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BLOGS

Stauffer Stuff: March 14

Bob Stauffer addresses the Oilers bad fortune in the past stretch of games

Wednesday, 14.03.2012 / 7:02 PM / Blogs
By Bob Stauffer
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Stauffer Stuff: March 14
Devan Dubnyk and Ladislav Smid block the puck in Monday's 3-2 loss against the Sharks   (Photo by Getty Images).
The Edmonton Oilers hope to right the ship tonight when they host the 30th place Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place.

The Oilers suffered a 3-2 loss at the hands of the slumping San Jose Sharks Monday night and as a result have now dropped eight of their last nine home games.

Oilers Head Coach, Tom Renney, was obviously frustrated by his team’s play and spoke candidly about the Oilers needing to play to win rather than play not to lose, and also commenting that the club can ill afford to have any passengers.

Frankly, I am at a loss for the Oilers struggles at home of late, especially given that the team has picked up wins in four of their last six road games and points in five of those games.

After the Oilers got a Taylor Hall winner in overtime back on February 11th in Ottawa, I figured the team was in good shape to go .500 in the final 27 games of the regular season.

But the Oilers’ ship has veered off course since then winning just four of 14 games played since.

What is even more puzzling is that Edmonton is finally healthy.

Tom Renney and his staff have eight defencemen to chose from on a nightly basis, and are basically healthy up front especially with their top-end players, something that hasn’t always been the case this season.

To illustrate this point, the last time the Oilers played the Blue Jackets back on January 17th Renney lost Hall in the pre-game warm-up and Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were already out with injuries.

Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander, Josh Green and Ryan O’ Marra all suited up for the Oilers in a 4-2 loss in Columbus.

None of those four players are currently in the National Hockey League, though you can pencil in Paajarvi and Lander for the Oilers opening day roster next season.

Now though, the team is healthy but the Oilers are hardly playing like it.

The Oilers continue to get consistent offence from their trio of young guns, but the team’s secondary scoring which in theory should be coming from the veterans, has dried up.

Truth be known; several vets have struggled for months now and they seemingly haven’t been able to pick it up despite the fact that Oilers are better on defence with the emergence of Jeff Petry, the return of Ryan Whitney and the arrival of Nick Schultz.

STRUGGLING VETERANS

Ryan Smyth started the season on fire with 12-12-24 in the Oilers first 22 games, but has just 7-12-19 over the last 47 games.

Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff has had a similar type of season. In his first 27 games he registered 7-13-20, but in the Oilers last 42 games he has 6-7-13 while going -18.

Ryan Jones scored 12 goals in the Oilers first 36 games, not bad for a third liner, but he has just two goals in the last 31 games.

Ales Hemsky has had the most difficult offensive season of his career punctuated by the fact that he has just one goal in the Oilers last 27 games and has gone -17 on the season.

Sam Gagner, who is still only 22 but is now a fifth-year pro, hasn’t been able to build upon a torrid stretch back in February that saw him register eight goals and 15 points in five games. Gagner has just two goals and six points in the last 15 games, despite lots of ice time in the Oilers top six.

The Oilers need these guys (in particular Hemsky and Gagner, who consistently see top-six minutes and power-play time) to get it going offensively down the stretch to have any positive conclusion to the season.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
The kids are still producing strong numbers even though the Veterans are struggling. (photo by getty images)

As for the kids, they keep producing.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 2-4-6 in nine games since coming back from shoulder injuries that sidelined him in 20 of the previous 22 games, and you get the sense that he is due for a break-out night.

The aforementioned Hall will likely be the captain of the Oilers ship in a couple of seasons. Hall is on pace for a 30-30 year (30 goals, 30 assists) despite missing a handful games. He has seven game winners, and even in games in which he struggles, like Saturday in Colorado, Hall is both relentless and resilient, scoring clutch goals for a struggling club.

Since the All-Star break Hall has 10-9-19 in 20 games despite not having one multiple-goal game.

Jordan Eberle continues at a point-per-game pace heading into Wednesday’s game with 30-35-65 in 65 games this season, including 12-8-20 in 20 games since the All-Star break.

MOVING FORWARD

As we all know Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle are the core of the Oilers future up front; but the Oilers are going to need Hemsky to hopefully get it going here in the final 13 games and then to fully bounce next season and be a consistent second line forward.

Gagner too is at the stage in his career when he needs to consistently produce in order to be counted in a top-six role.

As for Horcoff and Smyth their roles are changing in front of our eyes, as they are now in more of a two-way role; but good teams need consistent production from players like that as well, and both are capable of filling that role effectively in my mind.


Bob Stauffer is the Oilers Radio Analyst and Hosts Oilers Now on 630 CHED daily Noon to 2:00 PM

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