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A Better Time and a Higher Bar

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Robin Brownlee
10 months ago
When you’re looking around for meaningful news about the Edmonton Oilers — or any NHL team for that matter — in the middle of July, the pickings are usually slim and none. That’s the way it is at this time of the off-season.
Aside from crackerjack video man Jeremy Coupal and the Oilers parting ways today, waiting on Ryan McLeod’s arbitration hearing and guessing what Evan Bouchard’s bridge deal will look like, there’s not a lot of substantial stuff to sink your teeth into.
You know it’s silly season when there’s speculation about the Oilers having an interest in Carolina’s Brett Pesce. That has as much chance of happening as GM Ken Holland signing Joe Pesci. Then, there are suggestions Holland should consider a reunion with Ethan Bear — in case he needs a guy with a bum shoulder that’ll keep him out until Christmas. Sure.
What got my attention as I scanned the web this morning was reading Zach Laing’s 86 Days Until the Season Begins item from this week featuring Nikita Nikitin and the juxtaposition to a piece, Roster Redux, on the Oilers official website about the developing feel-good story that is underdog Vincent Desharnais.

LONG WAY DOWN

Yes, anything to do with Nikitin is setting the bar way too low, but it’s a reminder of a time, the 2014-15 season, when the Oilers were truly awful in every way. They had a .378 points percentage, the worst in a dozen years, under Dallas Eakins, Craig MacTavish and Todd Nelson. A long way down.
You know the Oilers are in a better place when deciding whether Desharnais plays the third pairing or is better suited to being coach Jay Woodcroft’s seventh guy is a story instead of talking about Nikitin, Justin Schultz and Andrew Ference playing in front of five different goaltenders and finishing dead-last in goals against. The Oilers were simply trying to stay out of their own way then with Connor McDavid on the way. They consider themselves Stanley Cup contenders now, and they are.
So, until the news cycle kicks into gear again, I’ll take stories about Desharnais and where he might fit in with a group that includes Darnell Nurse, Cody Ceci, Mattias Ekholm, Bouchard and Brett Kulak any day. Even the Pesce and Bear fodder is a step up if you remember reading about how Nikitin was expected to be a “steadying hand.” Steadying hand, my backside.
There remains work to do from the goal crease out with the next edition of the Oilers, but you can give me a mid-July read about Desharnais and how thrilled he is to be looking to keep a roster spot any day.
“I work hard,” he said. “I would say that’s my biggest asset. I’m a hard worker. No matter what happens, I know I’ll work by bag off.”
All told, Nikitin played 53 games with the Oilers over parts of two seasons. Desharnais sits at 36 going into this season. He’ll have Nikitin covered by the end of November and he already has bonus points for the “bag off” quote, but I digress…

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