Saturday, January 10


As I was heading out to lunch yesterday, I received a barrage of e-mails on my phone from the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club. The headlines to the various messages went something like this:



Ales Hemsky placed on IR


Whoa, whoa, whoa...what was that? I haven't seen a lead buried like that since the day after 9/11 when Sean Hannity asked George Bush, "What happens to the goat?"

In case you haven't noticed, Ales Hemsky is kind of important to this hockey team. Truth be told, he's too important. So what began as a "mild concussion" (whatever that is) and a day-to-day status, has landed the Oilers best player on the injured reserve list. It's just like brain trauma to not give a shit about my needs.

The Oilers are 2-4 since Hemsky's injury. In this stretch of the schedule heavily-laden with home games, they were supposed to be solidifying a playoff spot. Instead, they've been spinning their wheels and still find themselves amongst a throng of tightly bunched teams outside the top eight.

His injury casts a bright light on the lack of reliable scoring throughout the lineup. Without his playmaking, his usual linemates (Horcoff and Penner) simply aren't as effective, and the likes of Cole, Cogliano, Gagner and Nilsson see tougher defensive match-ups. Few, if any, teams are as reliant on one player for its offense as the Oilers are.

Since the day he traded Chris Pronger, Kevin Lowe has been on the prowl for another superstar, namely an elite offensive player, and it's starting to become clear why. While Hemsky is on the cusp of attaining elite status himself, he needs help. There are many armchair GM's who wiped their brow in relief and questioned Lowe's judgement in trying to overpay for Marian Hossa last summer. How 'bout now? "We would've had to dismantle the entire roster to pay Hossa!!!" Really? Like Dustin Penner and Robert Nilsson? Oooooh, ouch! I'll give you two hands to count the players the Oilers wouldn't trade for Marian Hossa, and I'll bet you don't get past three fingers. But hey, let's keep yearning to acquire Mike Sillinger, lament the loss of Curtis Glencross, and devise lame trade scenarios that can *fingers crossed* land us Antoine Vermette!

The Oilers lack that 1-2 punch that most true Cup contenders have. That 1-2 punch that, unless you have an elite goaltender, most Cup contenders HAVE to have. Simply put, not only does having another offensive star insulate you from injury to one of them, you're going to win more hockey games. How so? It's just a case of logic and mathematics. First liners play more than second liners who play more than third liners and so on...because they're BETTER players. Is there a worse hockey philosophy than the one that says "we're gonna roll four lines"? There's only 60 minutes in a hockey game. If the best players are playing 20+ minutes (roughly a third of the game) doesn't it stand to reason that the team with the better players on the ice for the most amount of time is going to win on most nights?

The Oilers need some additional star power, and if some of the names currently circulating in the rumor mill (Lecavalier, Kovalchuk, etc.) hit the trade market you can bet the Oilers will be making that call. If not, you can be sure that Katz, Lowe, and Tambellini will be pulling out all the stops again this summer to make another run at the likes of Hossa and Gaborik. Will they land one? Who knows, but watching these Hemsky-less Oilers over the last six games has made me realize they're right for trying.

Oiler fans are among the most knowledgeable and passionate in the game. Because of that they sometimes have a difficult time accepting that Kevin Lowe might know a little more about hockey than they do. Maybe this one time we should trust his plan and vision for this team. I mean the guy just cured cancer!