Oilers Getting What They Need... Balanced Scoring

The Oilers lack a true superstar. Hemsky, while close, simply isn't that guy. In addition, Edmonton's No. 1 centre is Shawn Horcoff, who spends most of his time attempting to win defensive zone faceoffs and killing penalties, while keeping whoever plays on that first line with him responsible enough to keep the line at a positive plus/minus.

The left wing is a constant rotation of players who can't quite seem to find the right chemistry to make the top line trio dangerous enough on any given night that an opponent should worry.

As a result, Pat Quinn and Tom Renney have been given no choice but to roll four skilled, but somewhat gritty, lines to even things out and spread the offense through the entire team. To date, it seems to be working.

With another five goals in Friday's PPV win over the Minnesota Wild, the Oilers are tied for second in the league with 28 goals for. Without a true sniper, somehow, the Edmonton Oilers have managed to score more goals than 28 other NHL teams and in five-on-five situations, the Oilers top the standings.

In years past, the Oilers have had trouble out-scoring other teams. Traditionally, the Oilers, like most teams would try to stack their top two lines. They use the others as energy or checking lines, but also unlike those other teams, saw little to no success.

Their strengths simply couldn't out perform teams that had the Crosby/Malkin, Zetterberg/Datsyuk or Heatley/Spezza's of the NHL. Even teams with combinations like Iginla/Jokinen, who have had respectively poor starts to this NHL season simply scored more than the Oilers could.

This year, the Oilers have decided that every line needs enough offensive skill that against the opposition, no matter which line is on the ice, the Oilers have the potential to score. Without any intention to match lines or stack skill against skill, the Oilers have found a combination, that to this point is paying off in a 4-2-1 record.

If every line can score once, and the goalie can make the saves that need to be made, the Oilers should score four goals a game and keep the puck out of the net just enough to pull out victories. The result seems to be a lot of contests where the Oilers are out-shot, but coming out on top against teams that seem to have higher top end skill.

Where this plan will fall apart and fast is if both Nikolai Khabibulin or Jeff Deslauriers start to have poor games or make costly mistakes. The Oilers are hoping that doesn't happen.

Helping this strategy is the surprising play of Oilers like Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule. Penner was in the doghouse almost all of last year with Craig MacTavish, who due to his inability to get the most from his players seemed on his way out of Edmonton at the start of last year.

Penner became the excuse MacTavish would use to explain the Oilers poor record, and for Penner, it affected his play.

With renewed confidence under new coaching, Penner isn't on the top line this year and is exceeding expectations early on. With nine points and five goals in seven games, Penner is tied for 11th for points in the NHL, and seventh for goals scored, along side players like Dany Heatley and Ryan Smyth (ironically both players to which many comparisons have been made with their somewhat controversial connection to the Oilers).

So, too, Gilbert Brule, who spent most of last season in the minors and who by many was considered a salary dump trade by Edmonton when the Oilers moved Raffi Torres to Columbus, is also playing a larger role with Quinn's group and coming out on top.

With four goals and three assists in seven games, Brule has already topped last seasons totals and looks like a player who'll pick up 20 goals quite easily.

All around, the Oilers have 13 players with at least a goal in seven games. Of the eight players without, six are defencemen and many of those have played three or less games so far this year. Outside of possibly the Calgary Flames, who are tied for first in the Western Conference with 11 points; the balance shown among the roster for Edmonton is exactly what a team without a superstar needs to stay among the contending playoff teams in the NHL.


Post a Comment

More To Read