Friday, November 25, 2011
A quarter of the way through the season and the Oilers look to be a club that may be in the playoff race this season despite injuries to Hemsky, Gagner and Whitney, a decimation of the D corps and a lack of production up front from anyone outside of the top six. The special teams are humming, the goaltending has ranged from good to great, Smid and Gilbert have been dreamy and they have become a very good home club. If they can put it together on the road (and for all of the angst there they are 4-6-1 away from Edmonton) and Whitney can actually stay healthy then this may very well be a playoff club.
Wow. Can't believe I said that.
A quick look at the club at the quarter pole:
Ted - Nugent Hopkins is eighteen years old and is averaging over a point per game. He has been sheltered, sure, but really who gives a shit. Lets say it again. 18. Over a PPG. And on top of everything he can take the physical play, he can play in his own zone and he has fantastic instincts. Oh yeah, he can score too. A special player.
Ryan Smyth - its only right that the most popular player since the dynasty days has returned and its only right that he has had an astounding start. Never should have left. Just a tremendous story. Unlikely to keep up the pace but probably the club MVP at this point, except for one guy.
Tom Gilbert - and this is the guy. Crazy, right? He's had a tough game or two but Gilbert has anchored the top pair, given the club 25 minutes or so every night and contributed offence on top of everything. Playing with a bit of an edge this year. A guy who has always been rated as a top four guy, a full year like the first quarter will raise him to top pair status. Irreplaceable.
Jordan Eberle - a bit of a slump the first time out on the road and a bit of a slow start but he's in great form now. Twenty points. Future captain.
Shawn Horcoff - present captain is healthy and playing great, superb in circle and on PK, showing the kids how to get it done on the PP by going to the dirty areas. A minus one considering where he starts most shifts and who he plays against is tremendous. Healthy and playing with quality for first time in years. On pace for 20 plus goals, fifty plus points. Souray called him the most professional player he has ever played with, right? Great role model for the kids.
Ladi Smid - dmen development can be timed by sundial and here's the perfect example. No offence but neither did Jason Smith and that worked out quite well. Great on the PK. Big leap this year.
Nikolai Khabibulin - butt of jokes has cooled off a bit after his all world start but has been mostly good to excellent in all of his starts. Physical breakdown possible but until then he has pushed back. Always seems to play his best when job is at stake (see Chicago the last year of his last contract), when he gets comfortable he's awful
Ryan Jones - the smart set's whipping boy either has made a deal with the devil or he is damn lucky or he just has a great shooting %, period. Who the hell knows but he's doing it again. Five goals and four assists. More impressive is the fact that he has managed a tough minutes role and he has been a big part of an improved PK. A likeable goof of a guy, here's hoping he keeps it up.
Taylor Hall - the golden boy from last season has struggled at times, pressing a little, trying to do too much. Still on pace for 25/60 which is good for a soph asked to carry a lot of the load. Here's guessing that he gains his comfort zone and tears it up. He had a slow start last season too.
Corey Potter - enormous surprise was tailing off a bit when he got hurt but had a tremendous start. If Whitney can stay healthy looks like a guy who can play top four minutes with him. Great find by the org.
Devan Dubnyk - big man has stumbled a bit here and there but overall he has been good. A little more consistency would be nice, would be more reassuring to know he could carry the load of Khabibulin goes down.
Ales Hemsky - injured again (sigh) and ineffective at first when he returned, he looks to be starting to heat up again. A big key to this club's success, if he can stay healthy and gets rolling they suddenly have two lines that can score. When's the last time they've been able to say that?
Andy Sutton - big man is what he is, veteran D man, slow of foot, helps on the PK and clears the front of the net, has been the best of the three brought in to keep other clubs 'honest' although much better PP has probably been best deterrent to other clubs' thugs
Jeff Petry - coming on now after struggling early on, gets a shot with Whitney which should be great fit. No doubt that kid is going to be a big time player for this club imo.
Anton Lander - kid centre should be back in OKC one thinks but Renney keeps rolling him out there in different roles. Getting killed by most metrics but has been good on PK and does a lot of little things right. Decent start to career.
Sam Gagner - injury and then returning from that injury and also playing the wing has made it a tough slog for Gagner who must look around and wonder where he fits. Would prefer him centring Paajarvi and Jones, perhaps, or Paajarvi and Omark when the latter returns. Seems to have a bit more jump lately. Sometimes wonder if he had a spot going forward with Ted and Lander, maybe tradebait but value right now is not great. Needs to get rolling.
Eric Belanger - has helped a lot, adds size, good D, faceoff acumen, PK, nicking him because of the nonexistent offence.
Lennart Petrell - Finnish rookie has been decent role player, helps PK, no offence though. Thoresen was better, ;)
Magnus Paajarvi - poor kid, I love him and a lot of this has to do with his linemates but having said that he hasn't helped himself, needs to play with more elan and confidence, chicken and egg thing though, I would bet that a few games with good linemates would get him going, fair play to him though his defensive game has not sagged
Linus Omark - the only one of the OKC brigade I have included in here, Renney doesn't like his sideburns I guess? I like Omark but he doesn't get as much rope as everyone else. Unfair? Yes but again, needed to do more when he was up. Would definitely like to see him get a chance to play with quality linemates for a while to see what they have here. I think he's a player.
Ben Eager - when you're brought in to create mayhem and you don't do it and you don't add anything offensively or defensively then you're failing. I blame it on the concussion, I don't think he's right yet.
Darcy Hordichuk - waste of a roster spot, the way Dallas ran roughshod earlier this week with him in the lineup belies the very reason they brought him in. No point
Cam Barker - I didn't mind the signing at all, a low cost gamble, and maybe he was hurting, hopefully that's why. Added little on the PP and is slower than Sutton. Impossible! as the French say. Only they say it like this: Impossibla! Silly French.
Seriously buddy, stay healthy. A healthy Whitney probably means a playoff spot or at least forcing Tambellini's hand to shore up the D
I would like to see Renney figure out that bottom six and I don't like his handling of the two kid Swedes but he's line matched like a madman and the special teams have been grand. Good job. Man deserves a lot of credit.
I liked his summer. He has been lucky. Nobody thought Ted would be this good, Smyth basically traded himself home and Khabibulin has risen from the dead but Belanger, Potter Petrell and Sutton have all added quality. Barker has been a miss but for a one year deal who cares? Cheap gambles are what good GMs do. Another legitimate top four Dman would have been great of course. Interesting to see what he does if club stays in the playoff race. Plus he has to deal with pending UFAs Hemsky, Smyth and Potter.
Near the top of their league and have been a reliable shuttle for reinforcements. If there is one thing Tambellini deserves credit for its turning this part of the organization around.
Posted by Black Dog at 1:35 PM