New Illustration and Hockey Musing

First things first, I added a new illustration to the Illustrations gallery. I drew it yesterday for publication in today’s edition of the U of A Gateway. It was for an article by Managing Editor Conal Pierse about the current underachieving of the Oilers.

I’ve been thinking about the Oilers and their season lately, but one thing that I noticed in Conal’s article that I immediately disagreed with was a comment that 39 year old Dwayne Roloson was the wrong choice for a starting goalie. Admittedly, the three goalie system wasn’t a very good idea and was detrimental to all three netminders, but Mathieu Garon failed to keep his play at the level it was at the end of last season while Roloson got better and better with every game he played. At this point in the season, Roloson is the best Oiler on the ice 95% of the time. Unless the Oil manage to snag one of the big free agent goalies I expect to see Roli re-signed for next year, although I’d wager that he’ll play in a more even rotation with Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers to give the youngster the experience he needs to develop into a starter.

The major plague the Oilers have been suffering from this season has been a complete lack of consistently competent forwards. Aside from Ales Hemsky there’s a decided lack of offence from the front-end, and with Visnovsky out of the line-up for the rest of the season, they really need the forwards to step up. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch. Some nights they seem unstoppable, but much more frequently it seems like they have no idea where they are or how they got there. The Oilers are consistently outshot and it seems like the Oil’s forwards just don’t want to work to get the puck. Aside from Andrew Cogliano, last year’s Kid Line has been awful. I feel like Gagner can produce in the future, but Nilsson kills plays dead practically every time he touches the puck. The Oil’s defensive corps, on the other hand, is responsible for a ridiculously disproportionate amount of the team’s offence. With a plethora of coveted puck moving defenders (Souray, Gilbert, Visnovsky, and Grebeshkov) and great stay-at-home meat grinders (Staios, Smid, Strudwick, and Peckham), the Oilers are as stacked on the back end as any team in the league. If only the forwards could get going. With some notable exceptions (Hemsky and Cogliano), the only forwards who are making a good account of themselves are the grinders, especially captain Ethan Moreau, scrapper Zack Stortini, and minor league call-up Liam Reddox. Fernando Pisani’s return from injury further bolsters the grinder gang.

With the trade deadline coming up next week, I’d really like to see the Oilers making some moves. Ideally, I’d like to see Atlanta’s Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk come to the Oilers. He’s a proven sniper and I think he’d be an excellent complement to Ales Hemsky’s prescient passing and Shawn Horcoff’s dogged puck retrieval on the top line. In exchange I could see Dustin Penner being shipped off, as he’s lacked willingness to use his size and skill to open up opportunities and put the puck in the net. He’s also overpaid, and would free up a lot of room in the salary cap for Kovalchuk’s hefty fee. The Oilers would probably need a package deal to get Kovi on board, which I could see Marc Pouliot, Robert Nilsson, or J.F. Jacques being part of. Pouliot and Nilsson are incredibly streaky players, but they’re young and have some offence in them, which could make them attractive. I’ve only seen Jacques play once, but the guy is huge. Actually, in an ideal situation I’d like to see all four of those guys dealt to Atlanta in exchange for Kovalchuk and former Oiler workhorse Marty Reasoner. Reasoner is a dutiful penalty-killer and exceptional in the face-off circle, which is an area where the Oilers are hurting this season (Shawn Horcoff has taken more draws than any other player in the NHL, mostly because he and fourth line centre Kyle Brodziak are the only Oilers that can be relied on to win more than half of their face-offs).

In summary, Kovalchuk and Reasoner to Edmonton for Penner, Nilsson, Pouliot, and Jacques would be fantastic, at least in my estimation. In any case, the Oilers need to do something, because at this point they’re throwing away very winnable games (like tonight’s pitiful 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets) because they can’t put points on the board.

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