Who Will You Be Cheering For?

The 30th place Oilers take on the 29th place Maple Leafs in a "Battle of the Basement" on Hockey Night in Canada's opening game.

In any other circumstance, Oilers fans would want this game more than most in the win column, as the hate on for Toronto, the direct magnitude of an opening game on CBC, and the Oilers wanting to stick it a bit more to Brian Burke, just has a nice to ring to it.

Except of course, if you consider that a win against the Maple Leafs would put the Oilers a tiny five points behind Toronto in the standings and on the line is the first overall, in some cases even 2nd overall pick if the Oilers let the Leafs finish last by seasons end.

So, who will you be cheering for?

The Oiler players don't want to lose. They've said as much realizing exactly what's at stake. The coaching staff doesn't want the team to lose... they never should.

The fans may be another story.

I'm not one of those fans as my least favorite team in the NHL is the Maple Leafs. My least favorite GM, Brian Burke and I think, they'll be plenty of opportunity for the Oilers to lose the correct amount of games to keep that number one pick.

Go Oilers!.


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How Amazingly Good Was This Steve Staios Trade?

With all due respect to Steve Staios, who bled Oiler colors for years, was a great player, team leader and heart on his sleeve type assitant captain; the trade that sent Staios to the Flames "could" turn out to be something extraordinary. I put could in quotes because this analysis is based on three games and Tambellini could still screw it all up.

I'll be the first to admit, I knew little about Aaron Johnson when his name was mentioned as included in the Steve Staios trade. I thought Johnson was the throw in and the 3rd round pick the pivot point of the deal. Boy was I wrong.

Granted, Johnson has played only three games with the Oilers. But something about this kid (and he is still a kid at 26 years old compared to Staios who is 37) tells me Johnson was waiting for a situation in which he could shine.

In a +/- +3 in three total games with the Oilers since the trade, Johnson has seen more ice time now than he ever has in the NHL. Case in point on Thursday, Johnson played over 26 minutes against the Canadiens when Whitney went down after a blocked shot.

Instead of gassing under the extra time, he's flourishing, playing tough minutes in tough situations. He's basically Edmonton's number two defenceman in the abscence of Whitney and at times he almost looks like he belongs there.

Coming into the Oilers room, Johnson had to show the coaching staff and management that he deserves to be looked at as more than just that extra throw in during a trade that primarily was meant to move salary and obtain picks. No one figured he'd be a name the Oilers dressed after this season.

Unless management knew something about four other teams who've had Johnson before didn't, he's making it hard not to put him on your roster come 2010/2011.

I don't suggest Johnson is a guy you look to as your number two d-man going forward. In fact, three and four might be a stretch. But at 6'1" and 208lbs, he's big. At 26, he's young. And for 26 minutes, where players like Pronger and Bouwmeester spend much of it floating, but smartly relaxing to pace themselves, Johnson is full throttle from the minute he steps on the ice, which can only mean he's also in tremendous shape.

When the Oilers moved Staios and his $2.7 million salary, I thought they had done well getting a draft pick in return because they cleared space to make decisions for next season. I knew Staios had a quality about him that a few teams might take interest in. I was even more impressed that they picked up a player too.

What I didn't see coming, was that the decision the Oilers might have to make would be sitting right in front of them in Aaron Johnson.

Having watched Johnson over the last three games, I'm almost willing to let slide a good chunk of Tambellini's mistakes during his short stint as Oilers GM. Big Steve still has a lot to do to improve this team in all areas, but this is a good start in an area that was sorely lacking for the Oilers.

Whether they keep him and at a good price should he continue to play well is another story. But when I posted earlier that the Oilers were still doing alright with Smid, Souray, Gilbert, Chorney, and Whitney as their starting point from the blueline this summer, perhaps I should have included Johnson's name.


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Oilers Players Cause a Stink Over the Fall for Hall

The math is pretty simple if you understand how the draft lottery works.

No team can win and move up more than a certain amount. No team can also drop more than one spot. That means, if the Oilers were to finish 30th in the NHL standings at the end of the season, they have a 48% chance of staying put or worst case scenario, if another team wins the lottery and moves to draft number one, the Oilers are guaranteed draft spot number 2.

The Oilers would be fine if they drafted 30th or 29th. Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin are the consensus number one and two picks in the this years draft and the Oilers along with a number of other experts are having trouble determining who should be the clear cut number one.

If the Oilers were to somehow string a run of final wins together, as it looked like they might do for a second when they beat both New Jersey and Minnesota, they would stand the chance that Toronto could swoop in and place 30th, thus giving the first pick to the Boston Bruins.

This could, if the Oilers lose the draft, mean they draft third where a respectable defenceman Cam Fowler sits. Most would agree though, Fowler while good, isn't Hall or Seguin.

In the two wins, the Oilers actually looked a better team than their record suggested. That is, until they completely fell apart against the Senators and showed everyone why they sit in last place in the NHL.

The buzz among fans regarding the draft in Edmonton isn't a quiet one. It's hard, when the team is so unsuccessful, to draw anything but a silver lining knowing as a team in rebuild mode, you'll get to draft the number one overall pick simply by losing a few more games. It's no surprise, fans who went to see the Senators trounce Edmonton 4-1 weren't upset. A coveted spot like the first pick in the draft has produced players like Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos; who will no doubt be superstars if they aren't already.

The noise however isn't sitting well with the Oilers. "You can't just pack it in. We all do this because we love it. You don't just stop trying. The last thing on your mind is how you're going to do in a lottery pick." said Mike Comrie. When he said as much, he understood the talk, but was not pleased that he had to address it. Not coincidentally, Comrie is fighting for a job next season.

Sam Gagner reitterated the sentiment. "You play to win games," Gagner said. "There's pride in that. You want to feel good about yourself. Funny, Gagner is set to earn good money with a productive season.

Or, Tom Gilbert may have said it best. "If you go out there and you want to get that first or second pick and you want to lose, that's a loser mentality. As a player, you don't want that to sink into you. You play to win regardless of what place you're in. Anything else is a loser mentality." Odd, that Gilbert, who has had an extremely poor season and taking up a large portion of the Oilers cap space discusses the loser mentality. It wasn't a few days ago that Gilbert was nearly traded to the New York Rangers.

While we as fans see the bonus in finishing last, there are a number of players on this current Oilers roster playing for more than wins and losses. Fernando Pisani, Mike Comrie, Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Gilbert Brule, Marc Pouliot, Ryan Potulny and JF Jacques along with defencemen Jason Strudwick, Theo Peckham and newcomer Aaron Johnson need to show there's a place for them on this team going forward. Furthermore, both goalies Deslauriers and Dubnyk are trying to earn a spot in the NHL on a consistent basis.

Whether they see it as a better pay day, a continued stance of employment in the NHL or simply pride as a professional, you can bet these guys aren't just calling it quits with the hope someone will be here to save the team.

In fact, with word that the Oilers will consider but be careful with Jordan Eberle's introduction to the NHL, along side managements plan to bring Magnus Svennson from Sweden; the players on this current Oilers roster already know they'll be competing for jobs. They'll be no time to rest for guys that have had anything but a stellar season.

My guess, is that this team is much more frustrated than the simple fact they are in last place. Many will be unemployed or no longer in the NHL when all is said and done. That's enough to put anyone on edge.


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No One Seems Too Bothered By The Loss, Except the Coach Whose Job It Is To Be Bothered

The Oilers lost a stinker on Tuesday night. And despite Jeff Deslauriers efforts, who by the way was fantastically good for 40 minutes, as has happened so often this year, the score caught up to the many chances the Oilers gave their opponents.

Fans don't seem too bothered by another loss. In fact, as I left the building after a 4-1 routing by the Senators, many fans were kind of relieved a two game winning streak had come to an end for their Oilers, who they are now hoping obtain the #1 pick in this years NHL entry draft.

With the #30 spot, the worst the Oilers could do, even if they lost the lottery, is obtain either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall. Both players look to be great NHL'ers in the not so distant future.

The problem, was that the Toronto Maple Leafs were inching ever so closely to contending for the 30th spot and thus should the Oilers place 29th and lose the lottery, could obtain neither of the two previously mentioned names.

For Oiler fans looking to rebuild and putting up with a Visnovsky trade, that kind of failure is simply unacceptable.

The loss didn't stop Pat Quinn from placing all the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Oilers forwards who left the defence (and a young one at that) out to dry, by playing most of the game in the Oilers own zone.

From start to finish Edmonton was outshot, outplayed and outchanced by a wide margin. The defence had to be better than they should be, and Deslauriers had to be better than good for 40 minutes. The Oiler goalie stood no chance, and even a weak goal that opened the flood gates could hardly be blamed on Deslauriers, who must have been gassed after standing on his head.

To boot, the Oilers lost Patrick O'Sullivan 5 minutes in to a nasty slash, which immediately required a "procedure" and O'Sullivan will be out for a undetermined time.

Who gets called up will be interesting. More interesting, will be if fans and management hope it's just someone good enough to keep this team in a lock for 30th place.


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Ryan Jones Gone For Likely Rest of the Season

As is being reported by the Edmonton Sun, "Newly acquired winger Ryan Jones is likely done for the season after the Derek Boogaard cheap shot in the first period of Jones’s first home game with the Oilers.

He has a second-degree tear in the MCL of his right knee and will miss about four weeks. With only five weeks left in the season, it doesn’t look good for a return."

It seems strange that Jones who tried to come back to the game and did a post game interview in which he stated he feels not bad is out so long, but if you go back and look at the hit, you're first impression was he'd be done for the year, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised.

The hit cost two games and about $21,000 to Boogaard who was suspended, but the end result for the Oilers is that they lack the opportunity to get a good look at a newly aquired Ryan Jones, who the Oilers hoped would fit nicely in a 4th or 3rd line role.

With one year after this left on his deal, the Oilers are looking to have Jones fill a spot that might be left by a departing Ethan Moreau or Fernando Pisani if either player is moved before the start of the 2010/2011 NHL season.


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Should They Or Shouldn't They?: Jordan Eberle's Immediate Future With the Oilers

It's likely not a surprise if you've followed it closely, but it sounds as though the Edmonton Oilers will not be bringing Jordan Eberle to the NHL at any point this season.

For fans looking for something bright in an otherwise dingy and dark season, this news comes as another one in the long line of disappointments surrounding this Oilers team. But much like looking at the bigger picture in terms of a rebuild, are the Oilers making the right decision holding Eberle back?

At a season ticket renewal meeting, the question was posed to Tambellini who quickly stressed the Oilers would not introduce Eberle to a less than healthy dressing room environment by bringing him to the Oilers now. Instead, he'll finish the season with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL.

What would you like to see as a fan?

Are you ok knowing that Eberle, who sits 3rd in scoring of the WHL, will get a bit more experience in a pro league like the AHL before he makes the jump? Or are you a season ticket holder or paying fan who wants something to cheer for?

The Minnesota game was a sample of what might be for the next little while as there were some 3000 empty seats and a less than average crowd response to the game. Bringing Eberle up will sell more tickets no doubt. But is the small picture worth hindering his development?

Maybe you believe at this point, he's ready. That keeping him down where he seems to dominate and be productive in every league he plays outside the NHL is a waste of his time and he should find some chemistry with his future teammates.

I might argue, while he's produced effectively in his previous AHL time, he didn't dominate and that by bringing him to the NHL now, (a big jump from where he's currently playing) a more natural transition from one league to another, then finally the NHL makes the most sense.

I might also argue that having him get used to linemates that may not be playing with the Oilers next season doesn't help build his chemistry and that it's likely true that the environment surrounding the team is less than positive. There are bound to be changes and Eberle staying put is one of the only constants.

That said, there is somthing to be said for allowing a player to come play in the NHL, when there is absolutely no pressure to win. If the Oilers finish 30th, all the better. If Eberle gets 10 points in the last 15 games, great. If he gets 4 points, fine. The Oilers can call it the start of his transition to the pros and the fans will buy it.

What would you do?


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