So it’s the last game of the season. It seems to me like it got here pretty quickly. Maybe because almost nothing happened in the last few months – another dud of a season. But there are positives to look to. Hall had another good season, although plagued by injuries. The Nuge looked incredible almost all year and is in the running for the Calder trophy. Jordan Eberle was spectacular… the best forward on our team… and is in the running for Lady Byng while also being amongst the cream of the crop in the league as far as points go.. 76 points in 77 games! Jeff Petry had a year I never expected him to have, despite him being my favorite defensive prospect. Ladislav Smid surprised just about everyone with his stellar physical defensive play. Unfortunately the excitement dies out after that.
The Oilers will have some tough decisions (as always) this off-season with what to do with some players. Gagner had a big 8 point night back in February, but his season has been OK, but not great. His defensive game has come along though, but we’re still hoping for the offense to show up (that one game aside). He’s up for contract too. Ales Hemsky had a brutal year. That might be a positive in a way, because I feel this was just an off year, and I think that with a healthy Hemsky we could be a lot better. Ryan Smyth had pieces of a good year. He will be looking to seal a deal here that takes him into retirement.. but will we want that? I’d love to see Smytty retire here, but we have to remember that Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Smyth are no longer the future here. They’re the past. So yah, signing them is fine, but we need to do it for fairly cheap, and we need to see the minutes dialed back a significant amount for those vets next year. They are complementary players now, not the main show.
I feel a little better about where we sit on defense, with Smid and Petry’s coming out parties. But it definitely doesn’t hurt to think about some solid depth pick up. It felt clear to me that Corey Potter was a very good defenseman for us when his minutes are managed. Colten Teubert is looking better these days… will he show up next year as our most improved d-man this time? Last year it was Peckham.. but let’s hope Smid doesn’t regress like he did. What about Taylor Fedun or any of our other defensive prospects?
The one position I still don’t feel safe in is goaltending. I really hope the Oilers do what they can to fix this problem. Devan Dubnyk has looked really good in the latter months, but I still don’t think he is our man long term. Nikolai Khabibulin looked spectacular early on in the season… but where the hell did he disappear to later in the season? I think we’ve got an improved defense across the board, and we should be able to get the most out of our goaltending. OK, maybe we could use a bit more d-help, but I think the team looks much better (in my opinion) than how we started the season, even though we got off to such a great start. I think we could use some help in our bottom six too though, although finally sending Magnus Paajarvi and Anton Lander down has helped make us a more “NHL” team. We’re still not there yet, but Petrell looks better there. I think Teemu Hartikainen is a lot more NHL ready than Paajarvi and Lander too. We need some guys there that can score too though.
Anyways, we’re facing Vancouver. They’re playing for the Conference and President’s trophy. Let’s hope for a St. Louis win tonight and an Oilers victory. The Oilers made promises of being spoilers. I’d like to see it. Sure, Vancouver still makes the playoffs, but they don’t have guaranteed home ice vs. any opponent. Every little bit helps.
BTW, Steve-O and I will be at the Oil Kings playoff round 2, game 2 tonight at Rexall. G’Oil x2…
OILERS LINES (PROJECTED)
Hartikainen – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Jones – Gagner – Hemsky
Smyth – Horcoff – Belanger
Eager/Hordichuk – Vande Velde – Petrell
Whitney – Schultz
Barker – Petry
Sutton – Teubert
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