GAME DAY BITCHES!!!!! Here we go! Another day to roam around in Orange and high-five random strangers and honk my horn and drive with my car flags flapping proudly. Here we are, in the middle of April, a legit contender. Up 2-1 against the defending Champions of the West, dominating them physically, backing down from nothing, our best player doing very little in the way of offense and being led by a reclamation project and being backstopped by Glen Sather’s last favour to the Oilers.
The reality of the playoff possibility for the Oilers sunk in for me about 2 weeks ago. But last night, as it became official, joy and relief swept through my body. I have been defending Chiarelli and his moves since the beginning. The moves I liked, the moves I didn’t like, the moves I understood and the moves I didn’t understand. And now, here we are.
Since the transition to the Bob Nicholson era, things have been heading in the right direction. The hiring of an experienced GM coupled with an experienced head coach was a signal that the Oilers were going to do things the right way. A statement by the new CEO that everything hockey would report to him. McTavish and Lowe are still in the wings and while at times their fingerprints are visible on some of the moves that are made, the reigns have clearly been turned over.
Halfway through last season I wrote a blog about changing the culture of the team and it looks as though Chiarelli and McLellan have done that through trades, expectations and most of all – winning. We don’t need to re-hash the trades and the moves. There were some winners and there were some losers. But, they all came together to make the recipe that is a team going to the playoffs. Some difficult decisions were made and there was some blood shed, but here we are, on the way to the 2nd season.
Since coming off a bad weekend 8 games ago, the Oilers have really stepped on the gas. After dropping that 4-1 to Montreal, they Oilers have posted an impressive 7-1 record, including 3 games where they scored 7. We haven’t seen a stretch like this since 39 was patrolling the middle. It is perfect timing and the Oilers are picking up steam at the right time. With two games left against San Jose and one against Anaheim, their fate rests solely in the hands of the Oilers. The remaining 3 games are against bottom feeders LA and Vancouver and should be winnable games. Even if they finish 0.500 – they will still have finished the season with an impressive 10-4 record. Calgary has a similar finish to the season as does Anaheim and San Jose. So, it will come down to the interdivision games that make up the next week and a half. Trying to predict who will finish where is a difficult task and no matter how it shakes out, it will be a difficult road.
Hot Talbot, the League’s top scorer and 4 lines that are all chipping in…anything is possible. In 2006 I had one mantra that I said over and over in the dying days of the season and the first couple of playoff games – Believe! Believe in this team until they give you a reason not to.
It’s hard to believe that the Oilers are where they are today. Sitting in a playoff spot with a 10 point cushion. 1 point out of first place in the division and 5 points out of first in the conference. 10th in the league. When the lineup was finally set for opening night, I felt that the team could push for a playoff spot. The team is better, stronger, tougher, more defensively responsible and scoring at a clip that is hard to believe since we are not getting much in the way of secondary scoring. This team is built for a playoff push and it’s exciting.
The Oilers sit atop the Pacific division after two back-to-back road wins. They hold a 5 point lead over the second place Anaheim Ducks and are one of the only two teams with a positive goal differential. The Sharks have lost 3 in a row and after two wins in a row the Kings are tied for third in the division. The Oilers have one more road game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. They have collected 5 points in four games and are heading in the right direction.
I made a bet last night with someone last night who is still mad about the Hall trade and critical of the Russell signing. I bet that Lucic would get more points than Hall this season. Do I really think that’s the best bet I have ever made? No, not at all. It was a total fanboy bet – you know why? Because I am a fan. I like to play pretend GM and when the Oilers had 374 glaring holes it was easy. No team is complete and the moves Chia has made, while widely polarizing, have provided a more complete team.
This may not be what any Oiler fan wants to hear but…I think this offseason tinkering is done.
The Oilers got fleeced. They got their man, but they paid dearly. But, clearly that is what the market was for a minute-munching right-handed defenseman capable of handling that kind of workload. I trust that Chiarelli dangled Hall in front of the 16 GMs out East and came to the conclusion that this was the best he was going to get. Need for need, the deal makes sense. But, when I first heard it was Larsson, I was expecting Smith-Pelley, a draft pick or Sevenson to be the rest of the package. Even when the dust settled yesterday I was still expecting the Oil to get a sweetener out of it. I had heard NJ was a possible trade partner but I thought it was going to be a lesser deal. Certainly not one that involved Hall.
Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers entered this past draft weekend ready to wheel and deal. It was common knowledge that the Oilers’ brass were looking to land their top 4 defenseman and that the #4 pick was in play. That all changed when ChiaPete and his Merry Men gauged the draft floor and came to believe that Puljujarvi would fall to them at 4. It is believed that the big, fast, right shot will be able to step in right away and play at the NHL level. This is a player that is the second-highest scoring under 18 player at the WJC behind only Jagr. A player that lead that tournament in scoring as a 17 year old and that was also named tournament MVP. I put a lot of stock into the WJC performances. Maybe too much, but I have been watching the tournament since I was a kid and there are few names that go on to the big show that pass through this tournament that I do not recognize. If you would have told me after this tournament that Puljujarvi would be an Oiler, I would have been excited. January-May ISS rankings had him at #2. Not until the final rankings came out did Laine overtake him. This is an exciting development for the Oilers forward group.
Can the Oilers beat the Sharks tonight? A quick poll of a few friends would say no. The Sharks are coming off an overtime win last night down Highway 2 against the lowly Flames. The Flames outshot the Sharks 48-23 last night and Martin Jones stole the game enough to get it into OT for Pavelski to end it for the Sharks. Tonight, the Sharks will likely start James Reimer. In his past 4 starts, he has posted the following save % numbers:
You know what I liked about the Leafs last few moves? They aren’t hanging onto a losing culture. They traded away a 40 goal scorer and perennial top 20 point getter and their captain with no regrets. They moved on. The management didn’t get attached to the players and made the moves they had to make in order to put the plans in place to sign their own players and build the team the way they want it built.