EDMONTON - First it was Ales Hemsky. Now it’s Shawn Horcoff.
In a normal year, when making the playoffs is a priority, this would be considered a double whammy.
But instead of being a back-to-back bummer, fans who watched the Oilers lose in 10 rounds of shootout to the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday, seemed to be more interested in who they’re going to see coming up from the farm.
Maybe that’s unfair and insulting to Hemsky and Horcoff. But these are interesting times we’re living in here.
The fans in Edmonton are more interested in enjoying a season and watching games like the one we watched last night than losing their top two players even if losing Hemsky and Nikolai Khabibulin last year played a large part in the serious skid which sent them all the way down to 30th overall and picking Taylor Hall first in the NHL expansion draft.
Last night it was another comeback surge and a late goal by Dustin Penner to push the game into overtime and a go at a shot at a shootout game like the bottom of the barrel job between Tom Renney’s New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals.
Marek Malik of the Rangers, the 30th shooter, pulled the puck back between his legs, then flipped the puck over Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig in a spectacular straight-to-YouTube move. There were 20 shooters in this one and only three of them scored. Hall was the only Oiler to pull the trigger.
Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle, Gilbert Brule, Dustin Penner, Magnus Pajaarvi, Ryan Jones and Kurtis Foster all had their go and the media mob was wondering if Renney would eventually go to the Oilers top point-getter Ryan Whitney — who doesn’t have a goal this year to go with his 31 assists — to get his chance.
The guy missed an open net from point blank range with the goalie pulled the last time the Oilers played the Ducks. And he scored on his own net against Montreal.
He’d have been a whale of a story.
“I don’t know when,” said Renney. “Thank goodness it didn’t go as many rounds as it did in that one five years ago.”
The Oilers lost. But everyone went home happy despite the news from Renney, who the day before had said Hemsky would be out “upwards of a month” said Horcoff would be out “upwards of two months.”
With no intention of devaluing the talent and leadership of Hemsky and captain Horcoff, this year is all about watching kids develop and enjoying games like last night regardless of the way they may or may not end up and even Horcoff spoke to that after Renney indicated he’s likely going to be out “upwards of two months.”
He was part of the team that couldn’t beat anybody for long stretches without Hemsky and Khabibulin last year but doesn’t think it will play the same this year.
“We’re deeper this year,” said the captain. “A lot deeper.
“It means the guys in the minors who are playing well are going to be coming up. And with these kids we have here, we’re only scratching the surface.”
With the news of Hemsky being out the day before, the debate was already raging.
Liam Reddox? Or Linus Omark.
But with Horcoff going down with a right knee injury after colliding with Corey Perry on the third shift of the game, maybe the ‘O’ will have to be Ryan O’Marra.
With Horcoff out, they’ll need a centre and Omark is a left winger and Liam Reddox is a right winger.
Omark, 23, a first-round (15th overall) pick in the 2005 draft who came to the organization in the Ryan Smyth deal, is a plus 12 with 14 points and a positive faceoff percentage.
Omark, 23, has 13 goals and 13 assists playing left wing on the line which is where Taylor Hall, Dustin Penner and Magnus Pajaarvi aren’t going anywhere. Liam Reddox, 24, has 13 goals and 10 assists playing on the right side.
Last night Renney suggested maybe Penner could move to centre and maybe Brule, who is deep in the doghouse at the moment, could make the move, too.
The bottom line is that Edmonton fans are going to get past this double whammy overnight and wake up this morning looking forward to watching more of the kids. And if there are more shootouts like the one last night, pencil the kids in there high and let the fans have their fun.
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