David Perron struck first in the game between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues Thursday night, turning the tables for Oiler fans. Usually, it’s former players that burn us but tonight, Perron would return the “favor”. That would hardly spark the team to a performance worth remembering though. With only one additional goal added to that total by defenseman Mark Fraser (his first goal as an Oiler), the Oilers were actually all knotted up going into the third period. The rails would come off in the third, however, as the Blues regrouped and used the Oilers like a dirty rag.
The game was further proof that the Oilers are not ready to play against the elite teams in the NHL. St. Louis, under Ken Hitchcock, however, have become the very definition of a proper NHL team. The defence is tough on all three lines, the forwards backcheck and the goaltending has always been solid. They are a COMPLETE team.
Thursday was another specimen for the lab, as the Edmonton Oilers couldn’t sustain the effort for a full game. Eakins echoed those sentiments, chirping that the team could have “played another 20 minutes.” It’s a pity they didn’t. The Oilers were 8-3-2 over the last thirteen games, playing good enough hockey to rank in the Top 5 teams in the league since just before the Olympic break.
If anyone knew what the disease is that ails the Oilers dressing room, the cure would swiftly arrive, of that I am quite sure. One consistent symptom, though, is the lack of complete efforts. Frankly, seasons like this one from the likes of Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov could lead to some hot trade deadline talk in 2015. What’s that you say? Trade our core?
Yup. If they continue to perform anemically on nights when just a little more grit is called for, they could punch their ticket off the team. Naturally, I’d like to see them stick and grow into the NHL players their pedigree indicates. But, have we seen these four ever just take over the game and LEAD? Hall has on occasion, but until these players and the others that play with them commit to full, intensive efforts 82 times a season, this spiral will perpetuate itself. The Oilers have some real gems in these young men. But, gems can lose their lustre if they don’t get polished and put every shimmering angle on display.
The Oilers play once again tomorrow night against a struggling Detroit Red Wing team. ( I love writing that sentence) If they have any self-respect, they will play as good as a back to back game will allow them and try to complete a full game with an even level of effort. On the other hand, perhaps Eakins will allow some players to play a full game. Yakupov with 11 minutes? Really, Dallas?