The Rest of This Oilers Season Should Be About Systems: Who Are Pat Quinn and Tom Renney Believers...

It's becoming ever increasingly clear that the Oilers will not make the playoffs. Just by taking a quick glance at what their record would need to be these last 40 games or so, one would logically suggest a top three draft pick is more likely than a playoff birth.

Thus, the Oilers organization will likely not go on record with a plan of action (seeing as that plan would involve not improving the team this season). Doing so would risk a bad reaction from fans who paid good money and Oilers players who need to go into every game with the feeling the team is behind them.

Behind closed doors however is another story.

The Oilers should be evaluating their situation constantly. The recent four day "mini-camp" is one way to do so. What should they be evaluating? Who should they be grading and on what criteria? I don't think it's who is playing well right now and who's not. I don't even think it's who is your "best talent" and revolving the future roster of this team around them.

To me, the only route of success, besides of course drafting your way to a winning team, is to keep the players that understand and are willing to play Pat Quinn and Tom Renney style of hockey.

We don't know much about the Oilers. What we do know, is that the coaching staff is most likely here to stay for the forseeable future. The players will go long before the coaches will and if the players and coaches and how they expect a hockey game to be played don't match, wins won't come.

This is regardless of the talent, the willingness of individual players to score, and the "big names" you might be able to pluck from your roster or free agency.

Andrew Cogliano is a perfect example. Offensively, his numbers have been down. Not exactly the type of season fans and management had hoped for from the young forward. That said, Cogliano is quietly making a roster spot on this team in the future by adapting his game to suit more of a style Quinn would expect from the other 20 players on the Oilers who aren't playing that way.

Cogliano has become a more gritty, forechecking, two-way forward who is elements besides the 18-20 goals a season that were expected of him. Yes, we'd like the 20 goals and hope Cogliano can produce it, but while he isn't he's doing the other things he needs to, to stay out of the doghouse. Had he not been doing so, his days in Edmonton would have been over long ago.

If the type of players on this team that are unable to adapt are still here in the future, that will be a mistake. So, when management decides who to move at the deadline and who to keep, (of course besides the obvious question of who has value and who doesn't), moving pieces that do more than show you their talent is an error.

Take Curtis Glencross for example. The Oilers let him walk because offensively, they saw him as a 3rd liner at best and wanted to land a bigger fish. They forgot (or at least put a smaller emphasis on), the fact that he brings grit, two-way play, toughness and skill to any team he's on. A perfect way to look at it would be by examining the penalty kill. The Oilers have no short-handed goals this season, while Curtis Glencross has two.

This is not to suggest that players like a Shawn Horcoff, who is known more for the other elements he brings to a team besides offense and to this point has kept him in good graces for the Oilers aren't vulnerable. Horcoff is struggling mightily and at Horcoff's salary and the difficulty in moving his contract, Edmonton might be served well to trade Horcoff if the opportunity arose.

My point, is that there is a fine line between skill and ability and doing the necessary things required to be a team that plucks out wins when you lack skill or ability.

Players like Gilbert Brule, JF Jacques, Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner (when he's not on the first line), Sheldon Souray and as of late Robert Nillson; are players you don't blindly move unless you can replace them.

In the case of some of these names, consistency and value around the NHL is a question, so any rule is meant to be broken. All in all, suggesting the Oilers keep only the "best" players, won't help this team in the future.

Management learned this lesson the hard way and as a consequence sits 15th in the western conference. Why? Because they went and tried to sign only skill when they built this team and forgot players with the ability to adapt to the coaches way of thinking might actually help.


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