Maybe I’m reaching for an angle in a season that’s been devoid of any intrigue for months, but with three games remaining for the Edmonton Oilers, the three-way race for the team goal-scoring lead being staged by Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and David Perron has my attention.
Part of it, I suppose, is Hall, Eberle and Perron are in a dead-heat for the goal-scoring lead with 27, which happens to be one of my favorite numbers. The other hook for me is that the Oilers haven’t had three players with 25-or-more goals in the same season since 1996-97, a campaign second only to the Stanley Cup run of 2006 in terms of giving fans something to cheer about since the last parade in 1990.
Hall, Eberle and Perron were in elementary school back when the Oilers upset the Dallas Stars in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarter-final, when Todd Marchant raced around a wooden-legged Grant Ledyard and fired a shot behind Andy Moog at Reunion Arena to send the Oilers to the second round versus the Colorado Avalanche. Good times.
That regular season, Ryan Smyth scored 39 goals. Andrei Kovalenko potted 32 and the Polish Prince, Mariusz Czerkawski, scored 26 goals. President of hockey operations Kevin Lowe was on the team that season. Likewise, assistant coach Kelly Buchberger.
Simply put, it’s been awhile.
HERE AND NOW
Facing an eighth straight year out of the playoffs after a season in which fans were expecting more, a three-way goal-scoring race obviously doesn’t come close to generating the same excitement, but Hall, Eberle and Perron have at least provided something of a silver lining to what’s been a grey cloud.
Hall, 22, has put together a terrific last month. Offensive production aside, he’s tied up some loose ends in his game. He’s been more sound defensively and more focused – the overblown water bottle episode aside. His 27 goals equals his previous best, set in 2011-12 (in just 61 games). His 77 points is a career high. He’s been driving the bus.
Eberle, 23, won’t match the 34 goals he scored in 2011-12, but he’s looked a lot better since being reunited with Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It’s been an up-and-down campaign for Eberle to be sure, but we’re seeing a narrower margin between his best outings and his worst outings lately. He’ll push 30 goals with a shooting percentage that sits at 13.6 today, rather than the tough-to-replicate 18.9 he had during his 34-goal year.
Perron, 25, has delivered everything the Oilers could have hoped when GM Craig MacTavish acquired him from the St. Louis Blues in the Magnus Paajarvi trade. He’s been a pain-in-the-arse, as expected, and his 27 goals is a career high (he had 21 in 57 games in 2011-12). He’s provided grit and, most important, secondary scoring. So far, he’s been a steal.
Does this three-way race trump the drudgery of another season out of the playoffs? Obviously not. Does it matter, outside of bragging rights in the dressing room? Probably not. Like I said, though, it’s been a long, long time since the Oilers had three players with 25-or-more goals, so I’ll take it for what it’s worth and enjoy these next three games.
I’ll put a buck on Hall to finish on top.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- With 77 points, Hall has a chance to reach 80 points, No Oiler has done that since 2000-01, when captain Doug Weight had 90 (25-65-90) in 82 games.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.