So far, so good at being bad.
It’s a crazy combination we’re dealing with this year with the Edmonton Oilers.
So far they’re succeeding at staying down in the standings and yet up in excitement, entertainment and interest.
So far it’s fun watching this young team begin at the bottom and work the way toward the top as long as there are enough moments like last night with Taylor Hall scoring his first NHL goal to keep believing it’s going to happen along the way.
Last night in Columbus, Hall not only scored the first goal of his NHL career, he added an assist for his first multiple-point game. The game was no different for Hall than most of the others he’s had so far, other than the fact that a puck finally went in for him. He’s played hard and he hasn’t lacked for chances or effort.
Once again, however, the Oilers lost in a shootout and maintained position as last in the conference and second last in the league.
The home opener against Calgary and Tuesday’s comeback to take the Flames to a shootout in the Saddledome were games to frame — exciting, gung-go, go-for-the-gusto games which showcased the young stars and allowed enough of a look into the future to not make the standings as depressing as most fans around the rest of the nation would expect in the City of Champions.
The team may not be showing any dramatic improvement in the standings.
They’re 2-4-2 with the defending Stanley Cup champions to play tonight in Chicago. Vancouver and Detroit are on tap when they get home. And then there’s the annual road trip to make way for the Canadian Finals Rodeo with games back in Chicago, Carolina, Detroit, New Jersey and New York. By the time the Grey Cup game is held here Nov. 28, they may well be positioned to be involved in the lottery for the first pick in the draft again.
With the team playing with a full compliment of donut lines (no centres) and a defence trending toward disaster, the success of Hall (1-2-3), Magnus Paajarvi (2-2-4) and Jordan Eberle (3-3-6) is being successfully counteracted by others.
With all the kids on training wheels and a defence that is looking even more iffy on the ice than it did on paper, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion this team has been built to ensure more losing for another year, no matter how many moments the kids manage to manufacture.
And if it works out that way — which is not OK with coach Tom Renney, who believes it is more important for Eberle, Paajarvi and Hall to experience success and learn how to win in the NHL now — so far it looks like it’s going to be OK with the fans.
It’s been suggested that the reason no Canadian team team has won a Stanley Cup since the time those kids were in diapers is because Canadian fans won’t put up with terrible teams long enough to assemble enough top talent in the draft to put together the core of a team like the defending champion Blackhawks the Oilers will face tonight in Chicago.
But that’s the point here.
So far, so good at being bad.
It’s one-tenth of a season. Eight games out of 82. And that’s a ridiculously small sample to make any sweeping statements. But in the case of the Oilers, is could soon be soon enough to be looking at the 2011 entry draft to figure who the Oilers are going to get this year?
Soon it could be soon enough to say Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Adam Larsson could quite likely coming your way.
Those are projected to be the top three players in the draft. And, watching the Oilers so far this season, any one of those three would be welcome.
If you stuck with the philosophy of picking the best player available, at least this time around the three players projected to be the top picks play positions the Oilers most need to fill.
Larsson is a 6’3” 200-pound extra special defenceman already playing in the Swedish Elite League.
Couturier is a 6’3” 200 pound centre with the Drummondville Volteurs of the Quebec league.
Nugent-Hopkins is a 6’-0’’ 165-pound centre with the Red Deer Rebels.
Way too early to go there yet, though. In the immortal words of broadcaster Bryan Hall: “I’m not saying, I’m just saying.”