons, but their overall lack of finding quality veteran NHL players the past eight years is extremely alarming. It is the biggest off-ice issue in the organization in my opinion.
**Anna Sidorova… Russia’s curling skip at the Olympics. She is very good, and I suspect she is likely to become one of the most popular curlers in the world. Gotta love the Olympics.**
GAME DAY PREDICTION: If you can’t beat the pop gun offence of the Wild at home, then who can the Oilers beat? The Oilers start the final quarter of the season much better than they did the first quarter with a ~riveting~ 3-1 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Kyle Brodziak scores. Brodziak has 5 goals in his last 8 games in Edmonton and he has 47 career goals on the road compared to 38 on home ice.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hemsky scores two goals. It will be only the 11th multiple goal game of his career. He hasn’t scored a pair of goals in a game since February 16th, 2013. His two goals adds fuel to the trade rumours and sets up the inevitable, “the Oilers didn’t get enough for him,” talk for next week.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR