Tuesday, January 6


Oilers 3, Islanders 2

One of Craig MacTavish's favorite lines used to be "never critique a win." I'm assuming that's because critiquing the losses got so monotonous. Well, last night the Oilers got away with one against the league doormats, the New York Islanders, who were without Doug Weight and John Tavares. It was a win that needs critiquing: "Two thumbs down. If you fast-forward through one Oiler win this year, make it this one." It was ugly...but maybe that's a good thing.

In the last month, the Oilers have watched the Florida Panthers AHL affiliate shut them out on home ice, and lost to a gutless Ottawa team that was winless in 12 consecutive road games. Against the leagues worst team, also riding a 12 game road winless streak, the Oilers were down 2-0 at the end of the first, thanks to more sloppy play and their continued refusal to get dirty. But they got bailed out by their fourth line (Brodziak, Stortini and Strudwick), who gave the rest of the team a template for how to play when things aren't going your way. They won battles, simplified the game, threw pucks to the net and got two garbage goals because of it. Cogliano got the game winner in similar fashion, hopefully suggesting that the message was received by the rest of the team.

The problem with the Oilers, on most nights, is they don't have a Plan B (Note: Plan A is to skate around making drop passes and one arm dekes in the neutral zone, while avoiding as much physical contact as humanly possible). You have to be able to win a game in more than one way. When they don't score on the rush they seldom revert to a simple game that requires them to compete in the tough areas of the ice.


This was a team that boasted about its glutton of top six forwards, yet they sit 9th in the Western Conference in Goals For and 19th overall. Why? Because they have no consistent fallback game. With the games only getting tougher as the playoffs draw closer, this team's character will be severely tested if the roster remains as is. I don't wanna say the Oilers are soft, but they just called-up this guy from Springfield.

If you're going to have guys like Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson, Brule, Schremp and Reddox on the roster, you need to create space with some physical presence. It's no accident that Gagner's game has picked up since being paired with the net crashing Erik Cole.

This team has plenty of parts on it's shopping list, but another scorer who will get to the ugly areas should be a high priority. Mike Knuble? Nathan Horton? Yes, please.


Connie said...

Nathan Horton? What would you give up for him?

Moose said...

Well, he plays the right side, so you'd assume Cole wouldn't be back next year, as you can't have Hemsky, Cole, Horton as your top 3 RW's (not enough ice time).

Combination of young players, prospects and picks (Florida doesn't want to talk on salary by all accounts)...Nilsson, Schremp, Smid, Grebeshkov, Chorney, Nash?

Moose said...

He has played a bit of center too...so if you re-signed Cole you could move one of the centers. Cogliano? Although I wouldn't be wild about that. Same sort of problem...Horcoff, Gagner, Horton?

dani said...

Well. Aren't the Oilers just precious?