For nearly every team in the WHL, the season ended just a game or two too soon. For the Edmonton Oil Kings, last year’s WHL champs, this especially rang true. The Oil Kings knew what it takes to get to the Memorial Cup, they had finished out their season there last year. And for many of the players on the roster, these were their final games of their junior careers.
The Edmonton Oilers need help on their blueline. And not soon, but now. While draft picks alone cannot remedy the situation, the team has been aware of the gaping holes in their depth and roster while making their selections on draft day year after year.
While defencemen tend to take longer to develop and to prepare themselves physically those who have been in the system for a few years, are inching their way closer to making an impact. The defenceman most recently added to the list is 6’5” 191 lb Slovakian Martin Gernat.
Few thought that this would be an easy challenge for the Oil Kings, but most thought that the Hitmen would have been knocked out by now. Instead, it’s a game 7 showdown, winner takes all in Edmonton Tuesday night. To the victor, the opportunity to limp into the WHL finals against the Portland Winterhawks. And the loser, an early summer. Somehow neither opportunity sounds all that pleasant.
The NHL season is not yet over, but it is for the Calgary Flames. If you needed any confirmation of that fact, you need only take a look at centre ice in the Calgary Saddledome. The Flames logo has already been replaced by the Calgary Hitmen’s dark mask icon. And why not? These are important games, especially since the games played are against the Edmonton Oil Kings, last year’s WHL champions. Still the ice is certainly a statement about NHL hockey in Alberta, both teams are in need of some serious changes and improvement to match up to the success of the WHL franchises.
Out with the old, in with the… older?
The Edmonton Oilers clearly needed to see and make some changes in their head office, as evidenced by the fact that they aren’t pulling off changes for their on ice product. True, there have been multiple 4th line and bottom 6 player changes, there have even been a few defencemen moved in and out of the lineup, but the 4th line isn’t what needs to change to propel the team to the playoffs.
No one knows what this Oilers’ team is capable of, not even the players themselves. After embarrassing losses, 3 – 0 to Detroit and 6 – 0 to Nashville, the Oilers pulled up their socks and were the first team to beat the Chicago Blackawks at home Sunday night, and to finish off the 9 game road trip, the Oilers shut out the Colorado Avalanche and scored 4 goals from 4 different players. So what is it going to be, a good or bad season?
The Edmonton Oilers aren’t exactly hard to play against, and that certainly isn’t anything you haven’t heard before.
While the Oilers have tried to improve team toughness through the trade for Mark Fistric from the Dallas Stars, the team needs a power forward more. The addition of Mike Brown, acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for a conditional 2014 draft pick is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the solution.
It’s a different defenceman, but the same story. The Edmonton Oilers, who can’t really afford to run veteran top 4 defencemen out of town seem to be doing just that. Sheldon Souray was the most recent defenceman to have a public dispute with the team, was then subsequently sent to the AHL. Could the same thing happen with Ryan Whitney?
The Edmonton Oilers need some work. No, they don’t need to hit the gym any harder, they don’t need more side projects to help fill the time, they need to figure out where the team is weak and address those weaknesses. And so, most fans can’t help but wonder why aging goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is starting in net so often this week, while the supposed starting goaltender rides the pine.
With the Oilers’ record falling, and the short season becoming shorter, there is no room for error. There is especially no room for lengthy suspensions due to atrocious hits. But that’s exactly what we can expect as the reaction from the league to Taylor Hall’s knee on knee hit on Cal Clutterbuck in Edmonton Thurdsay night.
About Oil Patch
Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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