Friday, December 17, 2010
Playoffs or a Lottery Pick?
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.