As the days wind down on the season and the career of Oiler Ryan, I wonder if his thoughts turn to the next step, the next opportunity. A team that once banished him to Long Island might end up being the same team that lends a helping hand (should it be agreeable) to the other side of the game. Perhaps he’ll prefer to stay out of hockey for a time, furthering his other interests and watching his children grow up and become adults.
I wonder too about Lennart Petrell, a man whose signing last summer may have been the harbinger of things to come. Petrell’s penalty killing and forechecking skills can’t outrun his ability to aid in sending the puck in the right direction–a malady that in fairness plagues his line and can’t be blamed on one soldier.
I wonder too about Eric Belanger, Ryan Jones, Ryan Whitney, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Andy Sutton. Some of these men have played or are playing their final games in the game’s best league, and will never see the NHL light of day again.
Losing is the kiss of death for older veterans who are role players–a man like Lennart Petrell can go back to SM-Liiga but Ben Eager’s concussions and Andy Sutton’s injury and Nikolai Khabibulin’s age all tell us their time is close.
And playing on a loser is no way to be remembered, but these men have no choice.
As for the future, the cluster is strong and the future is bright and all that remains is finding the smaller parts that fit. So much has been done, and yet the obvious eludes the Edmonton Oilers. They need actual NHL players. Some of them are free agents, some of them are trades, some of them are waiver pickups.
This summer does not require broad strokes, but rather a finisher’s touch. They Oilers should not do the following:
- fire the head coach
- sign any of their free agents
- force their 1st rd pick onto the roster
- go chasing after whales, monsters or coke machines
And they should
- find a legit top 4D who can calm Schultz the younger and serve as mentor
- keep Nick Schultz as insurance for the new hire and to mentor the kids for one more season
- find a line that works from the clay of Gagner, Hemsky, Paajarvi, Yakupov
- find a veteran winger for Horcoff and the second line leftover to work on a third line
- find a 4th line that the coach can count on
- find a backup goalie who can play 20-25 games
WRECK ON THE HIGHWAY
There’s still part of the script to be written. The playoffs are long gone, but for a team that finished 30th, 30th and 29th in the past three seasons, a finish inside the top 20 should be the goal. A small victory? Yes. Let’s start with that.