by PuckStopsHere on 11/30/09 at 01:33 PM ET
Many Edmonton Oiler fans appear ready to throw in the towel on the 2009/10 season now that Ales Hemsky is out for the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Hemsky has been the top scorer on the Oilers in every season since the lockout (he tied for the lead in 2006/07). Offensively he is very important to the Oilers. The Oilers currently have 10 wins in 27 games and sit in 14th place in the West Conference. Is the season effectively over?
While the Oilers look unlikely to make the playoffs, I think they will probably stay in the race until late in the season. They are a team with some talent. Dustin Penner is among the top 10 scorers in the NHL so far this year. They have some other offensive talent in Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Patrick O`Sullivan and Gilbert Brule. Most of those players are young enough that it is reasonable to expect they take a significant step forward in the remainder of the season.
The Oilers have a talented group of puckmoving defencemen including Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov. Nikolai Khabibulin is a solid (if no longer spectacular) goaltender.
The Oilers are well coached. Pat Quinn is one of the better coaches in the NHL. He won‘t let one injury derail his team. The Oilers will stay focused and have enough talent to stay in the race.
The NHL is set up to keep teams in the race. Teams that lose in overtime and shootouts get points for losing. This helps to keep the bottom teams from getting too badly dropped in the standings. The NHL standings are designed to keep the mediocre in the race.
Ales Hemsky is a good player, but his importance is overstated when you dwell on the fact that he has been the Oilers top scorer for each of the last four years. He has never been the team`s clear MVP. He has never been the man who has single-handedly lifted the team to victory. He is a talented set up man. He has never been defensively strong. He has never been a physical presence. He is hardly the whole team.
I doubt that the Oilers will make the playoffs. I doubt that any team that is ranked 14th in their conference is likely to make playoffs. I don`t think it is all over either. I think the Oilers will remain in the race and probably won`t wind up in a lottery position at the end of the season. The season isn`t over, but it is likely not going to end in success. However, that conclusion was pretty clear before Ales Hemsky got hurt.
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