Sure, there’s a chance that I could end up on the cover of GQ Magazine. Impossible as it might seem, there is a chance. Of course, it’s not going to happen. Same goes for the Edmonton Oilers missing the playoffs this season. Yes, there’s a chance they could miss. It’s not going to happen.
After a decade out, they’re in. They. Are. In. The only question now is where they finish in the Western Conference. I got that through my thick, cynical skull about a month ago. While that should be abundantly clear today as the Oilers, 32-19-8 for 72 points, prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, I understand the cold sweats some fans are experiencing and why.
That said, it’s past time to put that decade of the Lucy and the football thing behind. Time to get over it. You could put Steve Tambellini in Peter Chiarelli’s chair and Dallas Eakins behind the bench right now with 23 games to play and the Oilers would still make the playoffs. OK, that might be too much. The hair on the back of my neck just stood up. Still, you get my drift.
The problem with fixating on the rear-view mirror to see who might be gaining on you, what could possibly go wrong, is that all you see is where you’ve been, not where you’re going. It’s past time for the Oilers, from Chiarelli on down through the hockey-ops staff, the coaches, the players and for the long-suffering who pay to get into the building, to focus on what’s ahead, not behind, on the road to the 2017 playoffs.
We all heard what Chiarelli said in his availability with media about the approaching March 1 trade deadline a week or so ago. Chiarelli downplayed the possibility that he’d be a big player when the cell phones get busy. While I prefer a GM who under-sells and over-delivers instead of vice-versa, and while there’s a chance he has the framework for something significant in place, I don’t think he’s blowing smoke.
Why would Chiarelli do anything more than tweak a line-up that has managed 72 points going into Tampa Bay tonight? There is no need to fix what isn’t broken. Might big centre Brian Boyle, lining up with the Lightning tonight, be that tweak? Makes sense to me. Boyle’s name has been out there for weeks now and the Bolts will be sellers unless they string together some wins. The question as always, is the ask by GM Steve Yzerman.
Given the depth, yes, the depth, on the blueline, I don’t foresee Chiarelli making a move for a defenceman. Kris Russell will be back in the line-up against the Lightning and Darnell Nurse will be back from an ankle injury – perhaps as early as tomorrow against Florida or Friday against Washington – this week. Coach Todd McLellan can go seven or eight deep on the back end.
Goal, as in finding a back-up for Cam Talbot, remains an area where a deal can be done. I’m a bit surprised that Laurent Brossoit will start against the Lightning, but as Jason Gregor pointed out yesterday, how Brossoit performs between now and the deadline could have an influence on what Chiarelli does. In any case, we’re talking about finding a back-up, not a throwback to landing Dwayne Roloson in 2006.
With just nine days until the NHL trade deadline, what Chiarelli does will all come out in the wash. What we do know now, or we should know now, is that for the first time in a long time, the Oilers won’t be selling off bits and pieces as they begin the stretch drive with no skin in the game. The Oilers aren’t missing the playoffs and GQ Magazine won’t be calling.
WHILE I’M AT IT
- With the Calgary Flames out of the trade deadline gate early with the acquisition of D-man Michael Stone from Arizona, Coyotes’ GM John Chayka is obviously ready to talk with his team rebuilding through youth and hopelessly out of the playoff picture. Chiarelli should be one of those calling. From where I sit, big pivot Martin Hanzal would fill the same hole in the middle Boyle does.
- Word out of Dallas is Ales Hemsky is back skating and close to returning from hip surgery that has kept him out of all but one game this season. It follows, then, there’s speculation about Hemsky being available at the deadline. Might the Oilers have an interest in an encore for the 33-year-old right winger? That’s a trip down memory lane to the 2006 playoffs that sounds warm and fuzzy, but beyond that?
- If you’re interested in looking at Oiler trade deadline moves over the years, you can find a compilation of that, courtesy of the Oiler website, here.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
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