Academia part 2 and Hockey Rambling

To start, just a quick follow-up on the academic conference I mentioned my last blog post. I didn’t stay for the entire conference because I had to work on my stupid Classics paper, but it turns out that I had actually won the Marrie Prize for best undergraduate paper. When the organizer emailed me to let me know, it shocked the crap out of me. I met with the organizer yesterday to collect my prize, a copy of a book called Fish On Friday. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, but I imagine it will be heavily fish-related.

The NHL regular season is just about over, with only one Oilers game left (tonight against the Calgary Flames). The Oil were eliminated from playoff contention after losing to the LA Kings on Tuesday night, so since then I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to see happen in the off-season to get ready for next year, as well as which teams to cheer for in the playoffs. The Chicago Blackhawks are my favourite team after the Oilers, so I’ll be rooting for them, but I think the Boston Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup this year.

As for the Oilers, some sort of changes are definitely going to have to be made in the face of this year’s mediocrity. There is a loud, obnoxious subset of Oiler fans who bray like donkeys for the heads of Kevin Lowe and head coach Craig MacTavish, but I don’t think that’s the answer. I think a roster revamp needs to happen before throwing a world class coach out on his butt to appease the fans’ figurative bloodlust. I fully expect workhorse goaltender Dwayne Roloson to be re-signed to a two or three year contract while rookie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers gets the experience he needs to become the starter that I think he has the skill to be. I very much hope that Ales Kotalik is also re-signed, as he’s one of the few Oiler forwards with size who can put pucks in the net. Dustin Penner can as well, when he doesn’t just coast, but he makes too much money for what he produces. Kotalik makes less money, is more physical, and produces more points, so hopefully the Oilers can get a new deal in place with him. Defenceman Denis Grebeshkov is apparently already close to re-signing, which I give a thumbs up.

In terms of what the Oilers need to change on their roster, there’s a lot that needs improvement. The power play and the penalty kill are both pretty weak, although Lubomir Visnovsky’s return next season should help out the PP a little bit. The penalty kill, on the other hand, ties in nicely with one of the other major needs for the Oilers: a centre who is strong in the face-off circle. Shawn Horcoff is the best Oiler in the face-off circle, followed by Kyle Brodziak, but beyond that there isn’t anybody on the roster who can impose their will on the dot. The Oil need to pick up a centre who can kill penalties and win face-offs to take some of the pressure off of Horcoff, who does pretty much everything. The first name that comes to mind is former Oiler Marty Reasoner, but I’m not sure Atlanta would be willing to give him up, as they’re looking like they’re going to be a playoff contender next year. Radek Bonk in Nashville might be a good choice (with the added benefit of having a fun name to say), or that guy in Florida whose name I can’t remember but has a 60-some percent face-off win percentage. If Andrew Cogliano could learn to play on the wing, or improve his face-off skills substantially, he could be promoted to the second line where his offensive talents would be better-utilized. Although, on the other hand, since Fernando Pisani’s return the Moreau-Cogliano-Pisani line has found the back of the net pretty regularly.Another oft-mentioned addition to the line-up would be more big forwards who can score to balance out the smaller skill guys like Gagner and Cogliano (and Jordan Eberle, if he makes the big team next year).

The Oilers will likely have to deal a defenceman to get what they want, though, which is the position that they’re deepest at. Puck-moving defencemen are a hot commodity in the NHL nowadays, and the Oilers happen to have four of them in their starting line-up, plus a few youngsters that could develop into solid puck-movers in the future. If the Oilers deal a defenceman I’m guessing it’ll be Tom Gilbert. I like Gilbert, but the Oilers have a lot of D-men making big money and I’m not sure they’ll be able to afford Souray, Visnovsky, Gilbert, and Grebeshkov without sacrificing at other positions. Unless they can offload Dustin Penner and his fat contract, although even if they can get rid of Penner they might replace his fat contract with an even fatter one if they can sign Marian Hossa. But any team willing to deal a forward of the quality that the Oilers are looking for is probably going to want a puck-moving D-man, so I expect that at least one of them won’t be back next year. On the plus side, that would likely result in Jason Strudwick becoming a permanent fixture on the blue line, which I’m all for. Souray/Staios, Grebeshkov or Gilbert/Visnovsky, and Strudwick/Smid would still be a very formidable d-corps. I wouldn’t mind seeing Penner, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, and Gilbert dealt to Atlanta for Bryan Little (who I believe is an Edmonton native) and Marty Reasoner.

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