Last one out hit the lights. With the NHL Playoffs beginning tonight, and the draft lottery results now known; outside of any managerial/coaching changes, the Oilers are done making headlines until the NHL Entry Draft on June 22, a little over two months away. That’s a lot of quiet time to fill in the meantime, a perfect time for a little reflection on the Oilers.
The Top Six
The most apparent strength of this team lies in the young core of forwards and the slow emergence of scoring depth (when the team is healthy.) Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Hemsky, Gagner are forming a solid top six, with just a spot on the left wing being a bit of a question mark for now. Personally, I’d like to see less of Ryan Smyth in that spot, and more of Magnus Paajarvi or Teemu Hartikainen, whichever has the stronger camp next year, both now having extended stints in OKC and both looking better off for it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Ryan Smyth, he’s done nothing but bleed blue and orange for this franchise during his time here, I really wish the first trade never happened. But he’s also never been the most talented player, which is an understatement. He could go down as the highest scoring average player. Every point he’s earned on the ice has been through relentless hard work and taking a lifetime of punishment in front of the net. He’s 36, and it’s apparent that his playing style has taken it’s toll. As the season wore on, he looked more and more fatigued, I’m not sure if he has enough gas in the tank to play a full season, or seasons, if the rumour that he’s looking for a two year deal is true.
All I’m saying is, I think there’s better options at LW for the Oilers to look at next year, and I won’t be heartbroken if there isn’t a # 94 SMYTH jersey out on the ice next year.
Which leads me to another Ryan I’d like to see the Oilers part with this off-season…
Haha. Just kidding. Now that I have your attention..
Ryan Whitney used to be a good defenceman based solely on the fact that he used to be a strong skater, which masked some of his defensive deficiencies and allowed him to make up for a bad read. Take away his skating abilities and this is what you get.
He doesn’t deserve all the blame, Gagner really needs to not Belanger that shot, but Whitney’s read and play after the shot miss is just terrible. Not to mention, he makes Getzlaf look like a speed demon.
A Boeing 747 has a smaller turn radius. Sorry Whitney, but you and your chronically injured feet have to go.
I know I’m in the minority here, but I like Shawn Horcoff, I like him as a defensive centre, I like him as our captain. His contract is atrocious, yes. He doesn’t put up production that warrants his cap hit. That’s something to hang over the heads of Oiler management , not Horcoff’s. He’s good at what he does, win faceoffs, play against tough competition, limit their scoring chances, and get pucks out of his own zone. Jonathan Willis has an excellent post at Cult of Hockey (warning, fancy stats) showing the underlying numbers support Horcoff’s play. Of course, if you’re not into analytics, you’ll remain unconvinced.
The Oilers Achilles heel this season, hemorrhaging scoring chances left and right, and it should come as no surprise, the defense was paper thin to start the year and once injuries (or in Sutton’s case, suspensions) piled up, you had AHL caliber defenders trying to play 15-20 minutes in an NHL game. If Tambellini does nothing to address this, we might as already start finding a clever “lose for player” rhyme motto for Nathan MacKinnon, because it’ll be a recipe for disaster again.
Even if you can’t land a stud defender, like a Weber or Suter, you can still do wonders by bringing in a couple of quality depth guys (which Tambo should be doing even if he does land a #1 guy.), anything to help mitigate a downgrade of quality play when the injury bug strikes, if we can keep Taylor Chorney in OKC and Sutton and Potter playing anything other than third pairing, progress will be had.
One thing we learned this season? Dubnyk is a much better goalie than actor:
No seriously, Dubnyk finished the year as .500 goaltender on the second worst NHL team, and with a decent .914 save percentage. He might not be the long term answer for the Oilers in net, but would it hurt just to give him the starter job next year and just let him run with it? The results could be pleasantly surprising.
So What Do We Do Now?
With nothing Oilers related happening for a few months, there’s always jumping on the anti-Canucks bandwagon, or watching the bloodbath that will be the battle of Pennsylvania in round 1. (If only the Battle of Alberta could get this nasty again.) For those of our readers in the Edmonton area (which I’d imagine is the majority of our readership), there are playoffs in this very city. You might want to catch a game or two of the Oil Kings WHL playoff run, they’re currently up 3-0 in their second round matchup against the Brandon Wheat Kings, and haven’t lost a game since Feb 22, and haven’t had a losing streak since November.
You’d also get a look at Oilers prospects Martin Gernat, Travis Ewanyk, and Kristians Pelss, and well as a handful of players who should be drafted in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft, with Griffin Reinhart, Henrik Sameulsson, and Mitchell Moroz.
And of course, keep reading Oil on Whyte as Jeff continues to break down the top ten Oiler stories of 2011-2012, and for my eventual draft preview.
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