Friday, 9 December 2011
12/09/11 Notes On A Win
That's more like it. Here are a bunch of notes on Friday night's 4-1 win over Colorado.
In the video above we see the uncanny connection between Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky. Everyone in hockey is resistant to make the Gretzky comparison to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and for good reason. Wayne had 137 points in 79 games in his first NHL season, which is a total that even Sidney Crosby has yet to hit. Still, there are things in RNH's game that are eerily similar to Wayne's. Does the first goal in the clip remind you a little of Nugent-Hopkins' pass to Sam Gagner for the fourth Oilers goal on Friday?
More importantly, Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle seem to have the beginnings of a connection that harkens back to the old Gretzky-Kurri days. The opposition must know that the cross-ice feed is coming from RNH to Eberle, but they just can't stop it. There's a new Fric and Frac in town.
- The old cliche proved to be true again. When the Oilers play their game they can dominate hockey games. On the other hand, the Oilers absolutely had to win this one. There was a serious fire lit under them by the coaches, the media and the fans. Last season we saw a team that played well after a swift kick in the behind and yet they still managed to fall to 30th place by year's end. The real test for this incarnation of the Oilers will be to see if they can stay motivated without being embarrassed first. That, and beating Calgary, which they absolutely have to do on Saturday. If they win against Calgary it may be evidence that the Oilers are for real. If not, there will be more work to do before this team is ready to contend for a playoff spot.
- Only Ben Eager played less than Magnus Paajarvi, and Eager did more with his time. That said, Magnus had some positive moments in this game and showed some real chemistry with Anton Lander. Having a player that Paajarvi is comfortable playing with is at least as important as one with a load of skill. Ales Hemsky may be much more skilled than Lander, but Lander and Paajarvi have been on the same team and on the same ice surface together for years. Sometimes in the NHL all you need is a duo, not a full line.
- Sam Gagner now has 10 points in his last 9 games. Playing with the sublimely skilled Nugent-Hopkins definitely helps, but Gags looks highly motivated out there and he's showing everything that he's capable of. He worked his way up to the top line without anyone else and doesn't seem to just be comfortable in a lesser role like some others - *cough* Hemsky *cough cough.* If the Oilers do (unfortunately) decide to trade Gagner, his stock is rising rapidly.
- Trading Hemsky seems to be a more and more attractive option. He still has the ability to be a game-breaker, but the Oilers have had to learn to get by without him - sometimes even when he's in the lineup. If things continue this way it may be time to do the once unthinkable and pull the trigger on a deal involving number 83. Hemsky isn't finished being a great hockey player, but there are certainly a number of GMs who will overpay for him based on past performance alone. It would allow the Oilers to get more size into the lineup with a player like Hartikainen, or even a Pitlick or Hamilton somewhere down the line.
- On the subject of trades - and I realize that this isn't Oilers related - Jim Rutherford managed to unload Tomas Kaberle to the Canadiens on Friday. Not only did the Hurricanes shed $4.25 million in salary over the next three years, but they also acquired an asset who is a pending Unrestricted Free Agent in Spacek. When the Canes flip Spacek for an asset at the deadline, this deal will look even better. If that asset turns out to be an actual NHL player, well, as they say in the Mafia: fuhgeddaboutit.
- Friday's game was a must-win from a morale standpoint, but Saturday against Calgary is almost as big. The Oilers need to crush the Flames to be respected and to respect themselves. If they do, they'll deserve that respect.