When my kids were small and they were getting excited for Christmas, I’d tell them how many days and they’d say it seemed like forever. It was all worth it, because Christmas morning their excitement was the best thing about my year. I didn’t grow up with Christmas (Jehovah’s Witness) and so never felt that anticipation (although my parents were wonderful people and I certainly never felt unfortunate) or the joy of giving until the kids came along. I can still remember Christmas mornings with my wife and children, they are the best memories.
The Oiler fanbase reminds me of my kids when they were young ones. Can’t wait for Christmas, impatient for the next day. We can see structure now, just not all of the time. We can see effective play, but we can also see a frightening save percentage. The club lacks balance–sweet, beautiful, balance–and until the day arrives when we can see they have enough in every area then these frustrating games will continue.
The current maladies are goaltending, the power play and the penalty kill. Fix those things and the goals for may dry up. When that’s fixed the tip drill skaters (question: how many goals against have come from Oiler players changing the direction of the puck? TEN? I bet it’s ten) will chime in again.
It’s frustrating, but it is not hopeless. There’s a difference.
Oilers are in Los Angeles tonight, they have a tough opponent and really their only hope is that one of the kids catches fire and pops a hat-trick. I think the Nuge is the most likely candidate, Yakupov the least, but hockey doesn’t tell you when players break out, only that they will. Dubnyk could also do this 3-8-1 club an enormous favor by not allowing the sun to shine, but I’m hesitant to suggest it lest it goes the other way (plenty of daylight between the legs and over the shoulders).
The Oilers have recalled Anton Lander, meaning the club will have 5 centermen in the lineup tonight (I thought this would be the opening night lineup). A quick look at the lines (this is my construction, actual lines may be different) shows 3 men who were supposed to be in Oklahoma City (they are underlined):
Eakins has enough penalty killers, finally. I don’t know how much offense he’ll get from the bottom 6F’s at evens, but a few guys like Gagner and Smyth must be close to returning.
The Oilers have also recalled Richard Bachman, something we talked about here. I think most of us are cheering like hell for the goaltending, and I don’t doubt that Devan Dubnyk will regain his form–but at this point the recall for Bachman tells me management is trying everything to cajole more from their current group. In a weird way, the Bachman recall is an endorsement of the current Oilers, a wakeup call that doesn’t involve sending part of the cluster away.
That comes next.