Saturday, January 30, 2010

Oilers' Struggles

Tonight the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers faced off attempting to end bad stretches of hockey that has seen the two teams lose a combined 21 games in a row.

The good news about tonight's game was that someone MUST win and end their 9 or 12 game losing streak.

The Oilers in particular have had a horrible season. Their recent struggles beg the obvious question - why?

1) Injuries - This is the most obvious. Long-term injuries to franchise winger Ales Hemsky and goaltending acquisition Nikolai Khabibulin, along with previous early season injuries to Sheldon Souray and a handful of their secondary cast surely cost them some games and confidence as the season wore on - but it goes deeper.

2) Lack of High-End Talent - After Ales Hemsky, the Oilers are forced to rely on the likes of Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner, Patrick O'Sullivan, Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano. Arguably none of these players have demonstrated their ability to be top line NHLers. Cogliano and Gagner showed flashes of stardom in their rookie years, but they were over-hyped and haven't delivered on any of the considerable press. Horcoff and Penner meanwhile appear to be a pair of players who are really not delivering on being top liners.

This begs the question - where to go from here?

Well, unfortunately for the Oilers, Horcoff, Souray, Penner, Visnovsky, Khabibulin, Moreau and a handful of others are all weighing down the franchise with large contracts that most other teams will not be interested in - especially given the production seen from that group.

Tonight's game against the Flames should be quite disappointing for Oiler fans. Losing 6-1 against the Flames - a team that can't score to save it's life lately - is definitely a sad sight. Sure the Flames are angry and are due for a big win, but surely a team like the Oilers with nothing left to play for this season would be able to get up for a big game against their biggest rival and could generate a heart-filled effort to extend Calgary's recent misery just a little bit longer.

It appears as if Edmonton's confidence has been broken and they are already just playing out the string.

While they do have Jordan Eberle and a handful of other top notch prospects on the horizon, they are being suffocated with large contracts to the wrong people and will have to clean house if they really want to be more than a mediocre hockey club. Taylor Hall would be a good start.

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