Season over. Close the curtain. Turn off the light. Exit to your left.
Here we are at the end of another season of Oilers hockey. To tell you the truth, I started looking forward to the end when the Oilers still had around ten games left, but the way that they played over the last few games has made me stop that madness. Now that it's over, I'm missing the Oilers already. Here are a few notes:
- Jordan Eberle broke the Curse of 42 by leading the team with 43 points. Now that someone has pierced that ominous plateau, I feel comfortable saying that the curse is over. It's not much of a statement though. With Taylor Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark and a glut of others, scoring 42 measly points should be child's play next year.
- OKC made the playoffs in its first year out of the gate, which is something to behold. The attention paid by management to building a competitive farm team is impressive, and something that cannot be overstated. For years the media, Oiler fans, and indeed the team's own management have been talking about a culture change. That culture change starts at the bottom. If the kids in the feeder system are winning, it's all they'll know how to do.
Montreal's farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, is OKC's first round opponent. Their leading scorer is Nigel Dawes, who came over from the Chicago Wolves mid-season. He's got 41 goals and 72 points in 66 games. Should be an interesting matchup, since the Barons have Colin McDonald, the leading goal-scorer in the entire AHL with 42. If we call McDonald and Dawes a wash, the Barons then boast Alex Giroux, who was second in AHL scoring this season with 78 points in 70 games. Hamilton's second highest scorer is Aaron Palushaj with 57 points in 68 games. David Desharnais is their third highest scorer and he's in Montreal.
Giroux has been all the way before, winning the Calder Cup last year with Hershey. With O'Marra, Omark, Vande Velde, Petry and Hartikainen all going back to Oklahoma for the playoffs, there's a chance that this could be the first series win for the Barons. I don't want to say too much about their potential, but this team has a chance to make some noise.
- Former Oilers draft pick Marc-Antoine Pouliot is the 6th highest-scorer in the AHL this year with 25-47-72 in 69 games with Tampa's affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. To the casual observer, it may appear that Pouliot is finally finding his offensive groove. However, Pouliot has always been a better performer in the AHL. In 2007-08, he went 21-26-47 in 55 games with Springfield. He started the next season with the Oilers and went 8-12-20 in 63 games. In 3 games with the Lightning this year, Pouliot managed no points, a minus-3 and a quick demotion back to Norfolk. It just turns out that he's not an NHL player. Boy is Zach Parise ever looking good about now...
- Speaking of the draft, as nice as it would be to see the Oilers trade up into the top ten with that LA pick, don't expect it to happen. The trouble with trading up is what the Oilers would have to give up to get there. Obviously, later round picks won't be enough, and there's no one on the roster that the Oilers will be thrilled to move right now. The one piece that could get a deal done in Ales Hemsky, but he's not enough to get into the top ten anymore. Even if he wasn't as prone to injury as he's proven to be, he's only got one more year left on his contract. There's no way that any team in the top ten at the draft would give up a quality pick for what essentially amounts to a rental player. There's no guarantee that Hemsky would re-sign with that team, and given the amount of losing he's done in his career, he'd almost certainly sign in greener pastures.
If the Oilers decide that they don't want to extend Hemsky, they might use him to trade into the top 15. At last year's draft Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley - who could each have gone fourth overall - slipped to 12th and 13th overall respectively. If we see a situation similar to that this year, the Oilers might consider moving up. For instance, if offensive defenseman Ryan Murphy somehow falls to the 12th spot and Carolina would prefer Hemsky, it could happen that the Oilers trade Hemsky and LA's pick for the 12th pick. I'm not saying that would happen, but unless a player falls within striking distance for the Oilers, I see them standing pat.
Murphy has 79 points in 63 games with Kitchener this year, and he's somewhat in the Ryan Ellis mould - small, but extremely offensively gifted. Chances are that he won't slip past number ten, but we can dream.
- Meet the top prospect for the 2012 draft: Nail Yakupov. He's a Russian who will turn 18 in October, and he scored 49-52-101 in 65 games as an OHL rookie this year with Sarnia. Yeah. NAIL. Let the hyperbolic nicknames begin.
This kid could be the next Ovechkin. I just hope the Oilers don't have the chance to draft him...
Until next time!