SUN Hockey Pool

Minor-leaguers give Oil a boost

JOHN SHORT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:17 PM ET

Fans and media have known for years that Liam Reddox has several strikes against him in his bid to become a full-time major-league hockey player.

He lacks the gift of pure offensive talent and loses some battles for loose pucks because he lacks bulk and is too short.

But he brings some vital attributes that at least a couple of Edmonton Oilers youngsters haven't bothered to develop. He works hard every shift and he thinks the game like a good pro must.

To me, this doesn't mean Reddox is back in the NHL for the long haul.

Probably not. Salary-cap considerations figure in.

Besides, every team that hopes to become respectable on the ice needs players who are bigger, stronger and have more pure talent than what Reddox possesses.

But we're talking about the Oilers, who have more holes than a groundhog colony.

Reddox's situation applies similarly to Ryan Potulny, a hot-shot minor-league scorer who was also called up yesterday due to the endless run of Oilers' physical problems.

Casual observers can see for themselves that Potulny needs a step or so of extra speed to crack the NHL on a full-time basis. So, he's too slow and Reddox is too small, but count me among the group happy to see both of the minor-league call-ups back on the roster.

If Reddox isn't more valuable, now and later, than the obviously gifted Robert Nilsson who can't find a spot for himself, I'll be surprised.

And if Potulny doesn't bring more -- for a while, anyway --than the respectable, hard-working and always-injured Fernando Pisani, the Oilers' on-ice drought is more severe than many ever realized.

Which Esks team is it?

Were those guys in green jerseys the real Eskimos, capable of springing a surprise in their playoff game next week and maybe even moving to the West Final?

Or were they simply a fortunate group of athletes who ran into a virtual free pass because the B.C. Lions were injury-riddled before the start of the game and absolutely demolished before the end of the first half?

I prefer to think of the first option.

To me, the first key series in Edmonton's demolition of B.C. coach Wally Buono's long history of reaching playoffs came after Ricky Ray threw that first-quarter interception.

Immediately, the defensive team stepped up and forced a field goal. If body language means anything, the spark from Jim Daley's inconsistent crew spread confidence to the offensive side of the ball.

Now the Eskimos have something to build on: two wins in a row, and impressive wins at that.

It can't be forgotten that last week's victims, the Toronto Argonauts, are the worst team in recent memory, and B.C. wasn't much better.

Any feeble prospect that the Lions could come back after halftime ended as soon as Buck Pierce left for good after the first B.C. sequence of the second half.

It's impossible not to feel good for Daley and his defensive group, who went through so many shifts it was impossible to determine how good they might become.

Fans still don't know. Possibly, the Eskimos don't know either.

But both sides have got at least one playoff game to help them figure it out.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


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