Friday, December 17, 2010

Playoffs or a Lottery Pick?

The Western Conference once again is tight with only six points separating eighth place from last.  Our Edmonton Oilers are sitting in last place but are in contention for a playoff spot.  Of course there are six other teams on the outside fighting to get into that eighth spot which includes the defending champions Chicago.  I'm not surprised to see Chicago in this position since they had to gut their team last year due to salary cap issues and let their goalie go and sign Turco instead. 

While sitting six points out of a playoff spot, the Oilers are also in a lottery position (5th) today.  The players are not thinking of the lottery nor the future.  They want to win.  They are competitive athletes and you want to see this passion and desire to win from them.  However, this team is not a contender.  They have major holes in their lineup (hello defense) and have to find better grinders or plugs.  But it is nice to see the team compete albeit inconstantly. 

The management put this team together not to win right now.  This is a team destined for a lottery pick but they are developing a bit quicker than anyone thought.  Hall and Eberle are leading the charge while Hemsky and Horcoff are out with injury.  Linus Omark (pictured above) got the call up when Hemsky went out and he is certainly making the most of it.  His spectacular shootout goal was all about confidence.  Not the sexiest move but to try that in his first NHL game was ballsy! 

Omark has played four games and has four points.  He got his first NHL goal last night against Columbus to go along with his two assists.  It was a very good performance.  While he is a smaller guy, he does not play like one.  He protects the puck surprisingly well and does not get pushed around too much.  He is very good on the powerplay, coming off the half board and generating chances.  I think playing in the AHL for two months was very important to his development.  He got to know the North American game, struggled early on until he found his game and built up his confidence.

I have been following Omark for several years, hoping he would finally make his way over to the Oilers and would not be a disappointment.  While it has been just four games, he is living up to expectations.  He is not just a shootout specialist.  If he continues this play, the Oilers will have to find room for him when Hemsky returns.  No way this kid goes back to the AHL.  Where does this leave other bubble players?  You do not want to shuttle him to the fourth line.  This kid needs to play in the top 9 at the minimum so players like Brule and Cogliano are now expendable. 

Hemsky is supposed to be out for one month so that takes us to the first week in January.  Who stays and who goes??  If you move Cogliano, Brule could move over to center.  Or do you waive Jacques or MacIntyre who are basically useless and move Brule to the fourth line?  There will be some decisions needed when Hemsky returns.

The Oilers have lacked depth in recent years so this is a nice problem.  So does this team have a real chance to get into the playoffs?  It's not a completely crazy notion but I suspect they will fall short.  The Oilers give up way too many shots on net and scoring chances.  Last night, they gave up 23 shots in the first period alone and came out with a 2-1 lead simply because Columbus does not have a strong goalie.  Against the Detroits or Vancouvers, I doubt that would be the case. 

So let's enjoy the ride.  This team will probably end up in the bottom ten and possibly bottom five, but they are a very fun team to watch.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oilers vs Canucks - Another Shootout Please!

The Oilers are 7-2-1 in their last ten games.  They are no longer in the last place but are sitting just outside a lottery draft pick position (6th).  With Horcoff and Hemsky out for extended periods, this team may still end up in a lottery position but damn they are making it exciting.  With Hemsky out, Linus Omark finally got the call and made the most in his first NHL game.  He had a tough start to the game, failing to clear the puck out of the zone which resulted in a goal.  His line, which included fellow callup Ryan O'Marra and recently hot Ryan Jones, were out chanced badly in the game.  However, Omark did get some powerplay time and made a nice move on the half boards, drove the net for a shot and Gilbert jumped on the rebound.  One assist in his first game would have been a decent start BUT Omark brought the sizzle when the game went into the shootout.  Mr. Youtube did it again.  After Eberle scored a beautiful goal and Hall missed, it was left to Omark to clinch and win the game.  In his first NHL game, he brought his balls with him.

Tampa Bay claimed this goal was disrespectful.  The players whined and bitched after the game.  It was embarrassing.  The shootout was added to the game for a reason; excitement!!  As Don Cherry said on coaches corner, "This is a gimmick within a gimmick."  When Don Cherry does not admonish a European player for this ballsy move, then Tampa Bay really needs to shut the hell up.  Man up.  It was not against the rules.  If you do not like it, too god damn bad.  You could have done the move.  Or maybe here is something shocking for Dan Ellis, STOP THE PUCK!

It was an exciting start for Linus Omark.  I despise the shootout.  I hate it with a passion but if we must have it in the game, I want more goals scored like this.  Rexall Place went crazy, twitter went nuts....Omark was trending not only in Canada but worldwide.  The hockey and non-hockey world was talking about this rookie kid and the goal.  This is good for the game.  Was it the most spectacular goal?  Of course not but since this was his first NHL game, you have to give the kids kudos for bringing it and having the balls to try something like that in his first NHL game and shootout attempt.

The Canucks are in town tonight.  Anyone else want another shootout?  Hell yes!  I do want Omark to play a bit better at even strength and beef up his defensive play.  The Oilers were outshot 17-1 in the third period but came out like gangbusters in the overtime so come on Oilers, a little more consistency please.  The team as a whole has been playing quite well over the last ten games with our rookies leading the way.  Our aging goalie is bringing it as well.  Dubnyk will get the start tonight which is necessary.  Let's not tire out Khabibulin too much and give the other rookie a chance to make his mark and continue his development.

Let's go Oilers.  I want another win and possibly another shootout!