If Only Individual Success Was Contagious

Going into the Edmonton Oilers vs Detroit Red Wings game, I would have been excited if the Oilers had escaped with one point.

Edmonton was sick, getting sicker, and injured, while Detroit sans Johan Franzen was relatively healthy and posed ready for a break-out game. It would have taken a total Oilers team effort to escape alive.

So when Edmonton hopped out to an early 5-1 lead, excitement to escape the game with a point, became enthusiasm for a possible offensive spanking. That would have been exactly what the Oilers had needed to break a seven period scoreless funk.

Shawn Horcoff had a goal and two assists (up to the Detroit game, he'd been horrid offensively), Ales Hemsky was terrific with two goals and a helper, and Dustin Penner was his reliable (never thought I'd use that word coming into this season) self, with another multi-point night, netting a goal and three assists.

The Oilers were looking good like a team should. Not to be outdone and also like a team, the Oilers became the Oilers.

Missing Lubomir Visnovsky and still without Sheldon Souray and Steve Staois, the young blueline got tired and panicked. The first line stopped producing and any depth that might have existed, disappeared.

Detroit jumped all over it and within a twenty minute time period, had clawed all the way back to tie the game at 5 goals a piece. In short, despite Edmonton's 6-5 win, the Oilers got whipped for a good 35 minutes.

Hopefully the entire Oilers team learned a lesson.

Is it true, that Dustin Penner is third in the NHL for points with 19? Yes. Is Hemsky fifth in the NHL for assists with 11? Yes. Is Ladislav Smid quickly making a case the that Pronger trade was not a total disaster? Perhaps.

Let's take it a step further.

Taylor Chorney is auditioning for a permanent job on the blueline and he may have earned it. Gilbert Brule is posed to become a reliable NHL forward and he's earned that too. All the while, Jacques continues to rank high in the NHL in terms of hits at 4th. I can't remember the last time an Oiler did that.

Are these things enough? No.

For the Oilers to do more than escape with a win, they'll need to figure a way to piece some individual success stories together to make a total solid team effort. They'll need to leave the zone together, retrieve the puck together and win together. Relying on 10 point nights from your top line won't cut it.

If they don't, the Oilers will continue to be out-shot, out-scored and out-played.

They also won't keep winning.


Today's Edmonton Journal article about Penner and his grandfather's death four days ago is interesting and brings up the question of how the personal affects the professional. This must be especially true with kids (basically these hockey players are kids) like these. It might explain (1) why coaching is so important and (2) why young people seem so up and down as players (I am thinking Penner especially).

Sometimes I think we expect lots from these young guys -- they are lucky; they are elite athletes; but they are really young. It also explains the shaky play of the D. When things go wrong, they really go wrong. It was a fun game to watch - and I am glad for the win.

October 30, 2009 at 5:44 AM comment-delete

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