One of the things I’m looking forward to this spring is the Edmonton Oilers’ management efforts to make this team a playoff club. When we began the season, it looked pretty good and that’s fine unless something goes wrong.
And something always goes wrong.
I think the Oilers of today are a little different than the 2006-07 or 2009-10 editions. Why? A few things. First, Taylor Hall. I won’t get too far into it, but have noticed that what Taylor Hall says (keeping Hemsky around the best example) seems to have some iron with the management group. I believe Taylor Hall wants to make the playoffs. I also believe his desire to make the playoffs will be expressed verbally if things begin to go a little sideways. I hope Taylor Hall says “it would be very disappointing if we didn’t make the playoffs due to inability to address injuries” sometime this week.
The reason I feel this way? We can see the cracks forming.
- The Nuge is hurt again, and this has been a problem for awhile. We’ve talked about it on this blog before–certainly since the late fall when the flight from OKC to EDM was deemed necessary before the WJ trip. Someone tweeted last night ‘you can’t blame Tambo for this, not many teams can overcome 4 centermen going down in short order (Nuge, Horc, Belanger, Lander)’ and that’s true. However, you can review your roster and say ‘Nuge is a little iffy and Horc’s been wearing down, maybe we could add a 5th C for security’ by offloading Hordichuk. Is Hordichuk’s value greater than a playoff spot? Greater than Taylor Hall’s desire to make the playoffs? What is the priority among these two things?
- Whitney has issues that have to do with things outside of health. He’s healthy, folks. This is us with Whitney.
- One of the two weekend games will likely be sacrificed to Nikolai Khabibulin’s rehab. Nik hasn’t played a game in OKC, or Edmonton, but the team will play him instead of asking him to start a few AHL games.
Nikolai Khabibulin’s first start, the defense lacking depth due to a rehab stint that hasn’t started despite the player’s presence on the NHL roster, and the craziness at center that will likely see Chris VandeVelde recalled for the weekend.
All of these little things are going to add up, and the Oilers reaction to these things will be a “tell” for the season. The Fistric pickup was a positive sign, and another one might be a small trade to improve the depth at center from “first callup: Lander” to “hey, that 5th C we picked up is more useful than the 49 seconds devoted to the other guy.” Steve Tambellini could make that trade right now, today.
There was a time when Oiler fans just had to sit and take it. Not now. We have Taylor Hall. I wonder if he’s happy with the thought of losing the second season due to these little, fixable things. I wonder when he talks.
Hope it is soon.