Thoughts on the Oilers: Veteran experience needed

Source: Edmonton Journal

Source: Edmonton Journal

It continues.

The Oilers lost, as expected, to two quality teams on the road recently, but got a win against the Lightning last night at home. Next up are three games against legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Let’s hope they can squeeze out a win to keep things (somewhat) positive around here.

Veteran experience

The Oilers did an impressive job over the offseason acquiring much needed experience to the roster. Adding guys like Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon and David Perron through free agency and trade to fill specific roles gave some hope that the team could compete this year. Had an additional piece been added to the defense and had all centremen been healthy, this team could have had a legitimate shot at competing for a wild card spot in the West.

Unfortunately, this team is struggling and desperately needs some experience in the line up, even if it means moving out the younger prospects.

On top of all of the losing, fans have also placed a ridiculous amount of hope and expectations on young players. It’s so easy to do since we don’t know much about these prospects and let our imaginations and expectations trump reality. And it’s too easy to dismiss veteran players because their experience and performance is well documented, leaving it easy to judge and come to conclusions.

Hemsky

With the Olympic rosters about to be announced, Ales Hemsky was asked about his chances of making the Czech Republic roster. The Edmonton Journal article, with a very misleading headline, really emphasizes how Hemsky’s role has changed, which I think is great news for the Oilers.

“I have a different role on this team now,” Hemsky said before the Oilers were defeated by a combined score of 10-3 by the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks. “I’m playing a different role than I have before so I don’t have as many points as I’d like, and I’m playing a different style, and that’s fine, but it may affect what they think.”

            Update: Hemsky Named to Czech Olympic Team – Lowetide

Regardless of the speculation, it would make no sense at this point to deal him for prospects. The Oilers need actual NHL players rather than potential players at this point. If moving him is part of a deal to land a defenceman or experience in the top lines, there should be no hesitation. But removing NHL players from a team desperate for NHL wins makes absolutely no sense.

Recommended Links

Re-sign Ryan Smyth? That’s a no brainer. – The Copper and Blue

Mambo Cogliano: Ducks forward signs four year extension  – Puck Daddy

Thoughts on the Oilers: Nail Yakupov, Love/Hate the Internet; Goaltending; Linus Omark; AHL

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Fun times to be an Oilers fan. With the season all but gone by the 20 game mark, the off-ice noise is starting to take over.

Nail Yakupov

It was tough watching Nail Yakupov get skewered, again, by the media for comments made by his agent over the weekend. It’s become pretty obvious that the kid won’t always get a fair shake in Edmonton, considering his teammates have struggled just as bad, if not worse, this season. But Yakupov does have a ton of support from fans who see past the misinterpreted, erroneous media clips and focus more on his star potential. Let’s just hope he can staring spending more time celebrating goals rather than take leading questions from the reporters.

Love/Hate the Internet

Bad information is just something you have to deal with as a hockey fan. This past weekend was a perfect example of how quickly bogus rumors can spread, as all sorts of stories about Ales Hemsky being dealt were popping up.

On the flip side, the internet, especially Twitter, is great in squashing bad rumors. It’s not an easy process, but following (and blocking) the right people and questioning the content will quickly get you past the bogus information.

The web also provides context to certain stories that may be ignored at first glance. Going back to the Yakupov drama, his agent Igor Larionov provided some scathing comments about the Oilers, which was quickly spread and critiqued.

Thankfully, people who have covered Larionov as a player provided his background and potential reasons as to why he said what he said. George Malik of Kukla’s Korner provides an excellent summary of how the story played out on Twitter and gave some useful context to the story [Kukla’s Korner].

Goaltending

The Oilers are definitely a better team with a goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and the newly-acquired Ilya Bryzgalov. But it came at a cost as Ladislav Smid was shipped out to make cap space for Bryzgalov. Goaltending, in my mind, wasn’t the weakness of this team, so I find the trade-off pretty puzzling considering how bad the defensive lapses have been.

Having said that, maybe Bryzgalov plays average, steals a couple games and makes the defence look better than it is. Then again, it’s goaltending, which some would argue is similar to alchemy [The Copper and Blue].

Linus Omark

In case you missed it, Omark had another great goal playing for the Oklahoma City Baron of the AHL:

 

For whatever reason, Omark seems to have a little more space when he plays in the AHL. A case can be made that the quality of players isn’t the same in the AHL as it is in the NHL. But I’m starting to think it’s the system they have in place in OKC that gives Omark, not only time and space, but some confidence in attacking in the net.

American Hockey League (AHL)

The AHL is a very talented league that, if utilized properly, can develop and prepare players for the NHL. We’ve seen far too many players in the Oilers system get rushed far too quickly, and instead left to struggle and eventually fade away in the NHL. For whatever reason, getting sent to the minors has a stigma about it in Edmonton. But in Detroit, it’s just part of the process and has proven to be a successful strategy every year.

The best teams in the league let their players adjust to the professional game slowly in the AHL or comparable minor leagues. In my opinion, unless they’re exceptional talents like Crosby or Ovechkin, players aren’t ready for the NHL until they have at least two full years in the minors.

Recommended Links

Stars at Oilers G-20, 13-14 – Lowetide

Dallas Stars @ Edmonton Oilers Game 20 Preview – The Copper and Blue

Ilya Bryzgalov Lost in Translation – Tend the Farm

Terry Jones and Yakupov – mc79hockey

Larionov’s Comments Yield a Yakupov Incident on Twitter  – Kukla’s Korner