February 28, 2012
Stay tuned, Oilers fans
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
So what now, Edmonton Oilers fans?
Twiddle your thumbs until the draft?
With the trade deadline over, did you wake up Tuesday with the realization you were back in the same old pickle again?
A slightly better brand of pickle, but ...
Edmonton is six points short of matching the 62 point total in the final standings in each of the last two years. The Oilers won only eight of their final 21 in 2010 to finish 30th overall. They won five of last 21 in 2011 to repeat the feat.
But theyíve won three of the last four and ...
Five Eastern teams ó Montreal, Carolina, NY Islanders, Buffalo and Tampa Bay ó were all within four points of Edmonton catching them when the Oilers stepped off the ice in Winnipeg with the same number of games (20) remaining other than the Canadiens (19).
With Columbus 13 points back of Edmonton and Rick Nash having been outed for asking for the trade out of town which didnít come down, nobody is going to ďcatchĒ the Blue Jackets in the Fail For Nail Yakupov sweepstakes.
And once again itís time to remember the draft lottery percentages (which most Edmonton hockey fans probably have memorized by now).
Itís 25% for Columbus. Thereís an 18.8% chance the team which finishes 29th will end up with the No. 1 pick. Itís 14.2 if they end up 28th, 10.7 if they finish 27th and 8.1 if they end up 26th.
Get lucky and win the lottery and the Oilers would be the first team to three-peat with the No. 1 pick in the draft since the Quebec Nordiques picked Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros in 1989, 1990 and 1991.
scouts figure Yakupov is a no-brainer at No. 1 and Russian centre Mikhail Grigorenko is said to be clearly the best player available at No. 2. From there itís a smŲrgŚsbord of defencemen available and thatís obviously the Oilersí greatest need.
From all indications the Oilers would be happy with Ryan Murray, the world junior defenceman from the Everett Silvertips, Mathew Dumba from the Red Rebels or Griffin Reinhart from the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Thatís the lay of the land.
So, are you back to cheering for the Oilers to lose again?
Not this time.
If the lottery gives you Yakupov or Grigorenko, fine. But you watch the way this team played in their recent wins over Calgary, Philadelphia and Winnipeg and you can see the value of having a significant collection of successes to take forward to next season. Thereís value to see how many spots they can climb in the standings between now and the end of the season.
The most important thing for this hockey club right now is not to mope through the remainder of the schedule mopping up another sorry season but to provide the proof they found the up escalator at the end of the season. And have some fun doing it.
It may be a piddly little thing to other teams, but right now the Oilers are at minus 17 in goals for and against. Itís a worthwhile goal for this group to attempt to use the rest of the season to turn that into a plus. (Going into games Tuesday, Calgary was -22, Minnesota was -24, Buffalo -26, Carolina -28, NY Islanders and Tampa Bay -38.)
And then thereís whatís at play for Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, etc. before they head to Heksinki to play together in the World Hockey Championships.
For the fans, there will be some fun in seeing if Nugent-Hopkins can return to the rookie scoring lead despite missing a quarter of the season. He has 37 points, four less than Adam Henrique and three fewer than Gabriel Landeskog going into games Tuesday.
Having already passed Joe Thornton (7), Patrick Stefan (25) Vinnie Lecavalier (28), can Nugent-Hopkins pass other No. 1 picks, Rick Nash (39), Steven Stamkos (46), Ilya Kovalchuk (51) and John Tavares (54) rookie point totals?
Can he become the first Oiler to ever win the Calder?
Can Eberle (eight minutes in penalties) win a Lady Byng in his second year in the league?
Can Eberle (28) score 40?
Can Hall (23) score 30?
Can Ryan Smyth (17) Gagner (14), Nugent-Hopkins (14), Ryan Jones (14) give the Oilers six 20 goal scorers?
Can Eberle (61 points in 58 games) be the Oilersí first point-per-game player since Doug Weight?
Can Hall (48 points in 52 games) do it too?
The Nuge (37 points in 42 games) do it three?
Can Eberle end up in the Top 10 of NHL scoring? (Right now heís tied for 10th).
Can Hall make it in to the top 30? (Right now, despite missing 10 games, heís tied for 44th with Alex Ovechkin with 48 points, four points out of 30th.)
No, unlike the last two years, thereís plenty to follow as the Oilers finish up their season.
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